Venezuela, a country more famous for its baseball associations than for its association football. They were the usual whipping boys to the other South American countries, and with teams no less than Brazil and Chile in their group, would it be any different this time around?
Argentina born Carlos Moreno had succeeded Rafael Santana as their national team manager, and he had experienced an uplifting Copa América only weeks prior to the start of the qualification. Granted, they’d only gained a single point from their four group stage matches, but even that must have been seen as progress. Moreover, in the process, they had scored a total of four goals. Notably, all of those had come from attacking midfielder/forward Carlos Maldonado, a 25 year old student, who was playing part-time for Atlético Táchira in San Cristóbal, west in the country. Carrying a slightly stocky and quite compact frame, Maldonado was not totally unsimilar in build compared to plenty of historical South American ‘no 10s’. After that excellent haul in the continental championship, he looked set to be Moreno’s key figure in the World Cup qualification. It should furthermore be pointed out that Atlético Táchira had been managed by Moreno from 1985 and through to his taking over of the national team ahead of the 1989 Copa América. He had enjoyed some success there south west in the country, securing a league title during the 1986 season.
Used to losing just about every single match they were playing, Venezuela had received a fine boost in their final game of preparation ahead of the Copa: Beating Peru 3-1 on home soil in Maldonado’s San Cristóbal. In the tournament itself, played out in Brazil, Venezuela had scored their first ever goal against the Brazilians (3-1 loss) in their opening tie, before losing 4-2 against a strong Colombian select (both of Maldonado’s two goals had come as consolation strikes with the opponents already 4-0 up). Their third game saw them take the lead against said Peru, even if it had only lasted for about a minute until the Peruvians had equalized. In their fourth and final appearance, Venezuela had gone down heavily to Paraguay, perhaps partly including a reaction to the tournament so far.
There had been no time for friendlies ahead of the opening qualifier. Brazil were to visit Caracas, with the Chileans coming only the following week. Despite the uplifting tencencies in Copa América, Venezuela must have realized their tag as also-rans in this group. A single point would’ve been deemed a success.
18.05.1989: Peru 2-1 Venezuela
Line-up: Baena – Torres, Acosta, Paz, Laurenco (?) – Jaimes, Rojas (Pacheco), H Rivas, Sanvicente (Carrero) – Maldonado (Domínguez), Márquez
25.06.1989: Venezuela 3-1 Peru
Goals: H Rivas, Febles, S Rivas
Line-up: Baena – Torres, Acosta, Paz, Pacheco – Jaimes, H Rivas, Añor, S Rivas – Fernández, Febles
Note: This was the game which marked the (goalscoring!) debut of Venezuela’s hugely talented 17 year old attacking midfielder Stalin Rivas at full international level
01.07.1989: Brazil 3-1 Venezuela
Line-up: Baena – Pacheco, Acosta (c), Paz, Torres – Jaimes, Añor, H Rivas (Cavallo 57), S Rivas – Maldonado, Febles (Marquez 57)
03.07.1989: Colombia 4-2 Venezuela (neutral ground in Salvador, Brazil)
Goals: Maldonado 2
Line-up: Baena – Pacheco, Acosta (c), Paz, Camacaro – Jaimes, Añor (Fernández 54), H Rivas, S Rivas (Sanvicente 54) – Maldonado, Márquez
05.07.1989: Venezuela 1-1 Peru (neutral ground in Salvador, Brazil)
Line-up: Baena – Pacheco (Sanvicente 41), Acosta (c), H Rivas, Camacaro – Jaimes, Cavallo, Maldonado, S Rivas (Fernández 69) – Febles, Márquez
07.07.1989: Paraguay 3-0 Venezuela (neutral ground in Salvador, Brazil)
Line-up: Baena – Pacheco, Acosta (c), Torres, Camacaro – Jaimes, Cavallo, H Rivas (Fernández h-t), Sanvicente – Maldonado, Febles (Márquez 57)
30.07.1989: Venezuela 0-4 Brazil
Line-up (4-4-2): Baena – Pacheco, Acosta (c), Morovic, Betancourt – Cavallo, Añor (Carrero 71), H Rivas, Maldonado – Febles (Arreaza 54), Fernández
In their version of 4-4-2, Venezuela stand up well to Brazil in the first half, at least defensively, where they prove difficult to break down. However, they are unable to cause trouble down the other end themselves, and they fail to commit enough players forward in the first half. After the break, though, they will ease up somewhat on their defensive stance, and it will prove costly as the visitors time and again make use of the huge pockets of space down Betancourt’s left hand side. Still, Venezuela can take pride in how they acquitted themselves until they tired, and there were some fine performances, most notably from goalkeeper Baena, but also in the first half from Betancourt and midfield man Añor.
06.08.1989: Venezuela 1-3 Chile
Line-up (5-3-2): Baena – Torres, Paz, Acosta (c), H Rivas, Betancourt (Añor h-t) – Cavallo, Carrero, Febles (Fernández 52) – Gallego, Maldonado
Moreno had sat his team up in a 5-3-2 formation this time around, with Rivas retracting back into central defence since last time out. Three player changes in total. Betancourt again displayed his defensive shortcomings at left-back, and Venezuela looked improved as they switched to 4-3-3 after the break. They huffed and puffed until substitute Fernández’ goal back, but had no more power left as they owed it to ‘keeper Baena to keep the scores down.
20.08.1989: Brazil 6-0 Venezuela
Line-up (5-3-2): Baena – Pacheco, Torres, Acosta (c), Paz, H Rivas – Cavallo, Maldonado, Carrero – Gallardo (Febles h-t), Arreaza (Tarazona 77)
Following their two successive home defeats, Venezuela would’ve harboured few hopes of upsetting the odds in São Paulo. Moreno had lined them up in 5-3-2, with designated markers for Bebeto (Torres) and Careca (Paz). Cavallo was the supposed midfield enforcer, Carrero was looking to distribute, whilst Maldonado had been hoping to enjoy some success through the middle, with both forwards playing wide. However, they were on the back foot for large spells, owing it to another excellent Baena display to keep the scores down. In particular the second half was difficult. The Venezuelans had been lucky to escape with ‘only’ six.
27.08.1989: Chile 5-0 Venezuela (neutral ground in Mendoza, Argentina)
Final position: 3 (out of 3)
Total record: 4 0 0 4 1-18 0
Home record: 2 0 0 2 1-7 0
Away record: 2 0 0 2 0-11 0
Number of players used:
Number of players including unused substitutes:
Ever-presents (360 minutes):
– game by game
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