Ralph Hannah –
Venezuela vs Argentina — Scaloni’s side stumbled into the semifinals almost by accident in a strange game in which Argentina never really asserted themselves, were overrun in midfield yet Armani was only forced into one save. The 2-0 victory was in part thanks to a couple of errors in critical moments by the Venezuela defence that gifted goals to the albiceleste.
Venezuela vs Argentina Goals: 0-1 (Lautaro Martinez, 10′), 0-2 (Lo Celso, 74’)
Within ten minutes a miscued clearance at a corner allowed Sergio Aguero to fire a low shot into the box to be flicked in by Lautaro Martínez who is becoming the shining light for Argentina this tournament. The vinotinto had been warned earlier, defending badly at a corner in the 5thminute where Pezzella was free to head goalwards, only finding Fariñez.
The second goal was a big flap by the young Venezuelan goalkeeper, De Paul had done well to win the ball high up the pitch and fed Aguero who shot on the half turn. The ball was straight at the Millonarios stopper who didn’t manage to catch the ball and substitute Lo Celso was on hand to turn in the rebound.
That second goal killed off the contest as it ended a sustained spell of pressure by Dudamel’s team who had dominated possession in the middle with Moreno and Rincón controlling the game. With Martinez having hit the post early in the second half and Argentina backing off, the Venezuela coach sniffed an opportunity and brought on Soteldo after 55 minutes for his defender Luis Mago.
The bleached blonde winger began to connect well with the rest of the midfield as they fashioned out space in the final third. Juan Foyth was just about winning an excellent battle with Darwin Machís, but as the two often tussled in the penalty box, you sensed that just one mistimed tackle or lapse in concentration could bring Venezuela back in the game.
On 70 minutes, with the score still only 1-0 the golden chance came for the boys in burgundy, Rincón lifted a beautiful pass over the defence catching out Tagliafico (who had been impeccable otherwise) and finding 21-year-old right back Ronald Hernández. Of all the outfield players he was probably the least equipped to deal with the chance, having never scored in his senior career. Armani saved well, and just four minutes later the Fariñez error occurred.
Venezuela will bow out with the confidence that they have a team of rising stars such as Fariñez (despite today’s mistake), Hernandez, Soteldo and Herrera who were all part of the 2017 U20s World Cup Final. They are the highest ranked FIFA side to never qualify for a World Cup; maybe these precocious talents can finally get them there.
Argentina meet Brazil in a “clásico” of a semifinal in Belo Horizonte on Tuesday, but based on today’s stuttering performance it seems unlikely that Messi will record his first competitive win over the hosts. Brazil will have to hope that history doesn’t repeat itself, their previous two semifinals in the Mineirao have ended in defeat. Firstly in 1975 at the hands of Peru and more recently the infamous World Cup game against Germany.
Venezuela vs Argentina – Match Report
Fariñez – R. Hernández, Chancellor, Mago, Rosales – Moreno, Herrera, Rincón, Murillo, Machis – Rondón
Armani – Foyth, Pezzella, Otamendi, Tagliafico – De Paul, Paredes, Acuña – Messi, Martinez, Aguero
Ralph Hannah is Londoner, who has lived in Luque and is now located in Miami, with a keen interest in Paraguayan football history and statistics. A frequent traveler throughout Latin America he attends games throughout the region and has written for a variety of publications and set up the first English-language blog on Paraguayan Football. When not in the Defensores del Chaco he’s looking after his 2 daughters. Follow Ralph on Twitter @paraguayralph.