South America has always been represented by the triumvirate of Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay at the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup - until this year that is, with the Venezuelans breaking through to reach the world finals for the first time in their history.
Drawing on a blend of experienced players and new faces, La Vinotinto were the revelations of the South American qualifying competition, held on Rio de Janeiro’s Copacabana beach. After clinching second place in Group A and a semi-final slot, they trumped fellow over-achievers Colombia 5-2 in the match for third place to seal a berth at Ravenna 2011.
Qualification for the world finals is an achievement in itself for Venezuelan beach soccer, which is building on the progress made by the country’s other national football teams. Drawn into Group C with Nigeria, Russia and Tahiti, the South American new boys, coached by Robi Cavallo, have set a quarter-final place as their target.
Centeno, Miguel, Gianluca
Venezuela were handed a stern assignment when they were drawn in the same qualifying section as Peru, Chile, Paraguay and Brazil. Despite falling to an expected defeat against the reigning world champions and losing on penalties to the Paraguayans, victories over Peru and the fancied Chileans took them through to the last four. Defeat followed to Argentina, but Cavallo’s men recovered to beat Colombia and secure third place at the tournament and with it a ticket to Italy.
The numbers game
3 - The number of FIFA World Cup finals competitions Venezuela have now reached. The Men’s U-20 team created history by qualifying for Egypt 2009, a landmark achievement followed up by the Women’s U-17 team at Trinidad and Tobago 2010, with the Men’s Beach Soccer side now completing a long-awaited hat-trick by making it to Ravenna 2011.