Venezuela's shock qualification for the FIFA U-20 World Cup Egypt 2009 will go down as one of the country's biggest footballing achievement to date. Under the steady hand of coach Cesar Farias, who is also in charge of the Vinotinto senior side, the hard-working Venezuelans produced the goods on home soil, qualifying ahead of the likes of six-time world U-20 champions Argentina.
Venezuela got their South American U-20 Championship bid off to a perfect start when finishing top of their first-round group, before following up with a 2-1 victory over Colombia in their opening six-team final round encounter. Successive 3-0 defeats by Paraguay and Brazil put their Egyptian dream in jeopardy but a 1-1 draw with Argentina and 3-1 win over Uruguay in their final match sealed fourth place and a qualifying berth for the Vinotinto. Of their nine matches, they won three, drew four and lost two, scoring 11 goals and conceding 12 in the process.
Born in Guira on 7 March 1973, Cesar Farias's fleeting professional career as a creative midfielder, which took in just ten games at Monagas in 1992, only served to underline his determination to succeed as a coach. Indeed, within a year he had taken the helm at the recently formed Nueva Cadiz, where he won titles with the club's U-17 and U-20 teams. From there he enjoyed successful spells at various Venezuelan top-flight clubs, before coming to international prominence when leading Deportivo Tachira to the quarter-finals of the 2004 Copa Libertadores, where they lost to Brazilian heavyweights Sao Paulo. In 2007, while in charge of Deportivo Anzoategui, he accepted an offer to become Venezuela senior national team coach. He was the only senior coach to lead a side at the Sudamericano.
At just 19 years of age, goalkeeper Rafael Romo is already a fully fledged footballing icon in Venezuela. Born on 25 February 1990, his late penalty save against Colombia in the Vinotinto's last match of the first group phase at the Sudamericano proved decisive in ensuring his team's place in the final six-team round. Outstanding final-round displays against Colombia, Argentina and Uruguay also played a major part in his country qualifying for Egypt 2009, while his assets include agility, sharp reflexes and surprisingly good feet for a player measuring in at 1.97m (over 6'4"). Other Venezuelan men to watch are defender Jose Manuel Velasquez, midfielder Jonathan Del Valle and forward Jose Salomon Rondon.
• Venezuela have never previously qualified for this competition.
What they said
"We always believed that we would do it. I can sleep easy because I didn't let the players down; I told them that we'd reach the World Cup in Egypt and we managed it. We've got a team with the desire to achieve great things." Venezuela coach Cesar Farias.
|4||Jose Manuel VELAZQUEZ|
|7||Yonathan DEL VALLE|