Traditionally the minnows of South America, Venezuela are the
only of the ten nations on the continent not to have competed in a
FIFA World Cup. However, they have gained notice recently for their
improving displays of football and some surprising results. For
this reason, Venezuela head into the latest edition of South
American qualifying with renewed hope.
First affiliated with FIFA in 1952, it has been a rather long and torturous process for football in a country that is traditionally more associated with baseball. But, in the late 1990s coach "El Pato" José Omar Pastoriza started to change that, and the arrival of Richard Páez as coach ahead of Korea/Japan '02 helped the side turn a corner that not many saw coming. Their results in qualifying, particularly towards the end of the long campaign, stunned observers.
The Vinotinto took an unprecedented 13 points from their final seven matches, including a first ever away qualifying victory, 2-0 at Chile, as well as home victories over such established sides as Uruguay, Peru and Paraguay. And though they finished second from the bottom (Chile were last), Venezuela had proven that they were no longer a guaranteed three points for the continent's heavyweights.
Venezuela's rich vein of form then continued in the qualifiers for Germany 2006, where their hard-working style earned them impressive away wins in Colombia and Uruguay. Hopes and expectations only increased after hosting the 2007 Copa America, where the Vinotinto reached the quarter-finals for the first-time in their history. They kept up the momentum in the early rounds of South Africa qualifying as well, finishing 2007 in fifth place.
Despite the impressive position, coach Paez decided to take his leave and was replaced by 34-year-old Cesar Farias who is now charged with the task of guiding Venezuela to their first FIFA World Cup finals.