As far as their South American rivals were once concerned, a game against Venezuela was a virtual guarantee of three easy points, La Vinotinto only scoring their first FIFA World Cup™ qualifier victory in the preliminaries for Spain 1982. That is no longer the case, however, and after finishing above Bolivia in the Germany 2006 competition, the Venezuelans then fared better than both the latter and Peru in the South Africa 2010 qualifying table. Their dream now is to push on and end their unwanted record of being the only South American team never to have reached the world finals.
The current crop
The clearest indication of the development of Venezuelan football, before the recent fourth-place finish at the 2011 Copa America, came with qualification for the FIFA U-20 World Cup Egypt 2009 and a subsequent place in the last 16 of the competition. The youthful Cesar Farias, coach of that promising side, has been in charge of the full Vinotinto team since the start of 2008, and has a strong mix of seasoned performers and young talents at his disposal. They proved to be well on the right track after surprising the watching world in the continental Copa America showpiece in Argentina in 2011.
The key players
The pick of the youngsters who excelled at Egypt 2009 are Yohandry Orozco and Salomon Rondon, both of whom are now playing in Europe. Sharing star billing with them are experienced hands Juan Arango, Giancarlo Maldonado and Jose Manuel Rey.