Venezuela banking on the class of 2017

  • La Vinotinto hoping to reach FIFA World Cup™ for first time

  • Players from U-20 World Cup 2017 team are pushing hard for places

  • Some have broken into the team, others during World Cup qualifying

When Venezuela finished runners-up at the FIFA U-20 World Cup Korea Republic 2017, their pride was soon followed by a feeling of hope.

The expectation was that this generation of players would kick on and help Venezuela fulfil their dream of qualifying for the FIFA World Cup™ for the first time in the country’s history. And what better time to do that than in the qualifiers for Qatar 2022? looks at the young players who starred in Korea Republic three years ago to see who has broken into the senior team that will contest the preliminaries and who's hoping to do so in the near future.

Wuilker Farinez

  • Position: Goalkeeper | Age: 22 | Club: Lens (on loan from Millonarios)

  • Caps: 22

Farinez made his full international debut before Korea Republic 2017 but his fine performances there took him on to another level. Having been handed the gloves for a Russia 2018 qualifier in March 2017, he has kept them ever since. He is now an undisputed first choice thanks to his excellent performances at the 2019 Copa America and elsewhere and his self-belief, which belies his young age.

Now with Lens, and with one qualifying campaign and experience of three Copa Americas already under his belt, Farinez will be vital to Venezuela’s hopes of making it to Qatar. “Our goal is to qualify for the World Cup,” he said.

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - JUNE 28: Ronald Hernandez of Venezuela kicks the ball in the air during the Copa America Brazil 2019 quarterfinal match between Argentina and Venezuela at Maracana Stadium on June 28, 2019 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Wagner Meier/Getty Images)

Ronald Hernandez

  • Position: Right-back | Age: 22 | Club: Aberdeen

  • Caps: 15

Hernandez stood out in Korea Republic for his defensive aptitude, technique, coolness on the ball and attacking ability, qualities that he has shown at club level in Norway and now in Scotland and which have taken him into the national team.

He made his senior debut in October 2017 in the final qualifier for Russia 2018 and has been a starter ever since. He excelled at the 2019 Copa America, distinguishing himself in defence and also playing his part when it came to transitions and getting forward.

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - JUNE 28: Yangel Herrera of Venezuela looks at the ball during the Copa America Brazil 2019 quarterfinal match between Argentina and Venezuela at Maracana Stadium on June 28, 2019 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Wagner Meier/Getty Images)

Yangel Herrera

  • Position: Defensive midfielder | Age: 22 | Club: Granada (on loan from Manchester City)

  • Caps: 18 (2 goals)

Herrera won his first full international cap as an 18-year-old in 2016 on account of his character, decision-making and reading of the game. So rapid was his progress that Pep Guardiola took him to Manchester City in 2017 before sending him out on loan.

Maintaining his focus nevertheless, Herrera was one of La Vinotinto’s standout performers in Korea Republic, where he also showed his ability in the air and picked up the adidas Bronze Ball.

A first-choice at senior level since then, he has struck up a key partnership with Tomas Rincon in the Venezuelan midfield. Given his distribution skills, he could be one of the revelations of the upcoming qualifiers.

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - JUNE 28: Lionel Messi of Argentina fights for the ball with  Yeferson Soteldo of Venezuela during the Copa America Brazil 2019 quarterfinal match between Argentina and Venezuela at Maracana Stadium on June 28, 2019 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Lucas Uebel/Getty Images)

Yeferson Soteldo

  • Position: Winger, attacking midfielder | Age: 23 | Club: Santos

  • Caps: 17 (1 goal)

A star in his own right, Soteldo is skilful, quick and not afraid to take people on. The diminutive midfielder was already playing abroad and had featured in three Russia 2018 qualifiers by the time he appeared at Korea Republic 2017, where he produced some towering performances.

A prominent performer in Brazil since 2019, he had a good Copa America that same year, which only added to his confidence. “He asked me if we were ready to qualify for the World Cup,” Soteldo said of national team coach Jose Peseiro. “I said no, we were ready to fight for first place.”

Adalberto Penaranda

  • Forward, 23, Watford, 16 caps

After winning his first senior cap in 2016, the year in which he was voted best young player at the Copa America Centenario, Penaranda featured in two qualifying matches for Russia 2018 and scored two goals in seven matches for the U-20 side. Injuries have hampered his progress, however. Now hoping to make his way in England, he could well provide an interesting alternative up front in the qualifiers.

Sergio Cordova

  • Forward, 22, Augsburg, 8 caps

Cordova was Venezuela’s leading scorer at Korea Republic 2017 with four goals, one of which was voted the goal of the tournament. Later, he moved to Germany and made his full international debut, playing four games in the Russia 2018 qualifiers. Though injury denied him a place at the 2019 Copa America, he has regained form and fitness in Germany and is eagerly awaiting another opportunity.

Jan Carlos Hurtado

  • Forward, 20, Boca Juniors, 3 caps

Three appearances and a goal at Korea Republic 2017 earned Hurtado a move to Argentina, where he had a spell with Gimnasia y Esgrima de La Plata before moving to Boca Juniors. In the meantime, he made his senior international debut, and though he missed out on a place at the 2019 Copa America, he is continuing to progress and could well feature in the Qatar 2022 preliminaries.

Nahuel Ferraresi

  • Central defender, 21, Porto B (on loan from Torque), 3 caps

Signed by City Football Group at the start of 2017, Ferraresi was a defensive mainstay of the side that finished runners-up at Korea Republic 2017, where he scored one goal. Though he did not appear in the last World Cup qualifying competition, he has every chance of featuring in the squad on the long road to Qatar 2022.

Ronaldo Lucena

  • Attacking midfielder, 23, Nacional, 3 caps

A key part of the U-20 side’s front line, Lucena’s displays in Korea Republic brought him a move to Colombia and a first senior cap, although he did not play in the Russia 2018 qualifiers or go to the Copa America the following year. If he can hold down a regular place with his club, he can force his way into the reckoning.