Meet the Vintotino Heroes: Venezuela U20s

The senior side may be the only CONMEBOL member to have never qualified for a World Cup but Venezuela's current U20 superstars have quickly become national heroes after reaching the first World Cup final in the nation's history.

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• Most goals (14)
• Most shots (110)
• Most shots on target (38)
• Fewest goals conceded (2)

At least four reasons why Venezuela are in Sunday's final, and 100% deserve to be so.

Their attractive brand of fast-paced attacking football has captured the hearts of local fans and instilled a new sense of pride in those following at home.

In a time when football matches are interuppted by Presidential broadcasts and weaponsied protests tear apart the country, La Mini Vintotinto have provided a much-needed release and represent much more than just an incredible development in Venezuelan football.

Dudamel

After their historic semi-final victory, coach Rafael Dudamel's emotional post-match plea to the Maduro regime to rid the country of arms was just a gilmpse into the toil at home but also indicative of what this U20 side represents.

His harrowing statement after their penalty shootout win against Uruguay said it all: "Today a 17-year-old gives us happiness when yesterday a 17-year-old is killed." This historic final is much more than just a football match for a country on the cusp of civil war.

Whatever the result, they have become a bastion of hope, a source of happiness and an emblem of national pride for a country teetering on the edge.

Meet the Heroes of Venezuela:


GK: Wuilker Faríñez

Age: 19
Club: Caracas FC

Farinez

Thirteen saves made. Four clean sheets. Two goals conceded. One match-winning penalty save. One goal.

Faríñez may not have been the most tested goalkeeper at the Under 20 World Cup but that doesn't stop him being one of the best.

The only goals he has conceded have been from set plays: against the USA, a Brooks Lennon free-kick guided home by Jeremy Ebobisse. In the semi-final, Uruguyan Nicolás de la Cruz beat him from the spot — he went on to get his revenge in the shootout.

The 19-year-old has already been capped by the senior side and has saved a penalty from Alexis Sanchez despite only becoming a goalkeeper five years ago.

His natural ability is obvious with incredible reflexes compensating for any positional naivety. Learning from his idol Iker Casillas on YouTube, the Venezuelan 'keeper has been one of the best shot stoppers at the tournament and although he has been rarely troubled, his 13 saves have all been made to look comfortable.

England should test him the most in Sunday's final but don't be surprised if he makes a few stunning stops to frustrate the Young Lions' attack.

Tournament Rating = 8/10


RB: Ronald Hernández

Age: 19
Club: Zamora FC

Ronny H

Not the most technical of right-backs, Hernandez is bullish in his approach and relishes a physical battle with his opponent. Partial to a foul and the occasional yellow card, England could look to target his temperament with the skilful dribbling of Ademola Lookman.

Hernandez has not offered a great amount in attack and focussed mainly on his defensive duties. Whether winning the ball cleanly or felling onrushing attackers, either way he has rarely let the opposition past him.

After all, there must be a reason Venezuela have the best defence in the competition.

Tournament Rating = 6/10


RCB: Nahuel Ferraresi

Age: 18
Club: Deportivo Táchira

Aerially dominant and tactically astute, Ferraresi has managed to stand out in a Venezuelan defence that has had very little to do throughout this tournament.

The 18-year-old has showcased his ability to widen Venezuela’s point of attack with his pinpoint long balls and an uncanny intelligence for reading the flow of the game.

The 6ft 2 centre-back also provides Venezuela with a target man on set pieces, as well as bully in the air in their defensive end.

Tournament Rating = 6.5/10


LCB: Williams Velásquez

Age: 20
Club: Estudiantes de Caracas

Velasquez

Another imposing figure at the heart of Venezuela's defence, Velasquez missed the semi-final through suspension but will most likely return to face England.

He and Ferraresi are almost unbeatable in the air and similar to his centre-back partner he is a handful from attacking set pieces and formidable when defending them.

Slightly clumsy when the ball is on the floor, but nevertheless forceful and tenacious in the tackle, Venezuela's dominance so far in the tournament has perhaps papered over some potential cracks in their defence.

Sunday's final against England will most certainly be Velasquez's greatest test.


LB: José Hernández

Age: 19
Club: Caracas FC

Hernandez

Characteristic of Venezuela's tough-tackling defence, José Hernández was also suspended for the semi-final victory against Uruguay.

His replacement, Eduin Quero, perhaps provides more of an attacking outlet but the rigidity of Venezuela's defence combined with the talent they have further up the pitch means the solidity their #5 provides has been preferred.

Again, because of the aforementioned Venezuelan dominance and the nature of their play style we have seen relatively little of the Vintotinto defenders. The only certainty is they will commit as many fouls as they will win tackles — the combative Jose Hernández is no exception to the rule.


RCM: Ronaldo Lucena

Age: 20
Club: Zamora FC

Lucena

Despite his diminutive 5ft 9 figure, Ronaldo Lucena has carved himself out as Vintotinto’s primary siege weapon.

His set-piece delivery has been near-perfect, time and again supplying excellent service from dead-ball situations at crucial times. Lucena boasts a joint-tournament-best three assists, two of which have come from his pinpoint in-swinging corners.

From open play he is just as dangerous. When free from the shackles of helping defend, Lucena has focussed his efforts on inundating the Venezuelan forwards with chances, to which they usually oblige.

His centre-midfield partner and captain Yangel Herrera has taken many of the plaudits this summer but Lucena's role has been vital. His ball-striking ability is almost unrivalled and is a superb and tenacious technician.

Tournament Rating = 8/10


LCM: Yangel Herrera

Age: 19
Club: Manchester City

Yangel

The conductor of the orchestra, whilst his partner in crime Lucena serves chances up for his teammates, Herrera is tasked with dictating the tempo and speed his side play at. Just as capable as retaining possession with short accurate passes, the Venezuelan captain is also capable of raking a cross-field pass to his most dangerous teammates.

The most imposing member of the Venezuelan side ahead of their destructive defence Herrera has also played the role of ball-winner. His ability to change from metronomic possesion master to relentless tackle-bot is remarkable. He has lead by example on the pitch and his influence on the team is immediately evident.

Yangel Herrera's match-winning header against Japan in the last-16 characterised his tournament so far: commanding, powerful and inspiring.

Tournament Rating = 8.5/10

Herrera x Lucena vs. Cook x Onomah promises to be the most mouth-watering prospect of Sunday's final. The concoction of talent in the middle of the park will no doubt provide an explosive battle for supremacy: just as much a physical brawl as it will be a clash of technical excellence.


RW: Sergio Córdova

Age: 19
Club: Caracas FC

Cordova

A real handful for defenders, Córdova is strong, quick and seems competent with every part of his body.

Preferring to shoot with sheer power he has also shown a deft first touch inside the box. Whether through intelligent movement or pure brute force, the Venezuelan's seemingly insatiable appetite for goals means he will always create chance for himself.

Stationed out-wide on the teamsheet, Córdova is very much a forward in practice and is always looking to move into the space vacated by players in front of him. He sees less of the ball at his feet, preferring to be the player on the end of Venezuela's attacking moves rather than trying to construct them himself.

His finishing somewhat deserted him in the last two games, however. Missing guilt-edge opportunities against USA and proving on the whole ineffective against Uruguay he will be hoping more than anyone that his early-tournament form returns for the final.

Tournament Rating = 7.5/10


LW: Adalberto Peñaranda

Age: 20
Club: Watford

Peñaranda

Venezuela's very own Neymar.

Whilst that may sound like a bold statement, there is no denying Peñaranda is La Vinotinto's most technical attacking player. He oozes the confidence to match.

Given complete freedom Peñaranda has manipulated the ball and bamboozled opposition defenders at his will throughout the tournament.

With an excellent array of tricks at his disposal, the 20-year-old has ensured his showcase of skills has also resulted in tangible goals and assists. No player has been directly involved in more goals (5) at the Under 20 World Cup and although he carries an air of entitlement at times, it is clear the responsibility to be Venezuela's match-winner falls on his shoulders more often than not.

Although he starts every game on the left, Dudamel has moved Peñaranda more central as the match progresses in order to get his most skilful talent on the ball as frequently as possible.

He will no doubt cause England's defence problems and it would be unfair not to praise his tenacity off the ball. He is no deviation from La Vinotinto's exceptional work ethic.

Tournament Rating = 8.5/10


CF: Ronaldo Chacón

Age: 19
Club: Caracas FC

Chacon

Despite playing in a No.10 role, Chacon has been used more similarly to Solanke for England: a support striker rather than a creator-in-chief. He aims to indirectly create space for his teammates by constantly moving in and around the box, proving a very difficult player to mark.

Whilst his contribution is at times limited or at the very least difficult to notice, he has not been at his most effective. Chacón is yet to register a goal or assist in Korea, and whilst again it's important to emphasis his value to the team goes beyond numbers, he will definitely be looking jot something in either column in the final.

Tournament Ranking = 6/10


ST: Ronaldo Peña

Age: 20
Club: Las Palmas

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The third Ronaldo in the starting line up, Venezuela's No.9 is unfortunately not as prolific as his more famous namesakes. His work rate, however, is commendable and his running of the channels and constant hassling of the opposition is almost masochistic.

Peña sacrifices himself so that La Vinotinto's most dangerous attacking players — namely Peñaranda and Cordova who drift in from their wide positions — can wreak havoc in the space created by his persistent movement.

His goal against Germany in the opening game of the tournament was the epitome of his style of play. Selfless and relentless closing down forced a mistake by the German defence, allowing him to carry the ball into the box, round the 'keeper and score Venezuela's first of their 14 goals in Korea.

Tournament Rating = 6.5/10


Off the bench:

RW: Samuel Sosa

Age: 17
Club: Deportivo Táchira

The second youngest member of the squad, Sosa has been used exclusively off of the bench in Korea thus far, and usually to great effect.

He played a part in the 7-0 rout of Vanuatu in the group stage and grabbed his second goal in spectacular fashion against Uruguay.

Sosa's stunning 90th minute free-kick thundered into the top-right corner of Santiago Mele's goal and rescued Venezuela from the brink in the semi-final. A goal that will forever be remembered for its quality and importance.


LW/CF: Yeferson Soteldo

Age: 19
Club: CD Huachipato

At 5ft 2, Soteldo appears to scurry around the pitch in 1.5x speed.

Indicative of his size is an incredibly low centre of gravity which makes him difficult to stop when dribbling at full speed.

Ironically, he has been a massive threat when coming off the bench with his excellent burst of pace and tricky play-style helping him create chances where others could not.

It is quite possible he could start ahead of Ronaldo Chacón in the No.10 role.


ST: Jan Hurtado

Age: 17
Club: Deportivo Táchira

Hurtado

Hurtado is very raw. Similarly to Peña he is usually deployed for his running off the ball rather than his overall quality on it.

He was inches away from winning the game for Venezuela in the semi-final against Uruguay, striking the post in the final minute of extra-time.

With Peña always likely to be exhausted before the end of the game, Hurtado has been used as a like-for-like replacement. A player with massive potential and highly thought of in Venezuela.


Verdict

We marked Venezuela as tournament favourites in our semi-final preview so it would be unfair to rob them of that label at this stage.

Venezuela Team

And in all honesty, they deserve to be frontrunners.

England have proven themselves as a very talented side but Venezuela trump them in every measurable metric. The only thing left to see is how the two sides fare when pitted against each other.

Thankfully the two best sides have made it to the final, both for the first time in their history. Sunday is set to be a magnificent and magical encounter for all the right reasons.

VeneXI

Just don't be surprised if it is Venezuela who leave the pitch as champions.

By @JakeEntwistle

ScoutedFootball (@ScoutedFtbl) will be providing full coverage of Sunday's final on Twitter. Be sure to follow @JakeEntwistle who will in fact be at the game in Suwon.