Meeting Venezuela is expected to be easy for Argentina but try to ask the Brazilian what to think after a 0-0 draw with La Vinotinto in the group stage. It is hard to believe that Venezuela has changed so quickly in the context of facing economic and political obstacles.
Before the match with the 2019 Copa home team, Venezuelan coach Rafael Dudamel confessed that he grew up with love for Brazil. It is a common story for his generation: Brazil is the champion with a charming play and Venezuela is forever a weak team. Cheering for Brazil is a way for Venezuelans to feel they are involved in the World Cup. So the idea of La Vinotinto being able to compete with Selecao would be ridiculous. As the national team’s goalkeeper in the 1990s, Dudamel had to suffer heavy losses but things began to change.
The milestone was in 1996. Until that time, the World Cup qualifiers in South America were quick because there were few matches. Then 23 years ago, the marathon format was introduced: 10 countries were brought into a large group and then played at home and away for 18 months. Smaller countries can maintain their roster and invest in good coaches.
The result is a small revolution. Previously, Ecuador had never attended the World Cup, now they have three times and reached the second round in 2006. In 2018, Peru, after 36 years away from the World Cup, has brought a difficult match for The French team then won the World Cup return for the first time despite having to stop at the group stage.
With Venezuela, even though they have not yet participated in the World Cup, they are trying to achieve this goal. The 0-0 draw with Brazil in the Copa America 2019 group stage is not entirely due to luck. They used to draw Selecao in the World Cup qualifiers before and at the Copa America. They even defeated all rivals in South America and recently overtook Argentina in a 3-1 victory in Spain.
Great hope and it seems that the Venezuelans will not have to support Brazil in the World Cup anymore. They will have a team there to cheer.