The rehearsals are over for the Venezuelan national team, and fans of “La Vinotinto” have reason to be concerned heading into the Copa America Centenario.
Wednesday night’s 1-1 tie against Guatemala at Lockhart Stadium was the final warmup before Venezuela faces a daunting group in the centennial edition of the Copa America, which opens Friday in various venues across the United States.
Venezuela, 74th in the most recent FIFA rankings, faces a tough Copa draw with a Sunday opener against No. 55 Jamaica in Chicago, a June 9 game against No. 9 Uruguay in Philadelphia, and a June 13 match against No. 16 Mexico in Houston.
The Venezuelans are hoping to turn things around under their new coach, the former national team goalkeeper Rafael Dudamel. Venezuela is in last place among 10 teams in CONMEBOL World Cup qualifying, the only team to go through the first six matches without a win.
In two friendlies last week, Venezuela tied Panama 0-0 and lost 2-1 to Costa Rica. They failed to win another tight match against the gritty Guatemalans on Wednesday in front of a spirited crowd of 7,217.
Although the Venezuelans had quality Europe-based players and outshot Guatemala 12 to 4, they failed to find the back of the net until the 84th minute against a Guatemalan team coming off a 7-1 loss to Armenia.
The best Venezuela opportunity came in the 30th minute, when Salomon “Salo” Rondon, who plays for West Bromwich in England, missed a one-on-one chance against Guatemalan goalkeeper Ricardo Jerez. Rondon had another errant close-range shot in the second half. Rondon’s third shot on goal proved to be the charm, and the Venezuelans escaped with a tie.
STRIKERS TOP RICHMOND
After 120 minutes of action, a weather delay and a dramatic penalty shootout, the Fort Lauderdale Strikers emerged victorious over the Richmond Kickers, advancing to the fourth round of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup.
Strikers goalkeeper Diego Restrepo was the hero, saving three of Richmond’s penalties as the Strikers won the penalty kick shooutout 2-0 after a 1-1 draw at Broward College South Campus. Geison Moura buried the Strikers’ fourth kick, setting up a fourth-round date with Major League Soccer side D.C. United on June 15 at the Maryland Soccerplex.
MIAMI FC FALLS
Miami FC couldn’t follow up its first NASL victory in a tournament match Wednesday night. Four days after defeating league rival FC Edmonton, Miami lost against the Wilmington Hammerheads 2-1 in the third round of the U.S. Open Cup at FIU Stadium.
Two early first half goals propelled the Wilmington, of the United Soccer League, to the victory and a fourth-round date against Major League Soccer’s Real Salt Lake June 14.
SANTOS A. PEREZ
▪ Spain 6, South Korea 1: Forwards Manuel “Nolito” Agudo and Alvaro Morata each scored twice as Spain routed South Korea in a warmup match in Salzburg, Austria, ahead of the European Championship.
David Silva and Cesc Fabregas also found the net, and the defending champions had two more goals disallowed for offside as they showed remarkable efficiency in attack after being held 0-0 for the opening half hour.
Nolito has now scored four times in eight matches for Spain, while Morata repaid the faith of coach Vicente Del Bosque, who overlooked Chelsea forward Diego Costa for his Euro 2016 squad in favor of the Juventus striker.
▪ Belgium 1, Finland 1: Romelu Lukaku scored two minutes from time to give Belgium a draw against Finland in Brussels.