MARGARITA, Venezuela, May 15 (Reuters) - Venezuela have not been given much chance of success at next month’s Copa America, with five-times world champions Brazil, confident Colombia, and twice winners Peru in their group.
However, the burgundy-colored “Vinotinto” (“Red Wine”) have long ago stopped being a pushover in South America, and their new coach Noel Sanvicente is confident of a surprise in Chile.
“I‘m sure, very sure!” he said in an interview before a training session on Margarita island of his squad’s chances of getting through Group C and into the quarter-finals.
Two teams qualify from the three groups, along with the two best third-placed teams.
Despite his optimism, Sanvicente, 50, who is Venezuela’s most successful club coach and took over the national job in July last year, is by no means underestimating the task.
Brazil and Colombia “are two teams fresh from a World Cup, pretty balanced, and in good form,” he said.
Colombia were one of the outstanding side’s at last year’s World Cup and Brazil -- though famously humiliated 7-1 on home soil by Germany in the semi-finals -- have been transformed under new boss Dunga and are winning.
Venezuela, who play a fast and slick passing game at their best but also suffer from defensive naivety and imprecision in front of goal, came fourth in the last Copa America.
They have also had some eye-catching results, such as beating Argentina during the last World Cup qualifiers. But they remain under-achievers in an illustrious neighborhood.
“The fourth place was very important, but we’ve not won anything. We want more,” Sanvicente said, putting aside an electronic cigarette on the sidelines of training.
Only Venezuela, hosts Chile and Ecuador have failed to win a Copa America, while Venezuela are the only team in the South American Football Confederation (CONMEBOL) who have never qualified for a World Cup.
“I‘m not here (in the job) to win a Copa America, I‘m here to get us qualified (for the next World Cup). If not, it’s a failure,” Sanvicente added in the 75-hectare training complex on the Caribbean island off Venezuela’s coast.
He named a 30-man squad this week and will trim that to 23 next week for the final list to travel to Chile.
Venezuela will play Bolivia at the end of May in a pre-Copa friendly, and three months after the tournament the marathon South American qualifiers for Russia 2018 begin.
“I think it’s our turn to qualify for a World Cup,” the coach said, reflecting on the near-misses of the last two qualifying campaigns. “We’ve been so close.” (Writing by Andrew Cawthorne; Editing by Ken Ferris)