SANTIAGO (Reuters) - - Venezuela are the only South American team never to have played at the World Cup and coach Noel Sanvicente’s sights are already fixed on Russia in 2018 rather than Chile this month.
“I’m not here to win a Copa America, I’m here to get us qualified (for the next World Cup). If not, it’s a failure,” Sanvicente said in a recent interview.
“I think it’s our turn to qualify for a World Cup,” he added, reflecting on the near misses of the last two qualifying campaigns. “We’ve been so close.”
Until recently, Venezuela, where football has been traditionally less popular than baseball, were seen as easy meat by the other South American teams and were often on the wrong end of some embarrassingly lopsided scorelines.
They have made huge strides in the last 10 years, however, and enjoyed their best-ever performance at the last Copa America where they reached the semi-finals, although signs of stagnation have now begun to set in.
The defence is ageing, there does not appear to be any sign of a replacement for 35-year-old playmaker Juan Arango and forward Salomon Rondon has fallen out of favour at Zenit St Petersburg.
Venezuela can play some slick football but Sanvicente realises they need to be more consistent.
“We can’t be satisfied with producing moments of good football. We have to sustain this with more movement and the kind of intensity I’m looking for,” he said.
Writing by Brian Homewood; Editing by Ken Ferris