Venezuela beats Argentina for 1st time in history
Even a draw would have been momentous, but Venezuela went a step further by beating Argentina 1-0 in a World Cup qualifier for its first ever win over the South American heavyweights.
Venezuela had lost all 18 of its previous matches against Argentina, but Fernando Amorebieta's 61st-minute header turned the tables Tuesday night against a star-studded team captained by Lionel Messi and also including Real Madrid stars Angel Di Maria and Gonzalo Higuain.
''This was not a lucky game, not a fortunate game, this was a deserved victory,'' Venezuela coach Cesar Farias said.
Venezuela's players greeted the final whistle by hugging each other as fireworks were set off above the stadium in Puerto La Cruz.
''We made history,'' midfielder Cesar Gonzalez said. ''We brought our soul on the field. We are family. We back the coach and each other. The goal is the World Cup. We defeated a big team, but there is a long, long way to go.''
Argentina, under new coach Alejandro Sabella, had comfortably won its first game in qualifying 4-1 against Chile on Friday, while Venezuela lost 2-0 in Ecuador.
That left Argentina as overwhelming favorites to win against a team that has never played at a World Cup.
However, Venezuela's stout defense restricted Argentina to mainly long-range shots, while Argentina goalkeeper Mariano Andujar had to make several sharp saves in the first half.
The hosts took the lead in the 61st minute when Juan Arango delivered a corner from the right and Athletic Bilbao striker Amorebieta managed to get ahead of his marker and head in at the far post.
Jose Rondon almost added a second after a slaloming run through the Argentina defense but just lost control of the ball as he closed in on goal.
Sabella conceded that on the balance of play, Venezuela had deserved the win.
''In the first half hour Argentina was better,'' he said. ''We had chances in the first 20 minutes. After that, Venezuela began to get better, particularly in the last 10 minutes of the first half. In the second half they were better than we were.''
Argentina and Venezuela have three points from two games in the nine-team South American qualifying group, which is led by Uruguay.
The top four teams will qualify, with the fifth-place team going through to a playoff.
Venezuela next travels to Colombia on Nov. 11 when Argentina hosts Bolivia.
''We have to analyse what we should improve,'' Sabella said. ''The qualifiers are a long tournament and we must improve some aspects.''
Venezuela: Renny Vega, Roberto Rosales, Oswaldo Vizcarrondo, Fernando Amorebieta, Gabriel Cichero, Franklin Lucena, Tomas Rincon, Cesar Gonzalez (Julio Alvarez, 83), Juan Arango, Nicolas Fedor (Alejandro Moreno, 89) Jose Salomon Rondon (Frank Feltscher, 77).
Argentina: Mariano Andujar, Pablo Zabaleta (Ever Banega, 65), Nicolas Burdisso, Martin Demichelis, Marcos Rojo, Javier Mascherano, Nicolas Otamendi, Jose Sosa (Rodrigo Palacio, 75), Angel Di Maria (Javier Pastore, 83), Lionel Messi, Gonzalo Higuain.