Amore, mi Amore…
Amorebieta I mean, that Basque defender who, by chance, happened to be born in the state of Anzoátegui, Venezuela on the 29th of March, 1985. Fernando will forever be remembered in Venezuelan footballing lore for his majestic header against Argentina on October 11, 2011. Thanks to that header, Venezuela took points off Argentina for the first time in their history in a qualifying match. That’s right, Venezuela had never even managed a draw against la albiceleste before taking all three points yesterday.
Again, pinches are needed to confirm that this is still reality. As I said before, la Vinotinto has traditionally been the continent’s whipping boys— a guaranteed six points on the road to a World Cup, whichever one it may have been.
Last night was Amorebieta’s homecoming. The match, played in Puerto La Cruz, Anzoátegui, marked (I believe) the first time that the Basque defender returned to his country of birth after leaving it at the tender age of two years old all those years ago. And what a homecoming it was. Argentina started out as they usually have in the past couple of months: firing on all cylinders. Messi and Higuaín had a few cracks at goal, but the asylum escapee Renny Vega managed to keep donuts on the scoreboard. Venezuela then proceeded to give a masterclass in defending, shutting down Argentine attacks with gusto, and making sure that the twinkle-toed Messi had no room to work with.
In the second half, Argentina fell apart. Venezuela, smelling blood, began charging forward; with long balls at first, but eventually, the hosts began stringing together pass after pass and building impressive offensive displays. Now, don’t get me wrong, they weren’t Barcelona either, but coming from a team that, in 1975, suffered their worst defeat at the hands of the Argentines (it pains me to write… 11-0…), and in 1999 lost to Brazil 7-0 (yes, you read right, SEVEN TO NOTHING), the plays they were putting together last night were quite impressive. Then Amorebieta scored off Arango’s corner and I knew I was witnessing something special.
How did I know? Well, Argentina looked dead in the water. They barely reacted— there was no sense of urgency, style, tactics, or just plain footballing killer instinct. Let’s be serious— on paper, Venezuela is to Argentina as Real Madrid is to Rayo Vallecano (or the Yankees to (this season’s) Astros, for you Americans). Seriously, Messi’s salary alone could probably buy half of la Vinotinto. Yet, if you saw last night’s game, you would have never guessed. Argentina is in the middle of a footballing crisis. They have no identity, no ideas, no inspiration. Players were taking unnecessary touches and misplacing passes left and right. Even Messi let off some steam, on two separate instances going in hard on two different Venezuelan players (even taking a shot to Rincón’s neck, which, in my humble opinion as an amateur referee, should have been at least a yellow). This loss is, for Argentina, humiliating. It will be interesting to see how (or if) they rebound.
As for us Venezuelans—
—bust out the Cacique.