BLOG ESPANA
Friday March 4 2016
Viva Venezuela

Luke Taylor writes how a group of four Venezuelans are flying the flag for their country in La Liga.

With the exception of the footballing nations who prosper on the international stage on a regular basis, the likes of Argentina and Uruguay in South America and Portugal and Croatia in Europe for example, it’s rare for a group of players from the same country to excel in the same League at the same time. Right now though, that is happening in La Liga as the four Venezuelans who ply their trade in Spain’s top tier continue to impress - Juanpi, Roberto Rosales, Miku and Adalberto Penaranda.

As a sporting nation, Venezuela is not renowned for its football. Baseball is a particularly popular sport in the country, which perhaps accounts for the lack of success that La Vinotinto have seen. In fact, Venezuela are the only team in South America to have never qualified for a World Cup, and despite a fourth-place finish at the 2011 Copa America, the best finish in the country’s history, they currently lie dead bottom of their World Cup qualifying group and have yet to register a point after four games. 

This makes the recent performances from some of their exports even more peculiar and, therefore, even more admirable. Two of them, Juanpi and Rosales, both play for the same club in Malaga and have played a huge part in Javi Gracia’s side’s resurgence of late. Rosales has been excellent all season at right-back, playing every minute of every League game to date, andis an extremely reliable defender, who gives the trickiest of wingers a tough time, while also doing his bit going forward, even getting the assist last weekend for Duje Cop’s goal at Real Sociedad.

Meanwhile, Juanpi has stepped up a notch this season to lead the majority of Malaga’s attacks, looking dangerous every time he picks up the ball. He has an eye for those defence-splitting passes to create countless opportunities and has chipped in with some crucial goals too, the highlight being his superb opener at La Rosaleda against Getafe.

The attacking midfielder has only been capped by his country once but is happy to see his compatriots performing in Spain.

“It has given us the chance [to play for Venezuela],” the 22-year-old told Marca. “Miku is scoring, I am too, Penaranda is doing very well and I’m going to mention Roberto [Rosales]. We are very pleased that many of us who represent the country are doing well and we can continue chasing our goals.”

Moving from the Costa del Sol to Madrid, Rayo Vallecano forward Miku is also attracting attention for his exploits. The most experienced of the quartet, having played for as many as seven different Spanish clubs in his career and recently trying out Scotland and Qatar, Miku has been capped over 50 times for Venezuela. The man from his country’s capital has now made history in Spain’s, becoming the first player in Rayo’s history to score in five consecutive games for the club. 

Finally, there’s the youngest of the group. At just 18 years of age, Penaranda will not be a La Liga player next season after completing a deadline-day deal in January to sign for Premier League club Watford. The forward has huge potential and is widely regarded as a player who will be among the world’s best in the years to come, with lightning pace and an absolute rocket of a shot. Like his compatriot, he broke a record to become the youngest player in La Liga history to score a brace, and if that’s anything to go by then he certainly will be among the elite, considering the previous player to hold that record was Lionel Messi. 

For a country who doesn’t have much footballing pedigree, it’s very encouraging to see a group of players making a name for themselves in the best League in the world. Hopefully, their performances for their clubs will translate into the burgundy shirts that they will pull on for their country and continue to do their people proud.

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