Argentina’s Armani wary of pacey outsiders Venezuela - GulfToday

Argentinas Armani wary of pacey outsiders Venezuela


Venezuela’s players take part in a training session in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on Wednesday. Agence France-Presse

Argentina goalkeeper Franco Armani warned his team-mates on Wednesday not to be caught out by minnows Venezuela when the sides meet in the Copa America quarter-finals.

Argentina scraped into the knock-out rounds courtesy of a 2-0 win over invitees Qatar in their final pool match having gone into it bottom of Group B.

And now they’re wary of avoiding a banana skin against the tournament minnows, one of only two of South America’s 10 national sides -- the other being Ecuador -- never to win the Copa.

“We need to score goals, to be very careful... to avoid a surprise,” said the River Plate goalkeeper ahead of Friday’s clash at Rio de Janeiro’s Maracana stadium.

Armani said Venezuela would “look to win back the ball quickly and attack” from the flanks, where “they have quick players.”

And in Newcastle United forward Salomon Rondon, they have “a center-forward who holds up the ball well and has good movement.”

While 14-time former winners Argentina may have been a disappointment for many onlookers, Armani feels they are finding their form as they progress deeper into the competition.

They began with a 2-0 defeat to Colombia before benefitting from a couple of contentious decisions in a 1-1 draw with Paraguay, only securing qualification to the latter stages with victory over Qatar.

There has been little so far to suggest they might end a 26-year trophy drought, though.

“We’ve gone from worse to better in this Copa. Match by match we’ve gained confidence, we’ve gained the functionality the team needs, and we arrive in good shape for this quarter-final,” he said.

But Argentina haven’t beaten Venezuela in their last three meetings, and lost 3-1 when the sides met in Madrid in a friendly in March, when five-time Ballon d’Or winner Lionel Messi made his long-awaited return to the national team after an eight-month absence.

For Venezuela captain Tomas Rincon, Argentina have lost the fear factor they once had thanks to a multitude of star players.

“It’s been a while since they won, with their history and their (star) names,” said Rincon.

“What’s important now is the teamwork, how you play as a team. We respect everyone, but we fear no-one.”

Meanwhile, have you heard the one about the gunslinger, the assassin and the predator? Football fans in Salvador attending the Copa America quarter-final between Uruguay and Peru soon will because that’s what’s in store for them on Saturday.

Three of South America’s most feared forwards will square off, weapons cocked and ready for battle.

Uruguay’s Luis Suarez scored 25 goals for Barcelona last season and Edinson Cavani managed 23 for Paris Saint-Germain. Lining up opposite them will be Peru’s Paolo Guerrero, a player who netted nine times for Brazil’s Internacional since April after returning from a 4-month doping ban. With that kind of firepower on the pitch, fans in the northern Brazilian city should be in for a feast of goals.

 “Suarez and Cavani are irreplaceable,” said Uruguay’s coach Oscar Tabarez a few months ago. “Given their incredibly high performance level, we can expect to achieve much more.”

 Only hosts Brazil scored more goals than Uruguay in the group stages -- in part thanks to a 5-0 thrashing of a self-destructing Peru in their final pool match -- and only pitch-perfect Colombia managed a better record.

Uruguay’s dynamic duo, both from Salto in the north west, are feeling confident ahead of the knock-out stages of a competition the country has won a record 15 times.

“We’re one of the potential winners. We’re Uruguay, the team that has won the Copa America the most times, and we need to demonstrate this by winning matches,” said 32-year-old Suarez, the gunslinger, his country’s all-time record goalscorer with 58.

He’s scored three times against Peru in the Copa America alone.

 He and Cavani have found the net twice each here in Brazil, with the PSG forward bagging the crucial winner in Monday’s 1-0 success over champions Chile that allowed Uruguay to top Group C.

“We needed to win, we wanted to top the group and give a good account of ourselves and continue with this attitude,” said ‘the assassin’ Cavani, 32, second only to Suarez with 48 international goals.

Lining up in Peru’s attack will be their own all-time top scorer, Paolo Guerrero (37 goals). Alongside Eduardo Vargas of Chile, he’s also the top active Copa America goalscorer with 12.

Guerrero began his senior career in Germany and after a decade at Bayern Munich and then Hamburg, he left for Brazil where he helped Corinthians win the Club World Cup, scoring the only goal in the final against Chelsea.


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