Watching Venezuela tonight I couldn’t help think how they reminded me of Japan. Perhaps the Japan of a few years ago, but Japan nevertheless.
The South Americans have a decent enough bunch of players who have mastered all the requisite technical skills. But they have yet to acquire the savvy and guile needed to succeed at the top level.
After managing Japanese teams, Zico once said that the players were as skilled as any but that he could never convince them to take the initiative. Asian conformity prevented them from doing the unexpected.
Venezuela’s players don’t have that problem but they do lack that ruthless, almost nasty streak that is inherent in Argentine players and the innate understanding of the game that is so common in Brazilians.
In time, Japan managed to overcome their reluctance to try the unexpected and Venezuela might yet acquire the savvy that runs in the blood of so many of their regional rivals. But this Copa America is still too early for them. The referee helped them to victory tonight but they won’t make it past the quarter finals.