Thursday 27 April 2017, 17:36

Farinez, Venezuela's goalkeeping wunderkind

  • Venezuela keeper Wuilker Farinez starred in the U-20 South American Championships

  • The 19-year-old has already been a part of the senior set-up for two years

  • He has made two appearances in the qualifiers for 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™

“We’ve got a goalkeeper for the next 20 years,” said Venezuela coach Rafael Dudamel in March, referring, in emphatic fashion, to Wuilker Farinez. The former goalkeeper took obvious pride in having just given the 19-year-old custodian his first appearance in the Russia 2018 qualifiers, against Peru. Dudamel will be investing his faith in the up-and-coming Farinez once more at the FIFA U-20 World Cup Korea Republic 2017 in a few weeks’ time, where he will be his first-choice keeper.

Looking ahead to the tournament, Farinez told “My dream is for us to be world champions. That’s what we’re preparing for, and I have complete faith in the work we’re doing and in God. If we don’t go with that mindset, then we’ll come up short.”

That kind of ambition is typical of a player who decided at the age of 14 that he wanted to be a goalkeeper, having previously played up front. Within three short years, he was being called up by Noel Sanvicente to the Venezuela squad for the Copa America Chile 2015.

“Did things happen fast?” Farinez pondered. “I’d say that they did, but I’ve always worked hard and listened to the advice I’ve been given.”

The young keeper’s career has been nothing short of stellar to date. As well wearing the No1 jersey for Caracas FC’s for the last two seasons, he has earned 18 full caps with La Vinotinto – he was his country’s third-choice keeper at the last two Copas America – and has represented Venezuela at every age group, from the U-15s through to the U-20s.

One of the best keepers on duty at the U-20 South American Championships, where he showcased his agility, reflexes and character, Farinez has the skills to back up his dramatic emergence.

“Iker Casillas is one of my idols. He’s an example because of his experience and everything he’s won,” explained the Venezuelan shotstopper, who likes to watch YouTube videos of his role models training: “I want to learn from the great keepers. It motivates me and gives me a lot of confidence.”

Thinking big Farinez had the chance to get close to Casillas when he earned selection from among more than 3,000 youngsters for a series of trials at Real Madrid. Though he failed to make the final cut, he proudly recalled the day when training at the club’s Valdebebas complex was extended by nearly half an hour because nobody could beat him: “It made me very happy to know that coaches at that level couldn’t put the ball past me.”

Those skills came to the fore again when he made his second appearance in the Russia 2018 qualifiers at the Estadio Nacional in Santiago, a match that began with Chile roaring into a 3-0 lead after 22 minutes, though Farinez was not to blame for that.

In the second half, by which time Venezuela had pulled a goal back and were pushing for a second, the home side were awarded a penalty. Stepping up to take it was none other than Alexis Sanchez, with Farinez aware that another goal at that stage would kill the game off.

“It was a tough moment but I was ready for it,” recalled the keeper. “I analysed all the variables: the player, how he set himself up and what the coach had told me. I waited until the very last moment.”

Diving low to his right, Farinez pushed Sanchez’s spot-kick round the post for corner. “He put it where we thought he would,” he added, sharing the merit for his fine save with Venezuela’s goalkeeping coach.

The key to that save was the power he possesses in his legs, which allowed him to get down low fast. Standing 5’11 (1.80m) tall, it is an area of his game that Farinez has to work especially hard on, as he explained: “I know that if I focus on that and my agility and develop the qualities that have made me a goalkeeper, I can go on and achieve big things.”

Venezuela second most-capped goalkeeper of all time, Dudamel is always there to give him useful advice: “He makes me feel very committed,” said Farinez. “He gives me a lot of confidence and I work as hard as I can to repay him for it.”

Our goalkeeper Wuilker Farinez starred in the Venezuela game and saved a Chile penalty. Well done, Wuilker!

Farinez on the U-20 World Cup • “We’ve got a great generation of players with a lot of potential, a great team with a lot of heart, talent and a big future ahead of it. We want to show that we deserve to be at the World Cup.”

• “Germany, Mexico and Vanuatu make up a strong group, but this is a World Cup and the best teams are here.”

• “I’ve picked up experience with some big names in the senior team and I have a contribution to make. We need to enjoy every day as if it’s the first.”

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