Noel Sanvicente’s side might sit 68 places below fourth-placed Colombia in the FIFA rankings, but you would not have known it as they outplayed their illustrious opponents for large periods.
Colombia were lethargic from the first minute – looking nothing like the team that stormed to the quarter-finals of last year’s World Cup – and only sparked into life after Zenit St Petersburg striker Salomon Rondon put Venezuela into a well-deserved lead after 60 minutes. By then it was too little too late.
Colombia head coach Jose Pekerman talked up their chances of winning the whole tournament in midweek and they dominated the early possession, albeit with the game being played at a pedestrian pace.
But despite boasting an enviable roster of renowned stars such as Monaco’s Radamel Falcao, Real Madrid midfielder James Rodriguez and Chelsea forward Juan Cuadrado, Colombia struggled to create openings.
Signs that Venezuela were growing into the contest came as early as the 16th minute as Ronald Vargas skipped into space down the right and whipped a dangerous cross into the box which evaded Rondon at the near-post and Arsenal ‘keeper David Ospina gathered cleanly.
The underdogs pushed close again after 26 minutes when a delightfully crafted through ball from Juan Arango, with his back to goal, put Vargas clean through but Ospina stood firm to block from an acute angle.
Minutes later Falcao had his first sight on goal with an audacious attempted lob from distance after spotting Venezuela ‘keeper Alain Baroja drifting off his line. The execution was wayward, however, and Colombia failed to find another shot on target until the latter stages of the second half.
They were made to pay for their lacklustre efforts when some brilliant inspiration from Arango, again, created a chance out of nothing.
The veteran midfielder showed expert control to flick up and cross the ball at pace to Alejandro Guerra at the far post. Guerra was able to nod it back inside to Rondon, whose bullet header gave Ospina no chance.
With defeat staring them in the face Colombia emerged from their slumber in the final 15 minutes, with Baroja finally upgraded from spectator status as he blocked a wicked drive from Rodriguez and then got up quickly to tip a follow-up shot wide.
From the resulting corner Cristian Zapata almost tapped in at the far post but was unable to get enough on it and then Cuadrado spurned a volleyed-effort from close range, but Colombia got the defeat they deserved and they will now have to improve massively before facing Group C rivals Brazil.