The odds were stacked against Claudio Úbeda’s under-20 side reaching the World Cup in South Korea and although Argentina will be far from favourites come May, a dramatic final day saw La Albiceleste qualify at the expense of Brazil.
Argentina needed to beat Venezuela by five goals to ensure their progression at the expense of La Vinotinto or leave their fate in the hands of Brazil in the later game with Colombia.
Requiring victory by such a margin, Úbeda opted for an attacking formation and immediately Los Pibes were on the front foot.
Despite dominating, Argentina weren’t able to find a way through a well drilled Venezuelan defence until minutes before the break when Lautaro Martínez finally found some space and expertly steered the ball past Wuilker Faríñez.
Minutes later and Martínez doubled the lead although the Racing striker knew much less about his second with the ball looping off his head and over Faríñez.
In a tournament of very few bright points for Argentina, Martínez has been outstanding and his vital goals have ensured qualification. His brace on the final day and last minute goals against Colombia and Brazil are responsible for all of Argentina’s seven points in the final round.
Venezuela tightened up and Argentina lost their way somewhat after the break and so it ended only 2-0 meaning Venezuela erupted in celebration while Claudio Úbeda’s side had the look of a side that knew they wouldn’t be in South Korea.
Brazil only needed a win against a Colombia side already out of the running, without a win and with little self interest left, however, the Seleção’s goalless draw was the miracle needed.
Argentina scarcely deserve to be at the World Cup and owe more to Brazil’s failure but Claudio Úbeda now has a little over three months to get things right.