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By ESPN Staff

Venezuela coach Paez quits over jeers

CARACAS, Nov 26 (Reuters) - Venezuela coach Richard Paez quit on Monday after six-and-a-half years in charge during which he transformed the team's fortunes, but had become subject to recent criticism by fans.

His resignation, announced at a news conference by Venezuelan Football Federation (FVF) president Rafael Esquivel, came less than one week after the side came from behind three times to beat Bolivia 5-3 in a World Cup qualifier.

The result left the Red Wine team, so-called because of the colour of their strip, fifth in the 10-team South American group with six points from four games.

During the game in San Cristobal, the crowd called for Paez's resignation, insulted him, and demanded he substitute his midfielder son Ricardo.

'The football played by our beloved Red Wines has not been able to beat the inadequate atmosphere which surrounds the national team,' Paez said in a letter to the FVF. 'This directly affects our professional responsibility to pick, lead and obtain results.'

Paez responded to the fans last week saying he would not be swayed by their criticism.

Venezuela, previously regarded as South American also-rans and where soccer plays second fiddle to baseball, enjoyed some unprecedented results during Paez's reign, the high point being an 3-0 World Cup qualifying win away to Uruguay in 2004.

As hosts, they also made this year's Copa America quarter-finals. It was the first time they had gone beyond the group stage since entering the tournament in 1967.

Venezuela, the only South American country never to have qualified for the World Cup finals, had won only three World Cup qualifiers in their history before Paez, a qualified doctor, was promoted from the under-20 team in January 2001.

Although they lost 5-0 to Argentina on his coaching debut, they won four qualifiers in a row later the same year.

They also won five matches in the qualifying competition for the 2006 finals, including the 3-0 win in Uruguay.

Paez played for Venezuela during the 1970s and was on the receiving end when they lost 11-0 to Argentina in 1975. In a 2004 interview with Reuters, he said he had given the team new belief.

'In the old days, we knew we were going to lose and the target was to avoid a thrashing,' he said. 'Now we try to play with balance, to attack as well as defend.'