CONMEBOL World Cup qualifying is about to get a lot more interesting, as the South American confederation’s six-team qualifying group is about to be shaken up by international break’s fixtures. In a move that could see some teams miss out on a place at Russia 2018, the upcoming round of games looks set to have a major impact on the continent’s qualifying table. Let’s take a look at what’s going on, and why it’s a big deal.
CONMEBOL World Cup qualifying has come to a dramatic end for most South American countries, with only Brazil left in the group stage. The group stage draw for CONMEBOL World Cup qualifying has seen most South American countries avoid each other, but the top six placed teams from the group stage will be joined by the two lowest placed teams from each of the two lowest ranked South American confederations.
CONMEBOL World Cup qualifying matches are underway, with Chile and Uruguay facing off at home before Argentina and Bolivia take to the field away. The playoff spots for Group B are looking close, with Chile holding the advantage after upsetting Argentina, while Uruguay’s victory over Bolivia keeps them in the mix. Peru’s loss to Ecuador puts them in danger of missing out on the World Cup, while the top three teams in each group will advance to group play.
Behind leaders Brazil and Argentina, the South American World Cup qualification standings is very close. Getty Images/Michael Regan – The FA/The FA
While European teams release (or refuse to release) players for the international break, South America’s ultra-competitive World Cup qualifying campaign continues on Thursday with the first of three rounds in the next week, bringing the tournament to its halfway point.
The fact that no one is making up the statistics is a big part of the attraction. All ten teams believe they have a chance to qualify for Qatar 2022; the top four teams advance directly, while the fifth-placed club must compete in a playoff. With a third of the tournament yet to be completed, no one is out of the running. The lowest two teams in the standings (Venezuela and Peru) are just four points behind Uruguay in fourth place, a gap that Peru can reduce to just one point if they beat Uruguay at home in the last match of the round.
Peru will aim to reignite their campaign, much as they did after the Copa Centenario in 2016, by building on the momentum they gained in this summer’s Copa America in Brazil, when they finished fourth. They may also rejoice at the return of talismanic captain and centre-forward Paolo Guerrero, who was forced to miss the Copa due to injury.
Uruguay, on the other hand, is missing both strikers from their previous strong combination. Luis Suarez has suffered an injury, while Edinson Cavani has been embroiled in a feud with English teams.
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However, there is something unique about the latter situation. Oscar Washington Tabarez, the veteran Uruguay coach, made it plain that he would no longer call up Cavani for these games, and the reason seems to be that the coach does not think the 10-day quarantine period upon return to the UK would be beneficial to the player’s fitness levels. Whatever the merits or demerits of the situation, it demonstrates why Tabarez is such a gentleman and why, in the words of former captain Diego Lugano, he has never had to swear at a player throughout his 15-year reign as manager.
With the players trapped in a club-vs.-country tug-of-war, Tabarez seems to be the only one who prioritizes his player’s needs above anything else.
Maxi Gomez of Valencia, then, is presented with an opportunity. It’s also an opportunity for Uruguay to experiment with formations other than 4-4-2 in order to get the most out of their excellent midfielders.
The absence of England-based players will be most noticeable in Chile’s match against Brazil in Santiago, when the Selecao will be missing nine members of their original roster. The only reason they haven’t made a bigger fuss is because they have a perfect record in the tournament and are close to earning enough points to secure their spot. Coach Tite can now afford to consider his alternatives. His goal is to build a squad capable of winning Brazil’s first World Cup in 20 years, not just one capable of making it to Qatar.
Chile, now in eighth position, has just two players absent, but Blackburn striker Ben Brereton Diaz’s absence will be felt severely. His tenacity and passion impressed at the Copa, and with Alexis Sanchez out, it’s difficult to predict where Chile’s goals will come from.
Argentina, buoyed by their recent Copa America victory, are comfortably in second position, six points behind Brazil, whom they face on Sunday. They’ve also managed to retain the services of their four Premier League players, at least for the first two games, despite Tottenham Hotspur centre-back Cristian Romero’s suspension for Thursday’s match against Venezuela.
However, if the guests are peaceful, the hosts will have to cope with some disruption. Venezuela’s Portuguese coach, Jose Peseiro, has quit in protest over unpaid pay for 14 months. Leonardo Gonzalez, a former national team defender, has stepped in as a caretaker. Venezuela, who finished second in the 2017 Under-20 World Cup, entered this season with high expectations of making their senior debut. They have only scored three goals after six rounds, and it is up to a stand-in coach to get things back on track.
Ecuador is in third position, although they have gone seven games without a victory, including two rounds in June and the Copa America. The Copa provided conflicting evidence: On the one side, they put in strong performances against Brazil and Argentina; on the other, they were leaking goals at an alarming rate, which coach Gustavo Alfaro highlighted as the main issue. When they face Paraguay at the altitude of Quito, they may be more cautious than they normally are for home games. The Paraguayans will almost likely pack the middle and wait for their chance, wary of the circumstances. Will Ecuador overshoot and expose themselves if a breakthrough does not arrive soon? A victory for sixth-placed Paraguay would put them ahead of Ecuador in the standings, demonstrating how close things are behind Brazil and Argentina.
More proof for this may be seen in the round’s first game, which pits Bolivia against Colombia. Bolivia’s campaign is back on track after a terrible start, with two away draws sandwiching a home victory. Every point earned on the road is a bonus. Still in ninth place, they are well aware of the importance of making the most of La Paz’s high altitude, and a win would bring them level on points with Colombia, who are presently in fifth — the playoff spot.
The top five on the standings are pitted against the bottom five in this round, but the margins are so close that Thursday’s activity will undoubtedly shake up the qualifying table.
The CONMEBOL World Cup is very much a team sport, with a number of players on a team having a high impact on the outcome of a match.. Read more about south america world cup qualifiers 2022 table and let us know what you think.
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