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South American Qualification Round Up

Earlier on this month we saw another pivotal two rounds of World Cup qualification take place in the ever competitive South American zone, games which have produced a significant impact on the overall qualification table.

Argentina although they picked up only a point apiece from their two games against second and third placed Colombia and Ecuador remain on course to qualify comfortably – a win in Paraguay next time out could be enough to book their place. The Colombians enjoyed a successful week as they followed up a point in Buenos Aires with a straight forward home win against Peru. That result inches them ever closer to a first appearance since 1998  at footballs biggest stage – given the current boom in talent they are experiencing they are a team nobody will want to face.

Ecuador remain third having responded to a defeat in Peru with a home draw against leaders Argentina, courtesy of a Segundo Castillo strike. Whilst their current position remains strong given the five point cushion they have on those outside the automatic qualification spots, they will have some concern with three of their remaining four fixtures away from home. Away returns are a rarity as it is in South America given the vastly different climates and intense atmospheres – Ecuador have been particularly reliant on their home form with just two of their 20 points coming on the road.

Outside of the top three things looked more than a little bit muddy prior to these latest games with Chile, Venezuela, Uruguay and Peru all locked in a battle for one automatic birth and the play off spot. Chile buoyed by a win over the Uruguayans last time out enjoyed a week that has seen them take a significant stranglehold on fourth spot, following wins over Paraguay and Bolivia. Having stuttered through the opening half of qualifications it would appear that the Chileans are peaking at the right time and with two of their remaining three fixtures at home they will be confident of making their second successive finals.

For Venezuela the double header represented a huge opportunity to tighten their grip on a top five position, however things did not go to plan as they were denied a first away win following a late Bolivia goal in the high altitude of La Paz. Had they have clung on to that result the Venezuelans would have taken a five point advantage into their crunch clash with Uruguay just a few days later – a must win contest for both sides and perhaps the most pivotal tie of the round.

Uruguay having finished fourth in South Africa and having lifted the COPA America they were expected  to cruise through qualification, yet whilst things started well the wheels have come off at an alarming rate with the mentioned game against Venezuela being preceded by a run of no wins in six. That said with their backs very much against the wall  the Uruguayans managed to scrape the required result with an Edinson Cavani strike inflicting only Venezuela’s second home defeat of the campaign – a result which lifts them into the play off spot. The job though is far from done for Oscar Tabarez’ men with another crunch away game in Peru up next, following that they play their final three games against the current top three. With that in mind the ageing Uruguayans still face a real task to take up their supposed billing of world cup dark horses.

The Peruvians have just about kept themselves in the mix, although these two fixtures represented their campaign in a nutshell given they won their home game but lost away. They have only lost once at home yet have failed to win away – that said three points from games against high flyers Ecuador and Colombia represents a solid return. The game against Uruguay is likely to prove make or break, for a win would take them into the play off spots where as defeat would leave them five points adrift with just three games to go.

As we enter the final stretches of the campaign things are starting to fall into place particularly at the top of the table, that said time is running out for many and the margin for error is getting smaller – particularly in regards to those battling for the play off spot.