James Rodriguez came up with a timely goal for Colombia last week despite a very indifferent overall performance.
He will need to do much more on Tuesday.
Colombia will look to get back in the win column and move up the CONCACAF World Cup qualifying table when it opens up the fourth round of games with a home match vs. sputtering Argentina. Los Cafeteros are fresh off of grabbing a valuable road point in Chile thanks to a Rodriguez strike, but the pressure is on them to grab a victory at home in order to try and jump back into one of the the top five spots in the standings.
Argentina heads into the tough Tuesday afternoon showdown desperate for points. La albiceleste, which is still without injured superstar Leo Messi, has just two points from three games. Making matters even worse for Argentina is that it has scored just once thus far, and trying to get out of that offensive rut in Colombia is no easy task.
The eight other South American nations will also be in action, and all of them are hoping to collect three points from the final fixture date of 2015. The last clashes of the year include red-hot Ecuador attempting to stay perfect against winless Venezuela, Uruguay welcoming Chile in a battle of two teams with vastly different styles, Brazil returning home to play optimistic Peru, and Bolivia going for two wins in a row vs. Paraguay.
Here is a closer look at Matchday 4 in CONMEBOL World Cup qualifying:
COLOMBIA vs. ARGENTINA
(3:30 pm ET – beIN Sports Espanol, beIN Sports Connect | 11/18 12 am ET tape delay – beIN Sports Espanol)
Ninth-placed Argentina badly needs its first win, but has the unenviable task of having to go into the heat of Colombia to play in the middle of the afternoon. La albiceleste enters Estadio Metropolitano Roberto Melendez in Barranquilla after settling for just a solitary point at home vs. Brazil last Thursday, but is proud of the performance it put forth in the 1-1 draw.
Once again, Argentina head coach Gerardo ‘Tata’ Martino has to make due without the injured Leo Messi. Martino is also without Sergio Aguero and Carlos Tevez, meaning it is likely that he again goes with the attacking trio of Angel Di Maria, Ezequiel Lavezzi, and Gonzalo Higuain. The three of them combined wonderfully to create Argentina’s goal against Brazil, and will need to show more of that type of brilliance if the Argentines are to avoiding making their 0-1-2 record worse.
Colombia is not in as dire of a situation, but also has plenty of pressure to win. Los Cafeteros picked up a respectable draw as visitors against Chile, but still fell out of the top half of the standings. James Rodriguez scored the equalizer in that 1-1 draw vs. the reigning South American champions last week, but still needs to be sharper and more involved than he has been in recent games if Colombia is to have a shot at avoiding a letdown at home.
VENEZUELA vs. ECUADOR
(4 pm ET – beIN Sports Connect | 10 pm ET tape delay – beIN Sports Espanol)
The worst team goes up against the best, as Venezuela welcomes undefeated Ecuador to Estadio Cachamay in Ciudad Guayana. Ecuador has been the most pleasant surprise in the first three rounds of the qualifying campaign, and will look to make it an emphatic 12 points out of 12 when it goes up against a Venezuela team that is struggling in nearly every facet of the game.
La Tricolor will be led once again by talented forward Felipe Caicedo, who is tied for the CONMEBOL scoring lead after tallying in Ecuador’s 2-1 triumph over Uruguay. Caicedo has found the back of the net in each of Ecuador’s games to this point, and could be in store for a big day at the office given that Venezuela’s defense has conceded a qualifying-worst eight goals.
While Caicedo and company enter the duel with confidence to spare, Venezuela comes in sorely needing a lifeline. Any lifeline. La Vinotinto was overwhelmed in Bolivia, 4-2, last Thursday, and the frustrations from dropping a third straight match were evident when midfielder Luis Seijas was sent off with a straight red card in second-half stoppage time. It certainly will not be easy for Venezuela on Tuesday, but a win in front of the home crowd could be just what it needs to get going.
PARAGUAY vs. BOLIVIA
(6 pm ET – beIN Sports Connect | 11/18 3 pm ET tape delay – beIN Sports Espanol)
Bolivia is feeling good after dominating Venezuela for large stretches last week, but now has to go into Paraguay and prove that it can have a similar type of showing outside the comforts of home. For Bolivia to do that, Alejandro Chumacero needs to turn in a second straight strong outing in midfield and forwards like Rodrigo Ramallo have to continue to make the most of their opportunities in front of goal.
La Verde also needs to improve defensively. While Bolivia was always in front in its triumph against Venezuela, simple defensive miscues threatened to change that. A repeat of those type of errors could prove costly at Estadio Defensores del Chaco in Asuncion, especially since Paraguay has proven to be tough to break down at the back.
Fifth-placed Paraguay has not been impressive on the other side of the ball, however. Los Guaranies were edged by Peru on Friday, and have scored just once – via an absolute gift from Venezuela – in their three matches. Paraguay did show some improvement in the attack in the second half of the 1-0 road defeat in Lima, but will still need to be more dangerous in the final third in order to oust Bolivia.
URUGUAY vs. CHILE
(6 pm ET – beIN Sports Espanol, beIN Sports Connect | 11/18 6 am ET tape delay – beIN Sports Espanol)
Uruguay and Chile saw their unblemished records take a dent in the third round, and both will try to bounce back from that. Uruguay hosts Chile at Estadio Centenario in Montevideo, and both sides might have to deal with missing key attacking players.
Alexis Sanchez has picked up a knock that is threatening his availability for Chile, which is still in a respectable third place despite settling for a tie at home with Colombia the last time out. If Sanchez is unable to go, La Roja will need one of its role players to step in and fill the big cleats left behind, especially since Uruguay specializes in the type of organized defensive performance that Colombia used to great affect on Thursday.
Meanwhile, Luis Suarez is still suspended for Uruguay, leaving Edinson Cavani and co. to have to do a better job of making up for his absence. Cavani scored in the narrow loss to Ecuador last week, but also missed a gilt-edged chance minutes before Los Charruas conceded the winner. Uruguay might want to be more clinical, but has also proven to be very good at set pieces and can look to that aspect of the game for goals.
BRAZIL vs. PERU
(7 pm ET – beIN Sports Connect | 7:55 pm ET join in progess – beIN Sports Espanol | 11/18 11 am ET tape delay – beIN Sports)
Brazil and the returning Neymar did not play their best game, and yet they still managed to pick up a result away to arch-rival Argentina. O Canarinho now wants to keep the momentum going and prevent the narrative from once again being about the poor results it has suffered in recent years, and only a win over Peru at home will accomplish that.
Finding someone to fill in for David Luiz is of top priority for Brazil, as the starting centerback is suspended for the encounter at Itaipava Arena Fonte Nova in Salvador due to the red card he received against Argentina. Whoever steps in for him will need to be very wary of Jefferson Farfan, who pushed Peru to its first win by scoring for the third time in two matches.
La blanquirroja also got a strong showing from midfielder Renato Tapia last week, but played poorly in the second half of its meeting with Paraguay. Another subpar showing like that would likely doom Peru to a third defeat in four games, and kill off the optimism that has been gained. The good news for head coach Ricardo Garecea is that Christian Cueva is available again after serving a one-game ban, but the bad news is that neither Andre Carrillo or Juan Manuel Vargas will be available for selection because of injuries.