by NESTOR F. SEBASTIAN
After this weekend's 11th round of World Cup qualifiers in South America, which resulted in a shift in occupancy of some places in the standings, the 12th round gets underway immediately with the top half of the table looking tighter.
Chile and Argentina, with their respective wins, surpassed Brazil for a second-place tie while Uruguay still retains fifth place following their win over leaders Paraguay. However, Colombia, Ecuador and Venezuela are still very much in contention to fight for that last playoff spot against CONCACAF's fourth-place team. Bolivia and Peru are only playing for honor now with seven rounds left.
Here is a look at CONMEBOL's 12th round of World Cup qualifiers:
VENEZUELA v. COLOMBIA 8:30PM ET
Colombia revived its aspirations for its first World Cup appearance since France '98 with a much-needed 2-0 win at home against Bolivia and a victory in Venezuela would inch Colombia closer to a battle for fifth place.
The Cafeteros will be missing Fabian Vargas (Boca Juniors) and Wason Renteria (Braga) due to suspension, which will force manager Eduardo Lara to change his game plan to something similar he implemented at Brazil last year. Apparently, the coach is anticipating a Venezuela raid.
The Vinotinto, coming off of a 4-0 loss in Argentina, will be without Jorge Rojas (Red Bull New York) and former RBNY player Gabriel Cichero (Caracas), both of whom are out for yellows. The Venezuelans will look to solidify an offensive attack by starting Giancarlo Maldonado (Atlante, Mexico) and Alejandro Moreno (Colombus Crew) for a much-needed three points.
BOLIVIA v. ARGENTINA 3:30PM ET
Bolivia will hope to take advantage of the high altitude of its capital city when they host the Argentines, who plan to jet in on the same day of the match.
Bolivian manager Erwin 'Platini' Sanchez plans to make seven changes to the lineup that lost to Colombia 2-0 with former MLS player Joselito Vaca (Oriente Petrolero, Bolivia), Luis Gutierrez (Destroyers, Bolivia) and Jose Castillo (Petrolero) out for yellows.
Argentina has a full lineup ready for the match in La Paz and veteran Javier Zanetti (Inter), who got his 130th international cap in the Venezuela win, said his teammates are ready to adjust to the altitude accordingly.
Bolivia, sitting in ninth place in the 10-team table, would surprise many with a win but the potency of Argentina's depth and attack should be too much for them.
ECUADOR v. PARAGUAY 5:20PM ET
Paraguay will look to avoid back-to-back losses for the first time in this cycle's campaign when they travel to Quito to visit Ecuador, who will enjoy the luxury of hosting another match.
The Ecuadoreans needed an 88th minute equalizer to draw Brazil even though they thoroughly dominated the match but were thwarted by Brazil's goalie Julio Cesar (Inter) as well as missed opportunities.
Paraguay, who lost 2-0 in Uruguay, still lead the table but won't have Julio Caceres (Boca Juniors) due to injury and Nelson Haeod (Borussia Dortmund), who can't play in high altitude.
Ecuador will be without speedy midfielder Walter Ayovi (Monterrey) due to suspension but will have most of its players that faced Brazil.
CHILE v. URUGUAY 7:10PM ET
This is the match of the round.
Chile, coming off of a historic 3-1 in in Peru will look to climb up the table even further and assure its fans that South Africa is on the horizon when they host Uruguay.
The Chileans could have feasted on more goals in Lima against a poor Peruvian side but didn't capitalize on their chances. The win was their first on Peruvian soil in 24 years.
Wonderkid Alexis Sanchez (Udinese) toyed with the Peruvian defense and showed why he is the subject of transfer rumors by Europe's heavyweights.
Meanwhile, Uruguay will hope to continue its momentum after its home victory against Paraguay. And the Uruguayans are aware that this match against Chile would assure it of battling for one of four direct berths should it win. The Charruas are fiddling with their lineup because of injury concerns.
BRAZIL v. PERU 9:10PM ET
This one could get ugly.
The Brazilians, always under pressure to not only win but to look good doing it, will host a weak Peruvian side that is currently in its worst crisis in history.
Brazil was thorough pressured by Ecuador in Quito on Sunday and has goalie Julio Cesar to thank for some fine keeping that ended in a 1-1 tie. The five-time world champions will be hungry in front of their crowd, especially after dropping to fourth place in the standings this weekend.
That doesn't bode well for Peru, who are missing a majority of their stars. Now the Peruvians can add Juan Vargas (Fiorentina) to the list. Vargas was shown the red on Sunday after one of his worst performances in a Peru shirt, giving away a rookie-like penalty and being out-shined by Chile's Alexis Sanchez.
Without much depth and a grasp on the realities of Peru's soccer system, captain Nolberto Solano conceded that the team should look towards the 2018 World Cup as a realistic target to qualify.
What did you think of this weekend's games? Who do you see grabbing the fifth spot to play CONCACAF's fourth-placed team? Are these qualifiers the most difficult on the planet?
Venezuela colombia was a boring game until the last twenty mins, man what an upset!
Tim F – The Chile – Uruguay game is on ESPN Deportes. A really early christmas present if you ask me. I love the nats but this is the game to watch tomorrow. Should be an intense, fun match.
Good week, Chile v. Uruguay are the main contenders for the 4-5 spots (assuming Argentina, Brazil, and Paraguay), so that’s the round of the match. Chile opens up a 6 point gap with a win, and 2 of their next 3 are home to Bolivia and Venezuela. Winning those would give them 28 points.
A loss puts them into a tie with Uruguay on 19.
For the record, last time, 28 points were needed for a tie for 3rd. And fifth was 25 points, 24th was good for 6th, and 22 7th.
Are any of these games on tv?
If Ecuador could just finish…! Argh…
Gotta go with Chile on this one. They look strong and have a motivated side. I really hope they qualify in the top 4 and in all honesty, how can bet against the CONMEBOL number 5 against whatever the CONCACAF burps up? I’m thinking 5 South American teams to South Africa along with US, MEX and Costa Rica.
Hey Nestor, you know how Australia abandoned Oceania and joined the Asian qualifying group? Do you ever see a similar situation happening with Venezuela and Colombia? After all, they certainly have a Caribbean coastline and qualification from CONCACAF would be a lot easier than from CONMEBOL. Qualification from some confederations is much easier than from others and it doesn’t seem fair for some countries in the tougher qualification groups. You may want to consider a brief analysis on this subject.
Such an exciting in Chilean futbol history. Bielsa has done WONDERS with this team. I give him 100% credit for helping a bunch of talented individuals finally reach their potential. Last qualifying round I kept wondering how it was possible that Chile wasn’t playing better with so many great players on their side. Bielsa has pulled it all together. Can’t wait for the game!!!!!!
[Erm, makes that del Solar, sorry. C&P misfire.]
Great preview Nestor, thank you. Do you have any thoughts on the fact that Jefferson Farfan and Pizzaro have not been recalled by Peru even though their bans have ended? Is this an admirable decision by Guillermo to keep what he sees as a negative influence out of camp, or a case of a coach stupidly digging his heels in on an issue and hurting his team as a result? Their play seems to merit a call, were it not for the lingering off-pitch issues.
For what it’s worth, Chase, Alves will certainly get the start tomorrow, since Maicon suffered a serious injury against Ecuador.
When are we going to come to the realization that Brazil just isn’t at an elite level right now? Kaka has seen a drop in form since his great 2007 (largely due to injuries). Ronaldinho has been MIA since 2006. Robinho has been poor since the New Year and Elano isn’t even a regular for Man City.
Then you look at the Brazilian central midfield and you see they are relying on Gilberto Silva, who is currently playing in Greece, newcomer Felipe Melo and Josue (who plays for Wolfsberg-sparingly). Anderson and Lucas are waiting in the wings, but both have had difficulty living up to their potential at Man Untied and Liverpool.
Then you add in that Danni Alves, probably the Brazilian on the best form for his club, doesn’t even warrant a start for Dunga?! I also take exception that Fabio Aurellio (in the midst of a great season for one of the best clubs in Europe) is somehow not good enough to get a look at LB on this team.
While they are still dangerous and have some very effective attacking players that I failed to mention (Pato, Luis Fabiano, the Beast, Adriano-when he isn’t drunk and fat), I think they are clearly a step below Argentina and Spain at the moment.
If Argentina pull off a good match in la Paz, I have to think they become favorites. The danger of taking Maradona as manager was implosion and chaos. But two wins and a team buying into the system, and riding the chaos? An Argentina team with confidence and mojo is a scary thought.
They played terribly in Ecuador but they will use the altitude as an excuse. Now at home they have no excuses and the added pressure of playing in front of their harshest critics; the Brazilian spectator. The Brazilian press will be paying even more attention. The players can’t afford to screw this one up and against a weaker opponent (compared to Ecuador) they won’t.
MVK, 4 automatic spots and 1 playoff against CONCACAF
is it 5 teams from this region make it then the 6th place team plays our 4th place to for a trip to SA2010?