CONMEBOL WCQ Preview: Chile and Colombia aim to crack top five, and more

CONMEBOL WCQ Preview: Chile and Colombia aim to crack top five, and more

International Soccer

CONMEBOL WCQ Preview: Chile and Colombia aim to crack top five, and more

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Two of CONMEBOL’s 2014 World Cup participants are behind the pack on the road to Russia, and only victories on Tuesday will give them a shot at moving into a top-five spot.

Chile and Colombia have gotten off to subpar starts in 2018 World Cup Qualifying in South America, and both are in sore need of three points to avoid falling further out of the picture a third of the way through the campaign.

Colombia is the side that on paper has the more difficult match despite being at home, as Jose Pekerman and his players welcome first-placed Ecuador to Barranquilla. Chile, however, is on a three-game winless run and has to visit a Venezuela team that is in dire need of points after picking up just one through five games.

The other day’s matches are also sure to draw plenty of eyeballs. Luis Suarez will lead Uruguay at home against struggling Peru, Argentina and Bolivia will lock horns on a field that is drawing attention for the wrong reasons, and Paraguay and Brazil will both attempt to move into second place when they collide in the lone clash of teams in favorable positions.

Here is a closer look at Matchday 6 in CONMEBOL World Cup Qualifying:

COLOMBIA vs. ECUADOR
(4:30 p.m. – beIN Sports)

A last-second goal helped Colombia prevail in Bolivia last Thursday, and now Los Cafeteros return home to the friendly confines of Estadio Metropolitano Roberto Melendez in Barranquilla to take on undefeated and table-leading Ecuador.

Colombia enter this one hoping that James Rodriguez, Carlos Bacca, and the rest of its attacking players will be as good as they were in the last match. Colombia scored three times on Bolivia while playing at altitude, but are in for a steeper defensive test against Ecuador. Nonetheless, a victory is needed given that Colombia sits in seventh place after a 2-2-1 start to qualifying.

On the other side, Ecuador seeks to bounce back after dropping points at home last week to Paraguay. Ecuador scored a late goal in that showdown to grab a 2-2 draw, and now need Walter Ayovi and Co. to put forth a better overall performance in order to avoid potentially falling out of first place. Expect La Tricolor to try and tighten things up defensively after committing uncharacteristic mistakes vs. Paraguay.

URUGUAY vs. PERU
(7 p.m. – beIN Sports)

Luis Suarez enjoyed a good return to the international scene by helping Uruguay rally to grab a draw on the road against Brazil, but now the onus is on picking up three points at home against a struggling nation.

Uruguay will welcome Peru to Estadio Centenario in Montevideo, and need to avoid an upset in order to prevent a drop in the standings. Los Charruas showed their resolve by coming back from 2-0 down to grab a point in the 2-2 tie in Brazil, but will still be aiming for a much better start in this one after conceding twice in the first 25 minutes, including on a strike in the opening seconds, last Friday.

For Peru, the challenge is a steep one. Not only is La Blanquirroja playing on the road against one of the better teams in South America, but is also missing several starters. Jefferson Farfan, Juan Manuel Vargas, and Carlos Zambrano are just some of the regulars who will not be in uniform due to either injury or suspension. Regardless, Peru knows it needs to find a way to get a win in order to keep a World Cup berth within reach.

ARGENTINA vs. BOLIVIA
(7:30 p.m. ET – beIN Sports Espanol)

Argentina’s attack got a boost via the return of Leo Messi in last week’s 2-1 road triumph over Chile, and will now attempt to kick things into a higher gear against slumping Bolivia.

Messi and Argentina will play host to Bolivia, and are aiming to put forth the kind of offensive display that La Albiceleste enjoyed when the countries met twice in 2015. Argentina beat La Verde, 5-0 and 7-0, in friendlies last year, but will have to manage playing through a worn-down surface at Estadio Mario Alberto Kempes in Cordoba. Should Argentina do that and prevail, a spot in the top four awaits.

Alejandro Chumacero and Bolivia are ways away from even thinking of sitting in such a favorable position, but might able to dart up the standings if they can pull off an upset. Bolivia does not need to look that far back for inspiration either, as it has played Argentina to 1-1 draws in each of the three games that preceded the 2015 friendlies. Still, the ninth-placed nation will want more than a point after collecting just three thus far.

VENEZUELA vs. CHILE
(7:30 p.m. – beIN Sports Connect)

It might not be looking all that rosy for Chile right now, but things are even more grim for Venezuela.

Cellar dweller Venezuela let two points slip away at the last second in Peru on Matchday 5, and is in desperate need for a victory at home in order to avoid falling into a bigger hole. La Vinotinto has to get going offensively after scoring just six times in five games, but Roberto Rosales and the rest of the defense also need to improve after conceding 13 goals.

Chile will be hoping to take advantage of Venezuela’s defensive frailties when it visits Estadio Agustin Tovar in Barinas, and will get a boost via the return of Arturo Vidal. After sitting out one game because of yellow-card accumulation, Vidal should be back in his usual place in midfield as La Roja try to move into a top five position by picking up its first win in four games.

PARAGUAY vs. BRAZIL
(8:45 p.m. – beIN Sports)

The round’s final match will pit two nations with identical records against one another, and both will be eager to grab three points after failing to put away their opponents last week.

Paraguay and Brazil settled for 2-2 draws against Ecuador and Uruguay, respectively, and suffering a loss to end this international window with just one point could drop either Los Guaranies or O Canarinho out of the top five. That should make for a tense and possibly very entertaining affair at Estadio Defensores del Chaco in Asuncion, especially since Paraguay and Brazil have contrasting styles of play.

For fourth-placed Paraguay, the key will be to take advantage of any defensive lapses from Brazil. Dario Lezcano capitalized on Ecuador’s mistakes in last week’s game to score twice, and having a similar showing could put Paraguay in a good position to take maximum points.

Brazil, however, has the always-dangerous Neymar leading a talented attack that has scored nine times so far. Neymar will once again look to be Brazil’s offensive catalyst, but should get help from the likes of Willian and Douglas Costa.

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