With only two match days remaining in CONMEBOL World Cup Qualifying, things have never been thicker in the race for qualification. Eight points separates second-place through eighth, while two teams have already been eliminated. Brazil is the only side that has booked a spot to Russia 2018, and several more will look to join them on Thursday.
Match day 9 will take place Thursday, Oct. 5, while Matchday 10 takes place on Tuesday, Oct. 10. Several teams will look to snap long winless runs, while others look to continue their surprise rise up the table.
The top match on Thursday sees fourth-place Peru travel to fifth-place Argentina, while Chile hosts Ecuador. Brazil faces Bolivia in the early fixture, while Uruguay travels to already eliminated Venezuela.
Here’s a closer look at all of Thursday’s CONMEBOL World Cup Qualifiers:
In the only match of the day with zero implications on qualification, Bolivia hosts Brazil in La Paz. The hosts defeated Chile last time out, and will look to give their fans a good show at home. All of Bolivia’s victories in qualifying have come at home, which could mean good things on Thursday. Juan Carlos Arce leads the team with four goals in qualifiers.
Brazil has already clinched a spot in next year’s World Cup. An 11-1-4 record is astonishing to see, with the only defeat coming on the road. Brazil routed Bolivia, 5-0, back in Oct. 2016, as five different players got on the scoresheet. Neymar leads the team with six goals and seven assists, while Gabriel Jesus has five goals.
VENEZUELA VS. URUGUAY (5:00 P.M. BEIN SPORTS EN ESPANOL)
Venezuela may be eliminated from World Cup qualification, but that doesn’t mean they cannot play a huge role in Uruguay’s placement. The hosts will look to play spoilers on Thursday as they welcome the second-place opponents to San Cristobal. Impressive draws against Colombia and Argentina in their last two matches has thrust Venezuela into the role of spoiler. Atlanta United’s Josef Martinez leads the team with five goals.
Uruguay is in second, but know they need strong results to finish in that spot. They are unbeaten in their last two matches, including a 2-1 road win against Paraguay in September. Strikers Edinson Cavani (nine goals) and Luis Suarez (three goals) lead the way while midfielder Carlos Sanchez has seven assists. Uruguay defeated Venezuela, 3-0, last October, and will look for a similar scoreline away from home.
COLOMBIA VS. PARAGUAY (7:30 P.M. BEIN SPORTS)
Five points separates these two sides, as third-place Colombia hosts seventh-place Paraguay. The hosts edged past their opponents, 1-0, last October. Unbeaten in their last four matches, Colombia will be the favorites to win this match as James Rodriguez leads the way with five goals and four assists so far.
Paraguay are still alive in the race for qualification, but will need a good performance tonight to remain in the fight. Impressive victories this year over Ecuador and Chile have lifted Paraguay back into the race for qualifying, and they will look to spoil the party in Barranquilla. 23-year-old Derlis Gonzalez leads the Paraguayans with two goals.
CHILE VS. ECUADOR (7:30 P.M. BEIN SPORTS 5)
In the most-intriguing match of the day, Ecuador travels to Chile on Thursday evening. The visitors are in eighth-place but still alive in the race for a top-five finish. Despite losing their last four qualifiers, Ecuador knows a good performance on Thursday could see them move up a few spots. Tigres striker Enner Valencia leads the team with five goals.
Chile has dropped to sixth in recent months after back-to-back losses against Paraguay and Bolivia respectively. They conclude their qualification campaign vs. Ecuador this evening and at Brazil on Oct. 10th. Strikers Alexis Sanchez (six goals) and Eduardo Vargas (four goals) will be the danger men to watch for the hosts. Defense will be the key however for a side that has allowed 23 goals in 16 matches.
ARGENTINA VS. PERU (7:30 P.M. BEIN SPORTS EN ESPANOL)
The must-watch fixture of the evening comes from Buenos Aires as Argentina hosts Peru. Both teams are tied on 24 points, with Peru sitting in fourth on goal difference. The visitors are unbeaten in their last four, including three wins in that span. Flamengo striker Paolo Guerrero leads Peru with five goals, while midfielder Christian Cueva (four goals, three assists) is a dangerous set-up man.
Argentina will look to get back to form with three points on Thursday. The hosts have not tasted victory since March and have only scored once total in their last three qualifiers. Lionel Messi (four goals) is the man to watch for Argentina, but the supporting cast needs to step up as well. Only four other players have chipped in a goal in qualifying for Argentina, and that will need to change for any chances of moving on.