Saturday, September 08, 2012

South American World Cup qualifiers

South America surely has the most exciting qualifying. All against all, nine teams (this time Brazil is not participating for being hosts) battle closely to get the 4 and a half spots for the tournament. And all are good teams. Unlike Europe, there are no San Marino's or Andorra's here. Just nine world class teams.
While Colombia took an important step with their 4-0 victory against Uruguay, Argentina moved to first spot after defeating Paraguay 3-1. Argentina did not start well, tying Bolivia and losing to Venezuela, but the Argentinean football machine seems to have gotten going. Lionel Messi, who has been criticised so much in playing for Argentina (from me as well) finally seems to have gotten his act together. Last night he was great, and scored on a beautiful free kick. At the same time the team is working well with Gago on midfield and Higuain on top, although the team should only be able to improve with the return of Sergio Aguero and Javier Mascherano (both had suspensions for this match).
Argentina will not be world champion in 2014. For that their defense still looks too shaky, and they depend too much on their stars rather than the collective. But a World Cup would not be the same without Argentina.
Venezuela is the only country in South America never to have played a World Cup, but with a strong a disciplined side they surely have their first real shot at the world stage. They started well, but have fallen behind lately with a loss at home to Chile. Last night Venezuela needed points away against Peru. At the same time, this was Peru's last call, needing a victory to remain with a chance to qualify. Venezuela played a great first half and went ahead on a free kick goal by Juan Arango, but in the second half Peru were a transformed side, and with a red card to Gabriel Cichero, Peru went on to take the victory with two goals by Schalke 04's Jefferson Farfan.
Both teams seem to on the edge for fighting for the last half spot for the World Cup, not unlikely against Ecuador, who moved up to third spot, ahead of Uruguay, after defeating Bolivia 1-0. Ecuador's third spot is based on four home victories, and they will struggle more away (as they already showed when they lost 4-0 to Argentina in Buenos Aires). This will be seen for the next round, on Tuesday, when Ecuador travel to Montevideo to face Uruguay.
Chile was the sit-over in this round, but remains in second spot, and it will be the match of the round when they take on Colombia in Santiago on Tuesday. In the meantime Venezuela travels to Paraguay, and Argentina will be facing Peru in Lima.

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