The South American qualifiers for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil are starting today. Nine teams (Brazil, as hosts, are automatically qualified) are fighting for four and a half spots, and in this continent, there are no San Marinos or Liechtensteins; all sides are highly comptetitive, and surely have a shot at the tournament. The usual favourites are Uruguay and Argentina, where the latter have a lot to prove after their latest debacles. Paraguay, Chile and Colombia all have very strong sides that can defeat any team in the world, while the "usual" small teams, Peru, Ecuador, Bolivia and Venezuela all have sides that have grown over the last 15 years.
Uruguay will be opening at home against Bolivia, while Argentina is set for a difficult encounter against Chile. Venezuela, the only team in South America that has never made it to a World Cup has high expectations after their historic performance at the Copa América this year, and will be opening against an Ecuadorian side who made it to their first World Cup in 2002, and are renewing their team.
The difficulty of such a competitive qualification is that you can afford no mistakes. With all teams having a fair chance of qualifying I believe that the teams that will NOT make it, will be the ones that are least able to keep their heads cool, and are able to sue their experience to get those few points or few goals that will end up making the difference between a World Cup participant and a vacationgoer in 2014!