Sunday, October 11, 2015

The South American qualifiers

As Europe is entering the last phase of the Euro 2016 qualifiers, other places are quietly starting their qualification for the 2018 World Cup.
Not so quietly perhaps in South America, where the first round of qualifiers came with a number of results that may be a prelude to what could be one of the most interesting World Cup qualifications ever:
  • Chile defeated Brazil 2-0: As winners of the Copa America, Chile's superiority was only to be expected, although Brazil's weaknesses become ever more exposed. Brazil only shot on goal once in the match, and did not look like a World Cup team at all. While Chile's way to the World Cup seems very likely, Brazil looks like a side that will struggle.
  • Argentina's home loss to Ecuador: this was a huge upset, as no team who has lost at home in the first round has ever qualified for a World Cup. Argentina were a shadow of themselves without Lionel Messi. This may have been arrogance, but is only a reminder to all sides that you cannot underestimate any side in the South American qualifiers, where every side is World class, not least the excellent Ecuatorians.
  • Uruguay's defeat of Bolivia in La Paz: Of course Uruguay are favourites against Bolivia; but the fact is that this was the first time ever Uruguay had won a competitive match in the altitude of La Paz, where many teams have always struggles to play. The victory is also notable for the fact that Uruguay played without two of their best strikers, Luis Suarez and Edison Cavani.
  • Venezuela's home loss to Paraguay: Venezuela had been coming on in strides and have been known to be strong at home, but started with a loss against a Paraguayan side that is rebuilding after having missed the last World Cup. Venezuela seems unlikely to recover, while Paraguay are sure to fight to the end as they always do.
  • After their great World Cup, Colombia have been steadily underperforming, and they surely want to put this right by qualifying to the World Cup. Peru, on the other hand, has been steadily improving, so both teams are looking to make it to Russia. Colombia took their first step winning 2-0, but Peru cannot be counted out at all!

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