Qualification to the World CUp finals is tough for everyone however making the show from the CONMEBOL region is downright murderous.
There are no gimme as all ten countries usually slug it out for the four-and-a-half spots. With Brazil automatically through as hosts, it means that a spot has opened for one of the smaller countries that often miss out.
With the knowledge that the cup is on home soil of sorts, all nine countries are still in with one kind of shout or another.
We’re just past the half-way stage and currently an Argentina inspired by Lionel Messi is in charge but that can all change over the next six days with tomorrows match-ups setting the tone.
Colombia vs. Bolivia
Comparisons are being made to the Colombia of 1994. That team entered the World Cup as one of the favorites only to implode and suffer the heartbreak of seeing Andres Escobar killed back in his homeland. This team has quality all round including the red-hot Rademel Falcao who has 15 goals in 41 appearances.
The last time Bolivia won away from La Paz was a thumping 7-1 victory against Venezuela back in 1993 which led to their first and only appearance in the World Cup Finals, in other words they don’t travel well.
Argentina vs. Venezuela
A sell-out a Estadio Monumental tells you how important this match is to the Albiceleste. They top the group and have only lost one match against, today’s opponents, the La Vinotinto in Puerto La Cruz back on October 11, 2011.
All eyes will be on Lionel Messi as his form for the national team is beginning to match what he produces in the shirt of Barcelona. They’ll need his leadership and production as Sergio Agüero will be out for both matches in this round of qualifying play due to a knee injury.
Venezuela have never qualified for the World Cup finals but they’ve been improving for the last six years and know that this represents their best chance ever. There isn’t much expectation about getting a result but keeping the score down is vital.
Uruguay vs. Paraguay
Uruguay were the darlings of 2010 and so nearly made it to the final before losing a 3-2 thriller to Holland in Cape Town. The two stars that led them, Diego Forlan and Luis Suarez still carry the burden while a once stingy defense is now full of holes. It’s touch and go as to whether they’ll qualify.
Paraguay are probably one loss away from thinking about the 2018 World Cup which given their talent pool is a huge disappointment.
Peru vs. Chile
This match is known as the Clásico Del Pacífico and Peru come into the high altitude knowing that this is a must win or they’re probably done. Yet a win combined with a few other results would see them right in the middle of the pack again. More importantly, Peru are looking to end a nine-year winless drought over their rivals.
Chile are on the outside looking in at the final playoff spot but only on goal difference and a win along with a Uruguay slip up could have them smelling of roses.
It’ll be a fascinating round of fixtures on the toughest road to Brazil 2014.