World Cup Qualifying: is CONMEBOL all but sorted?

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Friday saw four games played out in South America, and absolutely no surprises in CONMEBOL qualifying. There’s been no shift in the table, and in each match, the higher placed country came away with the win. Now, with three games maximum left to play for each country, many observers believe the top teams are etched in stone. But with difficult matches ahead for many of the teams, it’s still possible that a surprise contender could sneak in, at least into the playoff round.

Who’s Out?

Bolivia. Bolivia lost 4-0 to Paraguay on Friday night, are out of the running, with just 10 points from 14 games played.

Paraguay. Despite Paraguay demonstrating their impressive goal scoring abilities against Bolivia, they’re pretty much out of the running as well. Sure, they could pick up three wins from their last three matches, but they’d also have to rely upon Uruguay not picking up another point. And then they’d still end up in the playoff round facing the fifth placed AFC team.

Who’s In?

No one has yet to mathematically clinch a spot at the World Cup, but three countries are assured of at least making the playoff round (Which, you’d think, would mean that at least two of those countries would be into the tournament. But that sort of thinking can cause the head to hurt).

Argentina. La albiceleste got a rest this weekend, but still managed to remain top of the CONMEBOL table, with 26 points. They’re set to face Paraguay on Tuesday and will most likely have no problems taking all three points.

Colombia. The most fun team in South America, and possibly the world, is now even on points with Argentina. A 1-0 victory over 10 man Ecuador gives the Colombians a 8-2-3 record and 26 points. Their free flowing attack is balanced by a solid defense, which has conceded just seven goals in 13 games, the best in CONMEBOL.

Chile. Chile are an interesting one, currently coming in third in South America despite their all-or-nothing attitude. That’s right, la roja have played 14 matches and have yet to record a draw. Still, they’re on 24 points and will at least make the playoff round, so little Jorge Sampaoli must be doing something right.

Who’s Got a Chance? 

Ecuador. Ecuador made qualification that much more difficult for themselves on Friday night, when Gabriel Corozo got himself sent off in the 28th minute. But they’ve still got 21 points from 13 matches, so really, finishing third isn’t out of the question. But with Uruguay and Chile left to face in their last three games, Ecuador will have a tough time staying above fifth place.

Uruguay. Remember how Uruguay made it to the semi-finals of the last World Cup? And then won Copa América the next year? Then came this team, aging, creaking at the joints, and only able to finish fourth in the Confederations Cup. La Celeste have managed some impressive wins during their qualification campaign, but have also recorded some devestating losses. To avoid the playoff, Uruguay need to get three more points than Ecuador, which is tough when the two face each other, with Uruguay also needing to play Argentina and Chile.

Venezuela. Venezuela had a tough time of it on Friday, losing 3-0 to Chile. But they’re only three points back of Uruguay and have just Peru and Paraguay left to face. With Uruguay’s remaining matches looking quite difficult, it’s certainly not out of the realm of possibility that La Vinotinto could slip into the fifth spot and head to the playoffs.

Peru. Ok, things look bad for Peru. A Luis Suárez brace and a sending off for Peru’s Yotún put Friday’s match out of reach for them, with only a consolation goal from Jefferson Farfán giving the Peruvians anything to smile about. But three wins from their last three matches can put them right back in it — provided Uruguay and Ecuador cooperate, of course. Still, it ain’t over til it’s over, right?

CONMEBOL WCQ: Venezuela, Bolivia teetering on elimination

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CONMEBOL World Cup qualifying is always a challenge, and this World Cup cycle is no different.

With six teams currently separated by a mere five points under leaders Brazil, everything is left to play for as Round 14 hits South America.

[ MORE: Messi could face suspension from CONMEBOL ]

Here’s a look at what’s on the docket for Tuesday:

Bolivia vs. Argentina — 4 p.m. EDT

It wasn’t pretty at all, but La Albiceleste picked up a crucial three points against Chile, which could produce a morale lift for Argentina given their past struggles against the reigning Copa America holders.

Lionel Messi’s actions from the match could harm the Albiceleste though, with the Barcelona man reportedly facing sanctions from CONMEBOL for verbally abusing a linesman.

Meanwhile, Bolivia is in desperate need of a win in La Paz, and anything but three points could potentially end La Verde’s hopes of reaching Russia 2018.

Ecuador vs. Colombia — 5 p.m. EDT

It took a long time for Colombia to crack the Bolivia backline on Thursday but a late run from Juan Cuadrado helped set up the eventual winner from James Rodriguez, and kept Los Cafeteros in the top four.

Ecuador didn’t have the same fortunes though four days ago after falling to a very game Paraguay side. La Tricolor have gone winless in three of its last four World Cup qualifiers, leaving Gustavo Quinteros side with little margin of error against the Colombians.

Chile vs. Venezuela — 6 p.m. EDT

Chile’s qualifying struggles continued on Thursday after falling to La Albiceleste in a closely-contested match. Arturo Vidal’s six goals leave the Bayern Munich midfielder third in all of CONMEBOL this campaign, but the Chileans still sit on the outside looking in at the moment and in sixth place.

Venezuela is teetering on the edge of elimination, and a loss against Chile would all but seal their fate of missing out the World Cup. After reaching the quarterfinals at last summer’s Copa America Centenario, La Vinotinto have failed to replicate that form this qualifying campaign with just one win to show.

Top scorer Josef Martinez is no longer with Venezuela after suffering an injury in Thursday’s 2-2 draw against Peru, creating a major void in the side’s attack.

Brazil vs. Paraguay — 8:45 p.m. EDT

The Selecao continue to score at a lightning pace this qualifying campaign with 32 goals in the first 13 rounds of play. Despite conceding early to Uruguay on Thursday, Brazil responded emphatically with four goals, and most notably Paulinho‘s hat-trick.

Elsewhere, Paraguay kept itself within striking distance of the top five after its 2-1 win over Ecuador. The side is just two points behind fifth place Ecuador.

Peru vs. Uruguay — 10:15 p.m. EDT

Los Incas have not reached a World Cup since 1982, and although the team is just five points behind fifth, they need to pick up victories. Ricardo Gareca will be pleased with his side’s resiliency against Venezuela on Thursday, but more draws simply won’t do with only four rounds remaining after Tuesday.

Uruguay still sits in a solid second position after Thursday’s slip up against Brazil but another defeat could be potentially disastrous for La Celeste, who are just three points above sixth place Chile. However, Edinson Cavani’s nine goals leads all of CONMEBOL and Peru has allowed the third-most goals this campaign (22).

Ugly scene forces Ivory Coast-Senegal match to be abandoned

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Monday’s international friendly between Ivory Coast and Senegal turned out to be anything but that when the match was interrupted towards the tail end.

Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images)

The fixture was abandoned with two minutes remaining in regulation after pitch invaders disrupted the the match by getting past security guards and began chasing after players from both sides.

The score was level at 1-1 in the 88th minute when the disruptions occurred, causing the referee to halt play at the Stade Sebastien Charlety in Paris.

One of the intruders even managed to tackle Senegalese defender Lamine Gassama (as shown in the picture to the right).

Liverpool’s Sadio Mane gave Senegal the lead minutes into the second stanza after he converted from the penalty spot, while Cyriac Gohi Bi leveled the score at one apiece just minutes later.

Messi could face CONMEBOL suspension for verbal abusing official

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Already facing some uncertainty with a depleted roster, Argentina could face a significantly greater challenge.

[ MORE: Aguero left out of Argentina starting XI vs. Bolivia ]

Barcelona star Lionel Messi could face suspension after reportedly verbally abusing linesman Marcelo Van Gasse during the second half of Thursday’s 1-0 win over Chile.

UPDATED: Fox Sports Argentina is reporting that Messi will receive a two to four match suspension and will be effective for tomorrow’s match against Bolivia.

Messi was reported to CONMEBOL for yelling, “F*** off, your mother’s c***” at Van Gasse and refused to shake the official’s hand at the end of the match.

The officiating crew from the match didn’t initially include Messi’s rant in the post-match report, however, it was added on Monday and submitted to CONMEBOL.

The South American federation must now decide if and when it will punish Messi for his reported actions, and there is the potential that the world-class attacker could be suspended for Tuesday’s clash against Bolivia if the federation acts quickly.

There are several other scenarios though for CONMEBOL to action, including disregarding Messi’s verbal assault.

La Albiceleste currently sit third in World Cup qualifying on 22 points.

Arena speaks about USMNT turnaround, says “no secret formulas”

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It’s only been one competitive match since Bruce Arena regained control of the U.S. Men’s National Team and there’s already been a noticeable difference in form.

[ MORE: Three keys for the USMNT ahead of Panama clash ]

The former LA Galaxy manager wouldn’t have you believe that though following Friday night’s convincing 6-0 victory over Honduras in CONCACAF World Cup qualifying.

“It’s nothing I can write a book on,” Arena said about his team’s turnaround in form against Honduras. “You have a sense of your group, and you go about doing your business. There’s no secret formulas to this stuff. Work together, take ownership in what you’re doing, treat them like responsible professional athletes, and you get on with your business.

He added, “They want to be successful. They want to play in a World Cup. Is that a recipe for success? I don’t know. I’m sure Honduras wants to play in a World Cup too.”

Arena, who took over for Jurgen Klinsmann following the U.S.’ collapse during the first two matches of the Hexagonal, is unbeaten in his first three games in charge since getting his job back with the Stars and Stripes.

Although there has been a considerable turnaround in the way the USMNT has performed in the first three matches of 2017, Arena wouldn’t stoop to comparing his style to that of Klinsmann.

“I’m not doing anything differently,” he said. “I’m not taking a survey [of the players]. I know it’s different. We lose tomorrow, there will be articles written that, ‘This a—— is letting these guys run loose.'”

“I have spent no time on the past. There’s nothing I can do about it. I kind of have a sense about things, but there’s no point in me spending time investigating what went on in the past. The idea was to get it going the right way from the start.”

Arena’s next test with the U.S. will be on Tuesday when the Yanks travel to Panama City to take on Panama.