CONMEBOL World Cup Qualifying: Excitement abounds in South America

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There are just two matches left to play in South American World Cup qualifying, yet just one team has qualified thus far — Argentina. Peru, Bolivia and Paraguay will be at home watching the matches in Brazil, preparing for 2018. But for Colombia, Chile, Ecuador, Uruguay and even Venezuela, there’s still all to play for. And with most of those sides eager to attack and not afraid to show some trickery, CONMEBOL just might be the confederation to be watching on Friday night.

(MORE: An overview of World Cup qualifying)

CONMEBOL Matches (Friday, October 11)

Colombia vs. Chile (6 p.m. ET)

This match has to be counted as one of the highlights of this round of qualification — not just in South America, but throughout the world. Colombia and Chile are separated by just two points, and between them, they’ve scored 46 goals thus far. Chile, currently in third place, go all out in attack and refuse to back down, producing a side that’s yet to record a draw. La Roja must stick to their score-and-score-again philosophy, as their defense is rather suspect, having conceded 21 goals thus far. That’s in marked contrast to Colombia, who’ve conceded just nine in fourteen matches (the lowest in CONMEBOL) and haven’t given up a goal at home in their last five games.

The winner in Barranquilla, should there be one, gets their ticket punched to Brazil. Colombia has the advantage in that even if they draw, they’re through to the World Cup — and even a loss is good enough if Ecuador or Uruguay manage a win.

Ecuador vs. Uruguay (6 p.m. ET)

You have to feel a bit sorry for Ecuador. With Uruguay performing so poorly in the first half of qualification, La Tricolor looked to be on the verge of booking their spot at Brazil. Now, they’re just barely hanging on to fourth place, sitting above Uruguay by virtue of a positive goal difference. But it’s La Celeste that have the advantage going into this game in Quito. Having finally turned themselves around, Uruguay have picked up three straight wins, a marked contrast to Ecuador, who haven’t won in their last four matches. But Ecuador can console themselves with the fact that they’re unbeaten at home and, should that not work, the knowledge that it’s practically impossible for Venezuela to creep in to fifth place.

Should this match produce a winner, and should Chile lose to Colombia, that winner is rewarded with a trip to the World Cup.

Venezuela vs. Paraguay (6 p.m. ET)

Venezuela’s hopes may be dim, but the point is, they’re still there, flickering dimly like a candle amidst a hurricane. This is Venezuela’s last qualifier, so not only must they beat already-eliminated Paraguay, La Vinotinto must hope that luck falls in their favor. Either Uruguay or Ecuador must lose both of their final two matches to allow Venezuela to slip into fifth place…and they’ll also have to make up a lot of goals, seeing as right now they have a -6 goal difference. Start lighting those candles, Venezuela!

Argentina vs. Peru (8 p.m. ET)

Ah, the meaningless match. Yes, yes, no matches are meaningless when there’s a World Cup to be prepared for, but let’s face it, this one is about as meaningless as it gets. Argentina have qualified. Peru are out. Thank goodness it’s the late game and everyone can tune in!


French league terminates goal-line technology contract

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PARIS (AP) The French football league has terminated the contract with its goal-line technology provider after a series of glitches.

The LFP had already suspended the use of GoalControl, the German system that was deployed at the 2014 World Cup.

According to L’Equipe newspaper, the league will launch a tender in February to find a new provider of the technology that determines whether the ball crossed the line.

[ MORE: Bristol City 2-3 (3-5 agg.) Man City ]

In recent months, the French league had repeatedly expressed its discontent with GoalControl.

Goal-line technology entered soccer after a goal was wrongly disallowed at the 2010 World Cup.

FIFA is already focused on fast-tracking the next phase of technology – video assistant referees – for the World Cup in June.

Goal-line technology and VAR were provided by Hawk-Eye at the Confederations Cup last year.

Bristol City’s Johnson: “They certainly have heard of us now”

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The Premier League world may see Bristol City next season, but it seems its manager has the personality to arrive on the top flight whether or not his Robins earn promotion this season.

Johnson, 36, earned plenty of plaudits after leading his Championship club to the League Cup semifinals, famously defeated Manchester United in the quarters.

[ MORE: Bristol City 2-3 (3-5 agg.) Man City ]

Before that, Bristol beat Premier League sides Crystal Palace, Stoke City, and Watford. The Robins beat third tier Plymouth Argyle 5-0 in the first round.

Johnson was beaming after the Robins took Man City to the edge, closing to within a goal of extra time before Kevin De Bruyne‘s stoppage time number ended the tie 5-3 on aggregate.

“Absolutely I’m proud. It’s not just tonight but over the course of the season, particularly the cup run. It was a fantastic occasion, I’m sorry we couldn’t get the win but we played against the best side that I have ever seen live. They have so many good individuals.

“We kept going and it’s taken two injury-time goals to beat us. They certainly have [heard of us] now…everybody knows what we’re about. It’s been great.”

Bristol City is in the Championship’s fifth place, bidding for its first top flight campaign since 1980. Johnson should be a hot prospect to earn a shot in the Premier League should the Robins not make the jump.

League Cup semifinal preview: Arsenal vs. Chelsea

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  • Chelsea has won 4-of-7 League Cup matches vs. Arsenal
  • Arsenal leads all-time series 74W-58D-62L
  • Clubs have drawn four times this season

Hardware hopes are on the line when Chelsea hits the Emirates Stadium for a League Cup semifinal second leg with Arsenal on Wednesday.

The sides drew 0-0 at Stamford Bridge, giving Chelsea the advantage of knowing a scoring draw would do the trick and set up a date with Manchester City at Wembley on Feb. 25, though Arsenal has home field advantage in pursuit of a win.

[ MORE: Bristol City 2-3 (3-5 agg.) Man City ]

Henrikh Mkhitaryan may debut for Arsenal, though the club released an interesting note on Tuesday: He’ll wear No. 7 in most competitions, but will have to use a different number in the Europa League because Alexis Sanchez wore it to start the tournament.

Chelsea’s Antonio Conte won’t have Alvaro Morata (back) and Cesc Fabregas for the match, though Andreas Christensen will be available for selection.

The clubs are no strangers to each other in big non-PL spots, squaring off in this season’s Community Shield (Arsenal won in penalty kicks) and last season’s FA Cup Final (Arsenal won).

Nothing has separated the sides on the field aside from those penalty kicks at Wembley Stadium, as Arsenal and Chelsea have drawn 1-1, 0-0, 2-2, and 0-0 since August.

What they’re saying

Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger on Henrikh Mkhitaryan“He can play in different positions, but personally I see him first in a wide position, but I’m thinking about him a possibility to play through the middle. You are certain in our job of nothing, that’s absolutely sure. But you believe and I believe he has the qualities to do well, is a team player and our game is based on team attitude and movement and I think he can absorb the quantity of movement in our team.”

Chelsea’s Conte on the lineup: “Every game is different, you change the quality of your opponent and you must be intelligent enough to understand if you should continue with the same players or make some changes.”

Javier Mascherano leaving Barcelona after 8 seasons

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BARCELONA, Spain (AP) Barcelona says defender Javier Mascherano is leaving the club after eight seasons.

Barcelona says there will be a farewell ceremony on Wednesday with Mascherano, club president Josep Bartomeu and the rest of the squad.

[ MORE: Man City to buy $86m CB ]

The 33-year-old Argentina international will say goodbye to the fans before Thursday’s game against Espanyol at Camp Nou in the Copa del Rey. He is reportedly going to play in China.

Mascherano, who also played as a defensive midfielder, arrived in Barcelona in 2010 from Liverpool and helped the Catalan club win 18 titles. He has made 334 appearances with Barcelona, but recently hadn’t been playing much.

The club earlier this month signed Colombia international Yerry Mina to boost its defense.

More AP Spanish soccer coverage: https://apnews.com/tag/LaLiga