CONMEBOL qualifying is, as the kids say, LIT.
Thursday’s results mean that all will be decided on Tuesday, with still only Brazil having secured qualification already. Chile jumped into a qualifying spot – barely – while another disappointing performance by Argentina leaves Jorge Sampaoli and company on the outside looking up to qualification with one match to go.
Yes, you read that correctly. Your eyes are not deceiving you. Argentina could very realistically miss the World Cup.
Have a look at the results, plus a look at Tuesday:
Argentina 0-0 Peru
Lionel Messi and nobody else.
The Barcelona star was brilliant again for his country, but had no help as Argentina was stymied at home yet again, leaving them in an elimination spot with just one match to play. Messi himself hit the post, but he was still his stunning self for much of the game. Unfortunately, Angel Di Maria was horrid and yanked at halftime, Darío Benedetto andLucas Biglia spurned a number of chances, and Sampaoli decided against even bringing Paulo Dybala off the bench to help the attack.
The result means Argentina – already in the playoff position coming into tonight – was leap-frogged by Chile and currently sit outside a qualifying position of any kind. They have not scored a World Cup qualifying goal from open play in five whole matches, the last of which came almost a full year ago in last November.
Chile 2-1 Ecuador
It appeared Ecuador had equalized late, which would have been disastrous for Chile, but Alexis Sanchez saved the day with an 86th minute goal as Chile jumped into a qualifying spot thanks to the three points.
Arturo Vidal pick-pocketed an Ecuador defender after a slip, and he fed Felipe Gutiérrez in great shooting position. With space, Gutierrez ripped a shot that was saved by Maximo Banguera, but he parried it right in the path of Sanchez who scored easily into the open net.
Romario Ibarra Mina had equalized just two minutes earlier, cancelling out Eduardo Vargas‘s opener just 22 minutes in. A draw would have been a tough pill to swallow, leaving Chile below the qualifying line despite the failures elsewhere. Instead, the Sanchez goal allowed Chile to take advantage of the other slips, leaving his side in a great spot.
Colombia 1-2 Paraguay
Arsenal goalkeeper David Ospina made a pair of critical errors late and Colombia slipped to late defeat at home against Paraguay to send the CONMEBOL standings into further disarray. Deralis Gonzalez sent in a cross from the right, and when Ospina came off his line to collect, he spilled the ball and was left sprawled on the ground as Antonio Sanabria pounced to score the winner two minutes into stoppage time.
Colombia had already squandered a lead just moments before. Radamel Falcao‘s chip had given them the lead in the 79th minute, but Oscar Cardozo equalized in the 89th minute thanks to the first of Ospina’s two errors. A deep set-piece from the midway line was sent into the box, and Ospina came out to punch but hardly got a touch and spilled to the ground. That allowed Cardozo to pounce, poking in while he laid on the ground.
The loss means Colombia remains in the muck, despite being still in a qualifying position. For Paraguay, the win is massive, pulling them within one of the playoff spot.
Venezuela 0-0 Uruguay
A point for Uruguay on the road is a positive, but with the logjam suddenly inches behind them, 0-0 feels like a disappointing result as they fail to break through at Venezuela. Both teams struggled to get shots on target as Venezuela remains bottom of the table.
Bolivia 0-0 Brazil
Brazil has already qualified for the 2018 World Cup, and they trotted out a mediocre lineup that couldn’t get past Bolivia goalkeeper Carlos Lampe who made a whopping 13 saves in the scoreless draw. Neymar started for Brazil and completed the full 90 minutes, but Philippe Coutinho was withdrawn after an hour and Alisson was deployed in goal. Bolivia has already been eliminated from contention.
Brazil (Q) 38 +27
Uruguay 28 +10
Chile 26 +2
Colombia 26 +2
Peru 25 +1
Argentina 25 +1
Paraguay 24 -5
Ecuador (E) 20 -1
Bolivia (E) 14 -20
Venezuela (E) 9 -17
So here’s the deal: Argentina still controls its own destiny. Mostly. They need to win on the road at eliminated Ecuador, and they need to do so by more than Peru potentially wins at home against an equally desperate Colombia. That should see them at least into the playoff position, and could see them jump higher should Chile or Colombia falter.
Chile hits the road to take on Brazil, and while the hosts have already qualified, they likely won’t take the match lightly against a rival in a fixture that has found new heat in recent years.
Paraguay hosts Venezuela and could be primed to take advantage of a couple slips above them. Uruguay should be fine as they host Bolivia, as only true chaos could see them out.