Associated Press

CONMEBOL wrap: All to play for as Argentina held again, Chile wins

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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.

CURRENT STANDINGS

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

Picture

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.

Blanc: I turned down USMNT talks

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U.S. Soccer has not been inactive when it comes to the USMNT coaching search, despite its uncertainty with an impending presidential election.

Le Parisien has an interview with Laurent Blanc in which the ex-Bordeaux, France, and Paris Saint-Germain boss says he was approached by the United States Soccer Federation, but was not interested in the gig.

[ MORE: Making sense of the PL table ]

Blanc said an international job would have to touch his roots, and he’s most certainly not American. The tall 52-year-old had a glittering playing career with Saint-Etienne, Barcelona, Marseille, Inter Milan, and Manchester United amongst other stops.

More important, it shows that Sunil Gulati and his men have to some degree moved forward with keeping their imprint on the national team.

That’s a little worrying on any team: A hierarchy that may not be around much longer may be working to fill a position arguably more important than its own. It’d be nice to have them commit to not hiring anyone until after February’s election.

Premier League Preview: Everton vs. Swansea City

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  • Everton leads all-time 15W-9D-3L
  • BUT Swans unbeaten in 7 vs. Toffees
  • Toffees go ninth with win
  • Swans four back of safety

Everton hopes its up-turn in form can end three seasons of futility against visiting Swansea City when the two sides meet at Goodison Park on Monday (Watch live at 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

WATCH LIVE, ONLINE, HERE

Gylfi Sigurdsson gets a chance to face his former club for the first time, while longtime Swans man Ashley Williams may also feature for Sam Allardyce.

Swansea has no time to focus on the past, as Paul Clement‘s men sit deep in the drop zone. The last place Swans are four points shy of safety.

What they’re saying

Everton’s Ashley Williams on facing his former club (again)“The game is a little bit more important to me, I would be lying I said it wasn’t. You always want to play against your old teams and it’s a fixture you always look for.  I have been looking forward to this one and it will be nice to see old faces and old friends. It is a game we want to win and to keep a clean sheet in, especially at home, in order to keep our momentum going.”

Swansea City’s Roque Mesa on the match“This is a massive game for us. We need to pick up points because we are bottom and we need to improve our position. Everton have a new manager and their players have done very well under him – you can see their confidence has grown since he joined. But we did well against West Brom and picked up three points, which was very important. Then we faced Manchester City and they proved too good for us. They are the best team in the league, and unfortunately, we couldn’t match them on the night.”

Prediction

Swans need to move past that Man City loss and build on a 1-0 win over West Brom a few days previous. That may not be possible at Goodison, and the Welsh side would be thrilled to escape with a draw. It seems unlikely. Everton 2-1.

Report: Man City, Guardiola to discuss new contract this summer

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Manchester City does not want to let Pep Guardiola start the third year with the club without signing on for longer term.

Guardiola enters the third and final year of his deal in August, and the BBC reports that Man City plans to negotiate a new deal with the Catalan wizard this summer.

[ MORE: Making sense of the PL table ]

This shouldn’t come as much of a surprise given City’s outstanding sophomore season under Guardiola.

Unbeaten City has an 11-point lead on the Premier League table after 18 weeks, with one draw and a PL record 16-straight wins. They have 56 goals scored, conceding just 12.

They’ve won five of six UEFA Champions League matches, only losing a match their opposition needed and they did not, 2-1 to Shakhtar Donetsk in Ukraine. City faces Basel next, and visits Leicester City in the League Cup quarterfinals Wednesday.

Lanzini charged by FA for fooling ref with dive

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Manuel Lanzini dove to earn a penalty in West Ham’s 3-0 win over Stoke City on Saturday at the bet365 Stadium, and he may pay for it.

Lanzini, who also posted an assist in an influential performance, drew the penalty converted by Mark Noble when he hit the deck under minimal contact from Erik Pieters.

[ MORE: Making sense of the PL table ]

He could miss two matches for “successful deception of a match official,” the same penalty given to Everton’s Oumar Niasse for a similar offense.

West Ham pulled out of the drop zone with the win, but has three bottom-half battles coming up over the festive fixtures: Saturday versus Newcastle, Dec. 26 at Bournemouth, and Jan. 2 versus West Brom.