World Cup Qualifiers return on Tuesday with matches in Asia, South America and CONCACAF. While all eyes stateside will be on the U.S.’ clash with Panama in Seattle (10:00pm ESPN), here are four other matches worth paying attention to.
Korea Republic v. Uzbekistan
No, I’m not joking. This game is important! South Korea and Uzbekistan are joint top of the table in Group A in Asia, with the former claiming first place by virtue of goal differential. If South Korea wins the match and Iran lose to an already elmininated Lebanon, they’re through. If Uzbekistan wins, they’re through to their first ever World Cup.
Korea would seem to have the advantage not having lost to the Central Asians since 1994 but it’s Uzbekistan who have been on fire of late, going five matches undefeated.
Kickoff: 7:00pm EST
Venezuela v. Uruguay
In South America the top four squads qualify for the World Cup and 5th place goes to a playoff meaning the biggest fixture of the day sees Venezuela host Uruguay. The hosts, still searching for their first World Cup appearance, currently sit 5th in the South American table having taken 16 points in 12 matches while La Celeste are three points adrift with a game in hand.
Venezuela have not lost to Uruguay on home soil since 1996 whereas manager Oscar Tabarez’ team is on a horrid run of form having gone six games without a win in qualifying and having lost their last three away matches. With only five matches left to play, a loss here could spell big trouble for Uruguay.
Kickoff: 7:50pm EST (beinSport)
Ecuador v. Argentina
The other major clash in South America sees third place Ecuador play host to top-of-the-table Argentina. With a victory, La Albiceleste can book their ticket to Brazil. But it won’t come easy as Argentina have not won in Quito since 2001. The Ecuadorian capital has been an absolute stronghold for the hosts, having won all six of their games in this competition and having defeated Argentina twice in their last two visits.
Making matters even more difficult for the table toppers? Lionel Messi has been ruled out for the contest.
Kickoff: 4:50pm EST (beinSport)
Mexico v. Costa Rica
As Costa Rica, Mexico and the U.S. are in a three-way tie atop the Hexagonal, Tuesday’s clash between Mexico and Costa Rica could have massive implications in CONCACAF. Mexico will be happy to return to the Azteca looking for a home boost to jump start their slow start, which has seen El Tri take only one win and four draws.
Costa Rica enters the match in a good run of form having won their last two matches, 1-0 over Honduras and 2-0 over Jamaica. But the Ticos have been poor away from home, having lost 0-1 to the U.S. in the snowbowl in Denver and drawn 2-2 to Panama in Panama City. Jorge Luis Pinto’s men are full of confidence, however, and with Alvaro Saborio, Bryan Ruiz and Roy Miller leading the attack, Mexico will need to come alive if they plan on holding their lead at the top.
Kickoff: 7:30pm EST (ESPN)