CONMEBOL World Cup qualifying preview: Crunch time

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This is it: the final two match days of CONMEBOL World Cup qualifying are here and only three teams are assured of their fates in or out of Russia.

Brazil is in, having lost just once in 16 matches and holding a remarkable plus-27 goal differential in what may be the deepest confederation in the world.

[ MORE: USMNT prospects on show at U-17 World Cup ]

Then there’s Bolivia and Venezuela, the only national teams sure to miss out on the World Cup.

Anything else is possible, truly, with seven teams aiming for three automatic spots and one playoff date with New Zealand.

Remaining opponents
2. Uruguay (27 pts) – Venezuela (A), Bolivia (H)
3. Colombia
 (26 pts) – Paraguay (H), Peru (A)
4. Peru (24 pts) – Argentina (A), Colombia (H)
5. Argentina (24 pts) – Peru (H), Ecuador (A)
6. Chile (23 pts) – Ecuador (H), Brazil (A)
7. Paraguay (21 pts)– Colombia (A), Venezuela (H)
8. Ecuador (20 pts) – Chile (A), Argentina (H)

While most of the matches matter, there are two tipping point events on Thursday. Wins from Argentina, Colombia, and Uruguay could render the final day a lot less dramatic.

1. Argentina vs. Peru — There’s a legitimate chance that a prospective loser in Buenos Aires would find itself outside even the playoff spot heading into the final day. A draw and a Chile win could leave Argentina sixth with a tricky trip to Ecuador, while Peru would have to host a Colombia side which may have already qualifier.

2. Ecuador at Chile — La Furia Roja has found myriad ways to lose qualifiers, with own goals and bad cards playing roles, and has a chance to leapfrog Peru and/or Argentina while eliminating Ecuador.