Having run the rule over the leading quintet in the CONMEBOL qualifying group for the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™, FIFA.com turns its attentions to the sides occupying the bottom five places. With competition set to recommence on 28 March, what are their chances of staging a recovery and snatching a ticket to the finals?
Ecuador: Hope renewed
After a sluggish start, El Tri have responded to coach Sixto Vizuete's promptings and now lie a single point behind Uruguay. Recent results have set the alarm bells ringing again, however. Three friendlies in late 2008 brought single-goal defeats by Mexico and Oman, and a 1-0 win over Iran. Also causing concern is the fact that leading players, such as Joffre Guerron, are struggling to find form with their clubs. But with back-to-back home games in their Quito stronghold upcoming, albeit against the top two teams in the group, the Ecuadorians have a fine chance of muscling their way into the qualification places.
Position: 6th (12 points)
Next matches: Brazil (home) and Paraguay (home)
Main man: Joffre Guerron
The words: "I know I need to spend more time on the pitch for my club, but I feel I'm getting back to my best again. There are a lot of very good players in the national team and I hope we can show that in this final phase of the qualifiers," Ecuador forward Joffre Guerron.
Colombia: Striking problems
The Colombians have the dubious honour of having scored less goals than any of their group rivals. It was with some relief, then, that coach Eduardo Lara greeted a 1-0 friendly win over Nigeria, the first of his reign. Radamel Falcao's winner in that game brought an end to Los Cafeteros' 704-minute goal drought, and with Falcao and his team-mates following up with a 2-0 win over Haiti earlier this month, Colombia's prospects suddenly look a whole lot brighter. Maximum points from their next two encounters will put them right back in the hunt.
Position: 7th (11 points)
Next matches: Bolivia (home) and Venezuela (away)
Main man: Radamel Falcao
The words: "The players have been giving their heart and soul to the national team. I hope we can carry on doing that when the qualifying competition starts up again so that the fans can begin dreaming of the World Cup," Colombia coach Eduardo Lara.
Venezuela: History in the making?
Recent qualification for the FIFA U-20 World Cup has given the game a huge boost in Venezuela, raising hopes that El Vinotinto may be about to qualify for the FIFA World Cup™ finals for the first time. Given their lowly position, that may be beyond the Venezuelans, although a comprehensive 3-1 defeat of Ecuador on Matchday 10, and a subsequent 0-0 draw with Angola and 2-0 triumph over Guatemala, have ensured that those expectations will remain intact for the time being.
Position: 8th (10 points)
Next matches: Argentina (away) and Colombia (home)
Main man: Juan Arango
The words: "We've learnt our lesson now. We lost a few games before because we went out to win and got hit on the break. We need to be more intelligent if we're going to pick up more points in this final stretch," Venezuela coach Cesar Farias.
Bolivia: Hopes and fears
Erwin Sanchez's recruitment of a psychologist seemed to pay off at the end of 2008. Suitably motivated, his charges finished the year on something of a high note after earning a draw against Brazil at the Maracana, overwhelming Peru and only being denied three more points against Uruguay by a late equaliser. A 2-0 loss to El Salvador in October dampened the euphoria, however, posing Sanchez with more problems as he considers his options ahead of Bolivia's next engagements.
Position: 9th (9 points)
Next matches: Colombia (away) and Argentina (home)
Main man: Joaquin Botero
The words: "We know it's a tough task and we'll need to make double the effort. But we'll keep on looking for new talents to help us through this transitional phase and make an impact in the qualifiers," Bolivia coach Erwin Sanchez.
Peru: Bleak outlook
Bottom of the table and winless in their last five games, Peru have much to do if they are to clamber into contention. A brace of 1-0 defeats in recent friendlies with El Salvador and Paraguay underlined the scale of their task. Making matters worse is the fact that several players are continuing to serve lengthy suspensions imposed over a year ago for disciplinary breaches. With the press and the fans predicting further gloom and their next two opponents both safely placed in the top four, can the Peruvians buck the trend?
Position: 10th (7 points)
Next matches: Chile (home) and Brazil (away)
Main man: Nolberto Solano
The words: "Peru aren't in a position to look down on anyone right now. The only thing we can do is to keep working so we can improve and pick up as many points as possible," Peru coach Jose Del Solar