With qualifying for the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™ entering the finishing strait, FIFA.com turns its focus to the 14th matchday of the hotly-contested South American Zone. Topping the bill is the meeting of leaders Brazil and closest challengers Paraguay in Recife, while on-form Ecuador and Venezuela will be looking to continue their revivals when they welcome Argentina and Uruguay respectively.
Brazil (24 points) may have only shown glimpses of their famous jogo bonito, but Dunga's charges are currently on a run of eight qualifiers without defeat including four wins, three away from home, and just one goal conceded. Indeed, their only loss in qualifying so far came in Asuncion against Paraguay (24), and they will be keen to return the favour in Recife. However, they will have to do so without their seven-goal leading scorer Luis Fabiano after his red card against Uruguay.
The form and history books are against Gerardo Martino's visitors, with early qualifying pace-setters La Albirroja on a run of three games without a win. Now second behind A Seleção on goal difference, Paraguay have never won a FIFA World Cup qualifier on Brazilian soil, going down 4-1 in 2005 and 2-0 in 2001. They do, however, welcome back key men in Salvador Cabanas and Paulo Da Silva.
The other matches
Quito is also set to play host to another crucial encounter, with rejuvenated Ecuador (17) taking on Diego Maradona's unpredictable Argentina (22). Sixto Vizuete's men are buoyed by a 2-1 victory in Peru that took them level on points with fifth-placed Uruguay, who currently occupy the qualifying play-off berth on goal difference.
La Albiceleste, for their part, continue to look unconvincing, though Saturday's narrow win over Colombia was vital after 1 April's 6-1 humiliation in Bolivia. Missing the injured Sergio Aguero and the suspended Javier Mascherano, Maradona's men would love a repeat of the 2-0 victory from 2001, their last success on Ecuadorian soil, which booked their place at Korea/Japan 2002.
Venezuela (16) and Uruguay (17) will also have one eye on the Ecuador-Argentina encounter when they meet in Puerto Ordaz. After their historic victory over Bolivia in La Paz, achieved using a team picked specifically for the high-altitude conditions, La Vinotinto are back in the race for South Africa 2010. On a run of two consecutive qualifying wins at home, another three-point haul could prove vital against their direct rivals. La Celeste, who risk falling from fifth to seventh if results go against them, welcome back key men Diego Lugano and Cristian Rodriguez, who missed Saturday's 4-0 humbling by Brazil.
Chile, on 23 points, welcome Bolivia (12) to Santiago hoping to continuing their charge towards a first FIFA World Cup finals since France 1998. La Roja have picked up ten of the last 12 points available and have beaten La Verde in the pair's last three qualifying meetings. Erwin Sanchez's men missed the opportunity to close in on the play-off spot by losing to Venezuela, but remain only five points behind Uruguay.
Another side not ready to give up hope are Colombia (14), who host a Peruvian side (7) adrift at the bottom of the standings. Despite the setback on Argentinian soil, Los Cafeteros are still just three points from a play-off berth, though their attacking travails continue to haunt them. A repeat of their 5-0 qualifying win over Peru in qualifying for Germany 2006 would be just the tonic, but Los Incas will be keen to finish what has been a nightmare preliminary phase on a positive note.
At the age of just 19, the attacking midfielder recently bought by Spanish side Villarreal is already fulfilling the huge expectations surrounding him in his homeland. Scorer of the goal that earned his country the gold medal at the 2007 Pan-American Games, Montero also hit the opener in Sunday's 2-1 win in Peru and would love nothing more than to find the net again versus Argentina.
4 - The number of FIFA World Cup qualifying ties Venezuela and Chile have gone without losing against Uruguay and Bolivia respectively. La Vinotinto have accrued two wins and two draws while La Roja can point to three wins and one draw. Uruguay and Bolivia's last qualifying successes against their upcoming opponents both came in July 2000, when La Celeste beat Venezuela 3-1 in Montevideo and Chile went down 1-0 in La Paz.
What they said
"The lads who played in Bolivia did magnificently, but now it's our turn to build on that. We're gunning for Uruguay, we're still dreaming of reaching the World Cup," Venezuela's first-choice keeper Renny Vega.
Wednesday 10 June