Chile and Paraguay both have the opportunity to clinch their places at next year's FIFA World Cup™ finals when they take on Brazil and Argentina respectively in the 16th round of qualifiers in the South American Zone this Wednesday. The eyes of the continent's football fans will also been keenly following the battle for fourth and fifth place in the standings, with five teams currently in the race. FIFA.com brings you a closer look at the action ahead.
The Estadio Defensores del Chaco will play host to a heavyweight clash between Paraguay, on 27 points and within touching distance of South Africa, and an Argentina side (22 points) desperate to get back to winning ways and keep their qualifying bid on track. La Albirroja have not lost at home against La Albiceleste since 1997 and the squad coached by the Argentinian Gerardo Martino will seal their South Africa 2010 spot with a victory or even a draw, should Colombia and Ecuador fail to win their matches.
Diego Maradona's embattled charges, for their part, need at least a draw to keep hold of fourth spot - the final automatic qualifying berth - until the penultimate round of qualifiers. The stats are not in their favour, however, with Argentina failing to win away since beating Venezuela in October 2007 in their second match of this preliminary campaign.
The other games
In Salvador de Bahia, visitors Chile will be hoping to take advantage of Brazil's lengthy list of absentees to clinch their first finals appearance since France 1998. Of their 27-point tally so far, La Roja have collected 13 on the road and will qualify directly if they beat the five-time world champions. A draw will also be enough should Colombia and Ecuador not win their encounters. Dunga's Auriverde (30 points) have their ticket to South Africa 2010 already in the bag and, even without the suspended Lucio, Kaka, Luis Fabiano and the injured Robinho, will surely fight tooth and nail to extend their 18-match unbeaten run.
Another high-stakes affair is set to unfold in Montevideo, where Uruguay (18 points) host Colombia (20) in the battle for fourth and fifth spot, the latter position offering an inter-confederation play-off against the fourth-placed side in the North, Central American and Caribbean Zone. La Celeste cannot afford any more slip-ups after the costly defeat in Peru, while the fifth-placed Cafeteros know a win would strengthen their play-off bid and threaten Argentina in fourth.
Colombia have laboured in front of goal so far this campaign, though their strikers' cause will be helped by the absence of Uruguayan defensive stalwarts Diego Lugano and Diego Godin. That said, Las Charrúas have not lost against Colombia in Montevideo since 1973.
Ecuador, who are level on points with Colombia, will be hoping to bounce back from their defeat on Colombian soil at the weekend with a home win over Bolivia in La Paz. The three points would take them temporarily clear of Argentina, who kick-off later in the evening, and give them vital momentum for the all-important run-in. Nor should we discount Venezuela (18 points), who will be hopeful of staying in the running with a victory at home to bottom side Peru.
Player to watch
Teofilo Gutierrez (COL)
Colombian football's brightest rising star, currently playing for hometown team Junior Barranquilla, made his senior national-team debut on Sunday and went on to score the clincher in the hard-fought 2-0 victory over Ecuador. The rangy 24-year-old front-runner now faces a real test of his mettle in a vital clash in Montevideo, where Eduardo Lara's men will need to take full advantage of the chances which come their way.
0 - The number of goals Chile have scored against Brazil away from home in FIFA World Cup qualifying action. La Roja have visited A Seleção on four occasions in the competition, losing all four and conceding ten goals without reply in the process. Can they write a new page in the record books and clinch qualification at the same time?
What they said
"We lost in Peru and we've now got no margin for error. If we want to be in the World Cup we have to win all three of our matches and hope other results go our way. It's difficult but the Colombia game is the first of these three 'finals', and we need we need to treat it as such," Uruguay coach Oscar Tabarez.