Matchday 8 of the South American Zone's qualifiers for the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™ has thrown up an intriguing situation: the five highest-placed teams are all set to face off against rivals from the lower half of the standings. FIFA.com brings you a closer look at the exciting fixtures scheduled to take place this week.
Despite their recent good runs, both La Roja and the visiting Cafeteros go into this match rocked by defeats against Brazil and Uruguay respectively. Currently level on ten points, if the qualifying phase were to end today then fifth spot and a play-off berth would be Colombia's, thanks to their superior goal difference to Marcelo Bielsa's Chile. The record books also favour the visitors who have not lost a qualifying match in Santiago since a 4-1 reverse in 1997. In 2000, Colombia came away with a 1-0 win, followed by a 0-0 draw in 2004.
Wednesday is set to witness another duel between contenders for a place at South Africa 2010 when Uruguay welcome Sixto Vizuete's resurgent Ecuador side. The Celeste start the match as favourites, having just ended Colombia's unbeaten start in Bogota and boasting a record of six wins and a draw (0-0 in 1993) from seven matches against La Tricolor in Montevideo. Ecuador, however, are enjoying a renaissance under coach Vizuete and have won two and drawn two of their last four games.
In the only match set to be played on Tuesday, leaders Paraguay host struggling Venezuela. Satisfied with the point salvaged from Saturday's clash in Buenos Aires, though less so with his side's display, Albirroja coach Gerardo Martino will be hoping the possible return of striking duo Salvador Cabanas and Roque Santa Cruz can put his side back on the victory trail. The Vinotinto, meanwhile, have now gone three qualifiers without a win and another defeat would distance them further from the qualifying berths. The omens are not good, however, as Venezuela have lost each of their four previous games in the Paraguayan capital Asuncion without scoring a single goal.
Having silenced a few of his doubters after a rousing 3-0 win in Chile, Brazil coach Dunga will be hoping to build up some more goodwill when the Auriverde welcome last-placed Bolivia. The Seleção supremo is fully aware that his side are obliged to "win every game, score a lot of goals and put on a good show", and in theory Wednesday's opponents should allow them to do just that. Indeed, on La Verde's last trip to Rio de Janeiro in 2000 they were dealt a resounding 5-0 defeat.
Brazil's fellow continental superpowers Argentina find themselves in a somewhat strange situation. The recently crowned double Olympic champions have now gone four FIFA World Cup qualifiers without a win and must travel to face Jose del Solar's Peru, who put on an impressive collective display in Saturday's 1-0 win over Venezuela. And for all the stars packed into Albiceleste coach Alfio Basile's squad, there can be little doubt they are struggling to gel as a team. Lima, however, has proved a happy hunting ground for Argentina, who have not lost there since 1985 and boast three wins and a draw from their last four visits.
Player to watch
Luis Fabiano, Brazil forward
For the second time in this qualifying phase, the 27-year-old Sevilla front-man has helped himself to a brace of goals. His double strike against Chile on Saturday, allied to his earlier two-goal haul against Uruguay on Matchday 4 in Sao Paulo, takes his tally to four and a share of first place in the scorers' charts.
296: The number of days Argentina have gone without a win in their South Africa 2010 qualifying campaign. After a 3-0 victory over Bolivia on 17 November 2007, the Albiceleste subsequently lost against Colombia before successive draws with Ecuador, Brazil and Paraguay.
What they said
"It makes me very sad that we haven't taken the step forward that I felt we were capable of. But I'm very optimistic that we can use the match against Colombia to help us put the emphatic and deserved defeat against Brazil behind us." Chile coach Marcelo Bielsa.
Play and win!
Still want more? Keen to test your football knowledge and expertise? Sign up for the FIFA.com Club today and play the McDonald's FIFA World Cup Fantasy football manager game, and the McDonald's FIFA World Cup Predictor game. There are great prizes, including trips to the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa. Good luck, and enjoy the games.