The second half of the South American preliminary competition for the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™ gets underway this week with another five enticing games. FIFA.com is on hand to preview all the action, including the eagerly anticipated clashes between Chile-Argentina and Brazil-Colombia, from the region's final round of qualifiers until March 2009.
Strange as it may sound, the Seleção's clash with Colombia may have an added degree of difficulty with it being played on Brazilian soil. Having managed no better than scoreless draws in their last two home qualifiers - results for which Dunga and his team have been severely criticised - Brazil will be anxious to make amends when they host Colombia in Rio tomorrow night. With the Cafeteros themselves desperate for points after five games without a win, can Eduardo Lara's men cause an upset at the mythical Maracana?
Wednesday also sees the meeting of Chile and Argentina in Santiago, a fixture that will have added resonance for La Roja boss Marcelo Bielsa, who was at the helm of the Albiceleste between 1998 and 2004. The hosts find themselves under pressure again after their defeat in Ecuador last Sunday, while the visitors, without Juan Roman Riquelme or Carlos Tevez, have history on their side, having won three and drawn one of their previous four South American qualifying games in the Chilean capital.
For their part, Paraguay will be hoping to continue their excellent form and consolidate their lead in the table when they welcome bottom-placed Peru to Asuncion. The Albirroja have never lost at home to the Incaicos, and another three points tomorrow night would put South Africa firmly on their horizon. Their visitors, in contrast, were emphatically beaten in their last three qualifiers on the road and will have an extremely difficult task of making the finals in 2010 unless they spring a surprise in the Paraguayan capital.
Another team tasked with getting back to winning ways at a challenging venue are Uruguay, who are in Bolivia to take on Erwin Sanchez's side. The Celeste currently occupy the play-off berth (fifth) but have never won a qualifier in La Paz. La Verde, meanwhile, are unbeaten in their last two games and will be keen to get into contention for the play-off spot.
Finally, there is Ecuador's visit to Venezuela to face the out-of-sorts Vinotinto. The Tricolor are now unbeaten in their last six group games and would move firmly into the qualification frame with a win on Thursday. As for the hosts, 4-0 losers to Brazil at the weekend, only a win will give them a realistic shot at getting their South African dreams back on track.
Player to watch
Agustin Julio (COL)
The Cafetero keeper has had a difficult few days after being blamed for the goal that secured Paraguay a win in Bogota at the weekend. However, his coach Eduardo Lara has stuck with the under-fire keeper, even backing him publicly: "A large proportion of Colombia's 10 points are down to him, which is why he will remain in the team." The Santa Fe custodian will hope to repay the faith shown in him in the toughest possible circumstances - against Brazil at the Maracana.
What they said
"Right now, the only thing on my mind is the Ecuador game. Everyone assumes we're going to lose before we even play them. It's results we base our evaluations on here, so we'll see what happens next Wednesday." Cesar Farias, Venezuela coach, speaking ahead of the Ecuador game.
Wednesday 15 October
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