The ten South American sides hoping to negotiate the long,
winding road to the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™ are bracing
themselves for 13 October and the start of the qualifying
competition. And just four weeks away from the big kick-off, the
CONMEBOL candidates have been in friendly action across the globe,
trying to find the answers to their various selection posers.
FIFA.com is here with the lowdown on their latest preparations.
Argentina do what they do best
With Lionel Messi at his brilliant best, the Albiceleste recorded a solid 1-0 win over Australia at the Melbourne Cricket Ground, the only goal of the game coming from Bayern Munich centre-half Martin Demichelis, who staked a compelling claim for the place vacated by Roberto Ayala.
For coach Alfio Basile the match represented a trip down memory
El Coco was also in charge when the two sides met in a
play-off for a place at USA 1994 when an Argentina side featuring
Diego Maradona drew 1-1 in Sydney before a solitary Gabriel
Batistuta goal in the return in Buenos Aires clinched the tie.
"This win will give us confidence and help the people who weren't happy with us to relax a little," said Messi afterwards, no doubt pleased to lift the fans after that painful 3-0 defeat to Brazil in the Copa America final and last month's 2-0 friendly loss to Norway.
Brazilian heavy artillery back in action
The big news as the Auriverde headed off for their short tour of North America was return of Ronaldinho and Kaka. Fresh from lifting the Copa America without the big two, Dunga's men duly secured a 4-2 win over USA in Chicago at the weekend and followed up with a fine 3-1 defeat of Mexico in front of a full house in Boston on Wednesday.
Kleber, Kaka and Afonso were the men on target for the Seleção as they extracted sweet revenge for their surprise 2-0 defeat at the hands of Hugo Sanchez's men at Venezuela 2007, Juan Carlos Cacho notching the Mexicans' only goal of the night.
The brace of wins left Brazil boss Dunga purring with satisfaction, "Our performances were excellent in both games and I'm feeling relaxed ahead of the game with Colombia in the qualifiers."
ElLoco drives Chile wild
Desperate not to miss out on South Africa, Chile have turned to former Argentina coach Marcelo El Loco Bielsa in a bid to reverse their poor recent qualifying record.
Widely known as for turning out well-organised, attack-minded
teams, Bielsa has given Chile new hope as they prepare to return to
his old stomping ground for their opening qualifier against
Argentina in Buenos Aires.
Although Bielsa began his reign with defeat against Switzerland in Vienna last Friday, La Roja showed some of the spirit that has been missing all too often in recent times. And in going on to beat Austria 2-0 on Tuesday thanks to goals from Hugo Droguett and Eduardo Rubio, they gave an indication that better days just may be around the corner.
"This is a different Chile", boomed Santiago daily El Mercurio, a reaction echoed by the headline in Las Últimas Noticias: "It was a waltz". La Tercera was equally optimistic, echoing the new-found hopes of Chile's long-suffering fans by declaring, "We can start dreaming now".
Peru and Uruguay fail to convince
Despite following up a 2-2 draw at home to Colombia on Saturday with a 2-0 defeat of Bolivia three days later, Peru failed to convince the fans, who have been vociferous in their criticism of Chelsea striker Claudio Pizarro, while championing the cause of Hamburg front man Paolo Guerrero. Newly appointed coach Jose del Solar clearly has plenty to think about.
Uruguay, who are busy preparing for their clash with Bolivia, paid a visit to the forthcoming FIFA World Cup™ hosts and secured a drab goalless draw in Johannesburg, a match described by Charrúa coach Oscar Tabarez as "not exactly high quality". As Tabarez knows full well, bigger and more important challenges lie ahead.
Doubts forEcuador and Colombia, hope for Venezuela
A Wason Renteria strike gave Colombia a narrow win against Paraguay in Bogota, a result that nevertheless provided home coach Luis Rueda with more questions than answers. As for the Guaraníes, this latest reverse has thrown their build-up for the October 14 showdown with Peru into disarray, coming as it did hard on the heels of a 3-2 defeat to Venezuela on Saturday.
Ecuador boss Luis Fernando Suarez must have been feeling pleased with himself when his charges thrashed El Salvador 5-1 at the weekend. It was all change come Wednesday, however, when Honduras reopened the debate about his continuity with a 2-1 in Tegucigalpa, with Inter Milan star David Suazo providing a star turn.
Ecuador's first match in the qualifiers is at home to Venezuela, and their upcoming opponents look to be in reasonable shape after edging out the Paraguayans and then drawing 1-1 with Panama. With memories of their run to the last eight of the Copa America still fresh in the mind, many believe that the Vinotinto's big breakthrough is nigh.