Although the continent is only one-third of the way though its qualifying campaign for the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™, Matchday 7 could well be pivotal in shaping the fortunes of the section's ten sides. As ever, is here to preview all the action.

The big game
Saturday 6 September - 16:00 (local time), Buenos Aires, Estadio Monumental

Though the meeting between second and first in the standings is a fascinating prospect in itself, there are other reasons to savour the Argentina-Paraguay match. Not least of these is the form of the two teams. Argentina enter the tie buoyed by their gold-medal exploits at the Men's Olympic Football Tournament Beijing 2008, and have players such as Lionel Messi very much on their game. Paraguay, in contrast, are still smarting from their shock defeat in Bolivia on the previous matchday and, to make matters worse, have Salvador Cabanas and Denis Caniza out injured and Roque Santa Cruz as a major doubt.

­­That said, the Guaraníes have a commendable record in recent years in Buenos Aires, where they have managed draws on their last four visits (0-0 in 1993 and 2000, 1-1 in 1996 and 2004). "We need to play like we always do: taking the game to our opponent, constantly pushing up and not sitting back. The only result that would be a good one for us is a win," said Paraguay defender Paulo Da Silva. ­­

Very few people would have expected to see Brazil down in the play-off position (fifth) one third of the way through this preliminary competition. Given this lowly position and the criticism Seleção coach Dunga has come in for in recent months, their trip to the Chilean capital Santiago on Sunday will be a pressurised affair and one that could be shape the remainder of their campaign. The outlook is considerably different for Marcelo Bielsa's fast-maturing Roja, who head into the game bolstered by back-to-back away wins.

Equally pivotal will be the encounter between Colombia and Uruguay in Bogota. The obvious contrast in styles will be one attraction, with the contest pitting the competition's meanest defence - the Cafeteros have conceded just two goals so far - against the top-scoring Celeste (15 goals for). History, however, favours the hosts, who not only have never lost to Uruguay in a FIFA World Cup qualifier, but have also won their last three meetings, including a 5-0 victory in 2004.

Another side looking to end a winless sequence are Venezuela, who have never managed to get the better of Peru in Lima in this competition. With the pair set to renew their rivalry this Saturday in the Peruvian capital, Jose del Solar's men, currently last in the standings, will take encouragement from their head-to-head record but also know they need to start winning games quickly if they are not to surrender their qualification dreams for another four years. The Vinotinto, for their part, have shown some good form on the road in recent times but still need to find more consistency to mount a sustained challenge for a place at South Africa 2010. 

The other game on Matchday 7 is the Ecuador-Bolivia one in Quito, which involves two teams who got badly-needed points last time out and who will be equally anxious to keep the momentum going. Sixto Vizuete's Tricolor have now gone three games unbeaten, while counterpart Erwin Sanchez's charges come into the game on the back of an impressive win over the hitherto unbeaten Paraguay in La Paz.

Player to watch
Diego Forlan: As the qualifying competition's joint-top scorer with four goals to his name, the Uruguay striker is a man on form, as he showed with a brace for Atletico Madrid on the opening day of the Spanish La Liga last weekend. Nevertheless, he will have his work cut out to add to his tally on Saturday, facing as he does a Colombian defence marshalled by Agustin Julio, who has conceded just two goals in six qualifiers to date.

The numbers game
-The number of years since Brazil have triumphed in a FIFA World Cup qualifying game in Chile. Since winning 2-0 there in a qualifier for Switzerland 1954, the Seleção have faced La Roja three times in Santiago, drawing twice (1-1 in 1989 and 2004) and losing once (3-0 in 2000).

What they said
"The reality is that if we don't get four or six points from these two games, then I think Peru will be watching the next World Cup from home." Peru coach Jose del Solar, referring to his side's upcoming qualifiers against Venezuela and Argentina.

Matchday 7 fixtures
Saturday 6 September

Sunday 7

McDonald's FIFA World Cup Predictor
Austria-France, Argentina-Paraguay and Chile-Brazil are among the matches on the opening round of the McDonald's FIFA World Cup Predictor. If you haven't already, be sure to sign up and take a shot at winning a fanstastic trip to South Africa 2010.