It is often said that Uruguay and Argentina are the two South American nations with most in common. Separated by the famous stretch of water that is the River Plate, Uruguayans and Argentinians share national customs, an accent, a pop music scene, a love of the infusion maté and of course a fierce passion for the sport of kings.

All this common ground will be forgotten for at least 90 minutes come Wednesday 14 October. Both national sides are preparing to square off at Montevideo's Estadio Centenario in a match from which only one can emerge clutching an automatic qualifying berth for the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™.

Expectation levels are high on both sides of the River Plate, just as they were 79 years ago when these two countries went face-to-face in the first ever FIFA World Cup Final. Though La Celeste have home advantage, only three points will take them straight to next summer's finals without the need for a play-off. For the visitors, meanwhile, a draw should be enough to secure direct passage - providing Ecuador do not beat Chile away by five goals or more.

The game
Uruguay-Argentina, Wednesday 14 October, Estadio Centenario, Montevideo, 20:00 (local time)

The stakes
Both Uruguay and Argentina go into the game in buoyant mood after clinching last-gasp victories in their previous qualifiers against Ecuador and Peru respectively. Yet there is no doubt that coming back from a goal down to beat El Tricolor at altitude in Quito bodes better for Los Charrúas than La Albiceleste's nervy and disjointed home win over bottom side Peru.

The key
In a game with a genuine 'final' feel at the mythical Centenario, the result could well be decided by whoever copes better with the fierce pressure of such an occasion. With news from Santiago, Chile sure to filter through and affect the coaches' in-game decisions, the ability to dictate the proceedings will be vital. Diego Maradona will therefore be delighted to welcome back one such string-puller in veteran Juan Sebastian Veron, while Uruguay's biggest threat will come from lethal front pairing Diego Forlan and Luis Suarez.

The duel
Diego Forlan (URU) vs. Lionel Messi (ARG)

The main men at La Liga rivals Atletico Madrid and Barcelona are enjoying quite contrasting fortunes at international level. Forlan, once of Argentinian side Independiente, is thriving at the sharp end of La Celeste's attack and showed nerves of steel to convert an injury-time penalty winner in Ecuador. Messi, in contrast, has struggled in vain to reproduce his stellar club displays for the national team but will be determined to remedy that on Wednesday.

The stat
3
- The number of times Uruguay have hosted Argentina in FIFA World Cup qualifying. The first two of these, in 1997 and 2001, ended in draws with the most recent, in 2005, finishing 1-0 to La Celeste thanks to a goal from former Inter Milan star Alvaro 'El Chino' Recoba.

The words
"It's not nice having to play the decisive game against Argentina. It's where my girlfriend and many of my friends are from, and I had a great time there as a player. But that's just how things have turned out and we need to win. It'll be tough but all we're thinking about is reaching South Africa," Diego Forlan, Uruguay striker.

"Of course it'll be a tough game but I've got total faith in this group of players. Argentina will be in South Africa," Lionel Messi, Argentina forward.