Chile will look to move a step closer to qualifying for the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™ when they host Venezuela in tomorrow's latest round of South American qualifiers.
Chile lie second in the 10-team group after winning eight of their 14 qualifiers to date but face a stern test against Venezuela, who despite languishing in eighth place are just three points off fifth spot and a play-off against a side from the CONCACAF zone. Expectations are running high in Chile over the prospect of reaching the World Cup finals for the first time since France 1998 but the players themselves are trying to keep their feet on the ground.
"In the locker room we don't have the over-confidence that the fans have," said midfielder Jorge Valdivia. "We try to stay out of that entire atmosphere because we have a clear target. We want to qualify for the World Cup and we are working calmly for that."
Valdivia also praised the job done by coach Marcelo Bielsa in transforming the team from also-rans to a major continental force. "He has humility and says all the credit should go to the players, but he changed everything: the group discipline, the condition of the training camp, the way the other teams look at us."
We have a clear target. We want to qualify for the World Cup and we are working calmly for that.
Elsewhere, Argentina host Brazil in Rosario tomorrow in the headline encounter of this weekend's qualifiers. With four matches remaining, Brazil lead the way in the group with 27 points and could secure their place in South Africa if results go their way this weekend.
Things are less clear-cut for the Argentinians, who have suffered an indifferent campaign - winning just six times - and sit in fourth, the last position which guarantees a place at the finals. Colombia will be desperate for a victory at home to Ecuador, with defeat almost certain to see Los Cafeteros miss out on a place at the World Cup for the third tournament in succession.
Conversely, the Ecuadorians are bidding to reach their third finals on the bounce and have won their last two games to occupy fifth place and the lone play-off berth. Indeed, a win for Ecuador and a defeat for Argentina would see La Tricolor move ahead of Diego Maradona's troops and into an automatic qualification berth.
In other matches, third-placed Paraguay can bolster their position with victory over second-bottom Bolivia in Asuncion, while sixth-placed Uruguay visit rock-bottom Peru in Lima seeking a win that will keep them on the coat-tails of the top five.