With leaders Argentina not in action this coming matchday, Chile, Venezuela and Uruguay can all knock La Albiceleste off the top of the South American Zone standings in 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil™ qualifying. At the other end of the table, Bolivia, among others, will be chasing a positive result to breathe new life into their faltering bids to reach Brazil.
FIFA.com brings you a look ahead at the competition’s sixth round of games, which also features Paraguay’s return to action after sitting out the previous matchday.
The big game
Saturday 9 June, Puerto La Cruz, 18:05 (local time)
La Vinotinto and La Roja are set to go head-to-head in the matchday’s only encounter between two sides currently occupying qualifying berths. In Puerto La Cruz, where they have won their last three games, Cesar Farias’ Venezuelan charges would love to repeat their 2-1 win over Chile in the quarter-finals of the 2011 Copa America. They face no easy task, however, as Claudio Borghi’s side will be buoyed by 2 June’s 2-0 away win in Bolivia and have never lost a FIFA World Cup qualifier in Venezuela. The prize for the winners? Top spot in the standings.
The other team within pouncing distance of Argentina are their neighbours Uruguay, who are keen to get back on the victory trail at home to Peru. La Celeste, currently second in the FIFA/Coca-Cola World Ranking, must do without suspended captain Diego Lugano, though they can call on the fearsome forward duo of Luis Suarez and Diego Forlan. Between them the pair have struck no fewer than 61 international goals. In the opposite camp are a Peruvian squad led by Uruguayan supremo Sergio Markarian, though once again they have been hit hard by injuries to several key men. “It’s forbidden to even think we don’t have a chance,” warned the strategist, who is expected to rely heavily on the attacking thrust of front-man Paolo Guerrero.
There will be another intriguing sub-plot in Quito, where Ecuador and their Colombian coach Reinaldo Rueda host the on-form Cafeteros. Though La Tricolor are yet to lose a FIFA World Cup qualifier at home to Colombia, they were thumped 4-0 by Argentina on 2 June and need a win to try and climb back into a qualifying position. What's more, their opponents, coached by the Argentinian Jose Pekerman and spearheaded by the prolific Radamel Falcao, have won both their away games thus far.
Finally there is Paraguay, who return to action after sitting out the last matchday. That enabled them to spend over 20 days acclimatising to the altitude of La Paz, where they will be welcomed by a Bolivia squad already struggling to avoid being cast adrift. With just one point from five games, the hosts have made six changes ahead of the fixture. “Their defeat against Chile hasn’t changed our plans at all,” said Albirroja boss Francisco Arce, whose side also need a win given their record of four points from four games. “In fact, it just confirmed what we already knew about the [Bolivian] team.”
Player to watch
James Rodriguez (COL)
Ever since breaking into his country’s senior squad, the man who captained Los Cafeteros at last year’s FIFA U-20 World Cup has shown signs of the character and ability required to be a worthy wearer of the No10 shirt once graced by Carlos Valderrama. Fast, direct and with a powerful shot, the FC Porto starlet’s winner away to Peru on 3 June was his first qualifying goal and he would love to repeat the feat in this, his fifth FIFA World Cup qualifier in the Colombian jersey. “Ecuador have good players, but they’re the ones who should be worried about us,” said the confident youngster. “They know how much quality we have and how dangerous we are when given any space.”
Did you know?
Far from engaging in mind games, Peru’s Uruguayan boss Markarian has made clear on more than one occasion his unease at facing the country of his birth. “I was born there, my family and my friends are there, I love my country and I want the national team to do well,” he told FIFA.com after taking on the role of Los Incaicos’ head coach. “When I take them on with Peru I’ll be trying to get the best result for my team but, if I win, after the game I’ll be left with the feeling that my friends, my countrymen and my relatives are upset. It’s tricky, it’s a burden for me.”
What they said
“How can we turn things round? By sticking the ball in the net – that’s the only way. We have to be realistic, we’ve not got players with the same experience as the other national teams. The only option we have is to play better than our opponents and prove that with the scoreline,” Bolivia coach Gustavo Quinteros, ahead of his side’s game against Paraguay.