The meeting between group leaders Argentina and third-placed Colombia is the pick of the four games on Matchday 13 of the South American qualifying competition for the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil™. In the day’s three other games, high-flying Venezuela, Chile and Ecuador visit the bottom three.
FIFA.com looks ahead to Friday’s action.
The big game
Friday 7 June, Estadio Antonio Vespucio Liberti (Buenos Aires), 19:05 (local time)
There is more to this game than a meeting of first against third. These two sides are regarded as the most exciting in South America, thanks to their attack-minded approach to the game and the electrifying presence of the likes of Lionel Messi and Radamel Falcao. Adding even more interest to an enticing encounter is the return of former Argentina coach and current Cafetero boss Jose Nestor Pekerman to the Monumental, as the Buenos Aires stadium is popularly known
This fixture has had a special edge to it ever since 5 September 1993. It was on that fateful day that Colombia inflicted a famous 5-0 defeat on Alfio Basile’s side in Buenos Aires, consigning Argentina to a play-off against Australia for a place at USA 1994.
Since that humiliating reverse, the biggest they have ever suffered in a FIFA World Cup qualifier, Argentina have gone 38 qualifiers without defeat in Buenos Aires, a run comprising 28 wins and ten draws. Can Falcao and Co repeat the feat of their illustrious predecessors and bring another impressive Argentinian streak to an end?
Second in the table, Ecuador will stay in the direct qualification places no matter what happens on their trip to Peru, where they have not lost in a qualifier since 1977, drawing twice and winning twice in that time, the last of those victories coming in 2009. On the downside for the Ecuadorians, they are still to win away in the current competition and are up against a side who have won seven of their last nine points in Lima. Lying seventh in the group, Sergio Markarian’s men need three points from this game to stay in contention.
The occupants of the fourth and final direct qualification slot, Chile travel to bottom side Paraguay. Asuncion has never been a happy hunting ground for La Roja, who endured a 28-year wait before winning only their second qualifier in the Paraguayan capital in 2009. Jorge Sampaoli’s side have lost their last two games on the road, while the struggling Albirroja are on the brink of elimination, although with four of their last five games coming at home, including this one, they still have grounds for optimism.
Play-off incumbents Venezuela, who are hoping to reach the world finals for the first time, take on Bolivia in La Paz. La Vinotinto recorded their first ever win in the Bolivian capital under Cesar Farias back in 2009, a victory secured by a solitary Oswaldo Vizcarrondo goal. Looking ahead to the game in a recent interview with FIFA.com, the central defender said: “We are our own enemies”.
Languishing just one place off the bottom, their hosts have little margin for error. Though they have conceded at least once in each of their last 11 home games, the Bolivians are unbeaten in four at their La Paz stronghold, winning two of those games and drawing the other two.
Player to watch
Paolo Guerrero (PER)
Though goalless in his last four qualifiers for his country and his last seven games for club Corinthians, Paolo Guerrero remains Peru’s second highest-scorer in the current tournament with three goals. The 28-year-old striker is a key member of the Peruvian front line and one of their main hopes as they bid to revive a disappointing campaign.
Did you know?
Chile have shared their goalscoring duties around more than any other side in the qualifying competition, with 11 players contributing to their haul of 16 goals, the fourth-highest tally in the South American qualifiers. Following them on the list are Colombia, with nine players scoring their 19 goals, and Bolivia, whose 13 goals have come from eight different players. In contrast, Venezuela’s nine goals have been scored by only five players, Peru’s 11 by five and Argentina’s table-topping 24 by six.
What they said
“We knew it was a tough task. We looked at the situation very closely and we knew there were two possibilities: things would either turn round immediately or the team would carry on having problems. Even so, we’ve still got to time to pull this out of the fire.”
Almost a year into his tenure as Paraguay coach, Gerardo Pelusso looks forward to the crucial meeting with Chile.