A single point is all that is required for Colombia to guarantee their place at the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil™, while a point may also be enough for Argentina if either Ecuador or Uruguay fail to win their games. However, it will not be easy for La Albiceleste or Los Cafeteros as they face away trips to Paraguay and Uruguay respectively, two teams in dire need of positive results.
Nor are the other encounters on the 16th of 18 rounds of qualifiers any less pivotal. Ecuador travel to already eliminated Bolivia in La Paz determined to cling onto fourth place, while Venezuela and Peru meet in Puerto La Cruz in a must-win clash for both sides. FIFA.com previews all the action ahead.
The big game
Tuesday 10 September, 19.00 (local time), Estadio Centenario (Montevideo).
Jose Pekerman’s Cafetero charges need to pick up at least a point in Montevideo to return to a FIFA World Cup for the first time since France 1998, but they will clinch qualification even in defeat should Bolivia sink Ecuador. Colombia would do well to be wary, however, as they have not claimed a point on Uruguayan soil since a 1-1 draw in 2001 and have lost on their last two trips to the Centenario (3-1 in 2009 and 3-2 in 2005). For their only victory at the stadium, you have to go back to a 1-0 success in 1973.
Uruguay, for their part, have momentum behind them thanks to recording consecutive victories for the first time in Brazil 2014 qualifying. La Celeste start the matchday just two points behind Ecuador – the current holders of the final direct qualifying berth – and by kick-off time will know how their rivals have fared.
Should results go their way, Los Charrúas, who have an inferior goal difference to Ecuador, could even replace them in fourth. That said, missing personnel will be a concern, with central-defensive stalwarts Diego Lugano and Diego Godin both suspended and veteran front-man Diego Forlan a doubt.
Having sat out the previous matchday, Argentina know that a win in Paraguay will guarantee their involvement in an 11th consecutive edition of the global finals. Given they are involved in the day’s last match, La Albiceleste could already have qualified by kick-off time should Uruguay or Ecuador lose, as this pair must still meet on the penultimate matchday.
Argentina have lost their last two qualifying encounters in the Paraguayan capital Asuncion, though they will be boosted by Lionel Messi’s presence in their starting line-up. La Albirroja would surely have been hoping for otherwise, given only a win will keep alive their slim hopes of fifth spot and the ensuing intercontinental play-off. Indeed, so lengthy are the odds against them, they may already be out of the running by kick-off time at the Defensores del Chaco stadium.
“We had a healthy points advantage which we’ve thrown away,” said Ecuador boss Reinaldo Rueda. “We need to fully focus on our game against Bolivia.” He is not wrong: if La Tricolor fail to record a positive result in La Paz, they could even lose fourth place to Uruguay.
History, however, is in their favour, with Ecuador having won their last eight qualifying meetings against Bolivia, three of which were away from home: 5-1 in 2001, 2-1 in 2005 and 3-1 in 2009. What's more, a victory would move them into third at Chile’s expense, given La Roja sit out this matchday.
In Puerto La Cruz, Venezuela and Peru – 6th- and 7th-placed respectively – are set to lock horns in an encounter both need to win to stay on track. In fact, should Uruguay better La Vinotinto’s result in this round, Venezuela will bid farewell to their dream of a first FIFA World Cup final tournament for at least another four years.
The home team can take confidence from recent stats, however, as they have won their last three matches against Peru on Venezuelan soil. Los Incaicos, meanwhile, also have an interest in Los Charrúas’ result, even though a win would keep them in the race regardless of how Uruguay fare. Of course, Peru have not won in Venezuela since 1997...
Player to watch
Juan Arango (VEN)
If there were ever a time for the experienced 33-year-old Venezuelan creator to underline once more his leadership role in La Vinotinto camp it is now. Their finals’ dream turned into a nightmare after a run of just one point from their past three matches, Venezuela are now three points behind fifth-place Uruguay, having played a game more. As La Vinotinto’s leading scorer and all-time record caps holder, can Arango lift his team-mates’ morale and spur a remarkable recovery?
Did you know?
Three of the players at the disposal of Paraguay boss Victor Gines for the Argentina clash play their club football in the latter nation. Moreover, of this trio of Marcos Caceres (Newell’s Old Boys), Victor Ayala (Lanus) and Jonathan Fabbro (River Plate), Fabbro is Argentinian-born.
In an even more intriguing twist, the midfielder’s first competitive international after taking Paraguayan nationality came away from home against the country of his birth. In their sixth game of Brazil 2014 qualifying back in September 2012, Fabbro it was who briefly levelled from the penalty spot for La Albirroja in Cordoba in a game La Albiceleste went on to win 3-1.
What they said
“I take on board and understand everything people are saying about us being virtually out of the running, but it’s my duty to keep working as if we’re in the hunt because, as a matter of fact, we still are. I’m not throwing in the towel yet: we have to win and see what happens,” Peru coach Sergio Markarian ahead of 10 September’s game in Venezuela.