Venezuela’s hosting of Uruguay is the stand-out fixture on Matchday 14 of South American qualifying for the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil™. Tuesday could also see group leaders Argentina seal their place in the global showpiece when they travel to Ecuador, while Colombia play host to Peru and Chile entertain Bolivia. FIFA.com previews the day’s four crucial games.
In an acid test of their aspirations, play-off occupants Venezuela continue their bid to reach the FIFA World Cup for the first time against a Uruguay side languishing three points behind them in seventh. Recent statistics favour La Vinotinto, who had to wait 36 years to beat the Uruguayans for the first time in a qualifier but have not lost to them on home soil since 1996. Moreover, they have gone unbeaten in their last six home games, a run comprising two wins and four draws.
In contrast, Oscar Tabarez’s charges have gone six games without a win in qualifying and have been beaten in their last three away matches. Summing up the importance of Tuesday’s trip, Celeste captain Diego Lugano said: “We need to realise that the golden run we had is now over and that if we’re going to qualify for the World Cup, we need to start from scratch. A new qualifying competition starts in Venezuela and ahead lie five finals. We have to take something from each of those games, especially against our direct rivals.”
Leaders Argentina visit Ecuador with a very clear objective in mind: to book their ticket to Brazil. To do that, however, they need to win in Quito for the first time since 2001. The Argentinians have lost on their last two visits to the Ecuadorian capital, where their hosts on Tuesday have won all six of their games in this competition, scoring 13 of their 16 goals overall, equating to 81 percent of their goal tally. Both sides will start the game without their star performers, with neither Lionel Messi nor Felipe Caicedo fully fit.
Keeping a close eye on events in Quito will be second-placed Colombia, who are at home to a revitalised Peru side now back in contention for the trip in Brazil. Los Cafeteros, who have not lost to the Peruvians since 2001, have won their last three matches at their Barranquilla fortress and have not conceded a goal there in 277 minutes. Peru’s last win over the Colombians came in Bogota, though they have also tasted victory in Barranquilla, prevailing there 1-0 in 1997. The visitors will be without midfielder Rinaldo Cruzado, ruled out through injury.
Fourth in the table, Chile welcome Bolivia in Santiago, where they have never lost a qualifier to them. La Roja have beaten the Bolivians in the last five meetings between the sides, the last three of those wins coming without conceding a goal. And while they are averaging two goals a game at home, Xavier Azkargorta’s side have now conceded in every one of their last 22 qualifiers. Should Bolivia lose, their mathematical chances of landing a top-four spot will disappear, their only remaining hope being to qualify via the play-off.
Player to watch
Eduardo Vargas (CHI)
The 23-year-old forward is in prime form, having scored on his last three appearances for his country. Also on target in the April friendly against Brazil, Vargas has struck in each of La Roja’s last two qualifying wins – against Uruguay in Santiago and Paraguay in Asuncion. With three goals, El Turbo is his side’s joint leading scorer in the competition with Matias Fernandez.
Did you know?
Since the inception of the current system in South America, with teams playing each other twice and four reaching the FIFA World Cup directly, the lowest number of points scored in order to qualify was the 25 amassed by Chile on the road to France 1998. Like the current competition, only nine teams took part on that occasion, with no play-off spot available.
In the next three competitions, which each involved ten teams, Paraguay scored 30 points in qualifying in fourth place for Korea/Japan 2002 and 28 for Germany 2006, the same number amassed by Argentina en route to South Africa 2010. The lowest points total for booking the play-off place was Uruguay’s 24 four years ago. In 2005, one point more was needed to clinch fifth and four years earlier 27 was the magic number.
What they said
Sergio Markarian, Peru coach: "We want our players to think big. I believe this team has more to give. At the moment we’re out of the World Cup and we’ve got nothing to be proud about. We need to go and get more points in Barranquilla and give ourselves a chance of fighting for fifth place.”