THE DAY REPLAYED – Colombia took a huge stride towards their first FIFA World Cup™ finals appearance since France 1998 by beating Ecuador in Barranquilla in one of the biggest games on Matchday 15 of the South American qualifying competition for Brazil 2014. Los Cafeteros are now guaranteed a play-off place at the very least, as are group leaders Argentina, who were not in action on Friday.
Meanwhile, Chile’s defeat of Venezuela moved them into third at the expense of the Ecuadorians, who are under pressure from Uruguay following their fine win in Lima. In the day’s other game, Paraguay confirmed Bolivia's elimination with an emphatic win in Asuncion.
FIFA.com rounds up all the action from Matchday 15 in South America.
Chile turned in a solid all-round performance as they brushed aside Venezuela in Santiago to move up to third in the table, their highest position since reaching second on Matchday 7. La Roja’s fourth consecutive qualifying win under Jorge Sampaoli also took their unbeaten run against La Vinotinto in FIFA World Cup preliminaries to five games. The Chileans have yet to draw a game in the competition, having won eight and lost six. As for Cesar Farias’ charges, they have collected just one point in the last three games – their worst run in the competition to date – and remain out of the qualification places. “They were stronger than us,” said the Venezuelan coach after the final whistle.
Colombia edged out Ecuador 1-0 to move to within touching distance of a place in Brazil and guarantee themselves fifth place and a play-off slot at the very worst. Despite enjoying a one-man advantage after Gabriel Achilier’s 28th-minute dismissal, Los Cafeteros were made to work hard for the points and were indebted to James Rodriguez’s solitary first-half strike as they made it five wins and as many clean sheets in their last five outings in Barranquilla. The Ecuadorians, who missed a penalty through Walter Ayovi, have still to win on the road, having collected just two points from a possible 18 away from home.
Uruguay continued their mini-revival with a vital 2-1 win over Peru in Lima, a result that tightened their hold on fifth and took them to within a mere two points of Ecuador, the occupants of the last automatic qualification slot. Luis Suarez scored both La Celeste’s goals as they secured their first qualifying win on Peruvian soil since 2001 and their fourth overall. Uruguay’s task was aided by Victor Yotun’s sending off on the stroke of half-time, and though Jefferson Farfan’s superb free-kick gave the hosts some late hope, the visitors held on for three precious points.
Finally, Paraguay posted a morale-boosting 4-0 win at home to Bolivia to end a run of three games without a win and maintain their slim hopes of snatching the play-off place. Jonathan Fabbro, Roque Santa Cruz, Richard Ortiz and Gustavo Gomez were the men on target for Victor Genes’ new-look Albirroja, who have now won their last eight FIFA World Cup qualifiers against the Bolivians, this latest reverse confirming La Verde’s fifth straight elimination from world-finals qualifying.
Player of the day
Luis Suarez (URU)
The 26-year-old centre-forward was Uruguay’s star man in their defeat of Peru. Goalless in his country’s last two qualifiers, El Pistolero won and converted the penalty that gave La Celeste the lead and struck their second with a fierce right-footed drive. Thanks to his match-winning brace, Suarez is now the leading scorer in the qualifying competition with ten goals, one ahead of Argentina’s Gonzalo Higuain.
457 - The number of minutes that Colombia have gone without conceding a goal at home. Los Cafeteros boast the best defensive record in the CONMEBOL Zone, having let in just seven goals in 13 games. The last time goalkeeper David Ospina had to pick the ball out of the net in their Barranquilla stronghold was on Matchday 4 in November 2011, when Sergio Aguero scored an 83rd-minute winner in a 2-1 victory for Argentina, the only home defeat the Colombians have suffered in the competition.
What they said
“It’s tight and it’s tough. That’s just the way it is. I hope we can pick up some points in our next couple of games and move closer to qualifying. We need to learn the lessons of this match and move on because we’ve got a fresh challenge coming up in 72 hours, and it won’t be easy either,”
Ecuador coach Reinaldo Rueda reacts to his side’s defeat in Colombia.
Matchday 15 results
Did not play: Argentina