Superpowers clash as South America reaches key point

  • Matchdays 6 and 10 in the CONMEBOL qualifying competition for Qatar 2022

  • Brazil well clear at the top, Argentina out to check their momentum

  • Five points separate fourth from tenth

The South American qualifying competition for the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™ is about to enter a slightly confusing phase.

The previously postponed Matchday 6 takes place on Sunday, followed by Matchday 10 on Thursday, which will actually mark the halfway stage of the 18-game campaign, given that Matchday 5 has been rescheduled to October.

The first half of the competition has been dominated by continental superpowers Brazil and Argentina. As for the rest of the field, inconsistency has been the name of the game. Ecuador are tucked in three points behind the top two, followed by Uruguay in fourth, though only five points separate La Celeste from bottom-placed Venezuela.

The fixtures

Matchday 6: Sunday 5 September (local time) Brazil-Argentina (16:00) Ecuador-Chile (16:00) Uruguay-Bolivia (19:00) Paraguay-Colombia (18:00) Peru-Venezuela (20:00) Matchday 10: Thursday 9 September (local time) Uruguay-Ecuador (19:30) Paraguay-Venezuela (18:30) Colombia-Chile (18:00) Argentina-Bolivia (20:30) Brazil-Peru (21:30) Brazil cruising, Argentina hoping to apply the brakes With seven successive wins to their name, Brazil have made the best ever start to the South American qualifiers since the current format was adopted for the France 1998 preliminaries. They lie six points clear of second-placed Argentina, who are also unbeaten – a first for them at this stage of the competition – and who travel to Brazil on Sunday. A Brazilian victory would put them in an almost unassailable position.

La Albiceleste go into the game in excellent form and should they inflict a first defeat on Brazil and then see off Bolivia at home, they will smooth their path to Qatar 2022 considerably.

Paraguay's David Martinez (L) and Ecuador's Byron Castillo vie for the ball during their South American qualification football match for the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 at the Rodrigo Paz Delgado Stadium in Quito on September 2, 2021. (Photo by Dolores Ochoa / POOL / AFP) (Photo by DOLORES OCHOA/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

The search for consistency Also on the bill on these next two matchdays are a number of crucial mid-table encounters.

Ecuador’s 2-0 defeat of Paraguay on Thursday has given them some breathing space in third and will see them stay in the top five regardless of results on Sunday, when they entertain Chile. La Tri finish the double-header away to Uruguay.

Currently fifth, Colombia make a Sunday trip to Paraguay, who have lost momentum after a good start, and then host the Chileans, the second away day in a row for a Roja side struggling to stay in contention.

Colombia's Daniel Munoz (L) and Bolivia's Roberto Carlos Fernandez vie for the ball during their South American qualification football match for the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 at the Hernando Siles Olympic Stadium in La Paz on September 2, 2021. (Photo by Javier MAMANI / POOL / AFP) (Photo by JAVIER MAMANI/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

No margin for error Bolivia are tied on six points with Chile but face daunting visits to Montevideo and Buenos Aires, two places where they have never won a World Cup qualifying match. Nevertheless, they are unbeaten in four, a stat that will give them some hope.

If Peru, who lie one place off the bottom, are to bounce back, this could be their chance, with last-placed Venezuela paying them a visit on Sunday. The Peruvians then have to go to leaders Brazil, but what better way to show some character than getting a result in the backyard of the five-time world champions?

La Vinotinto, who are looking for a full-time coach, have a visit to Paraguay to contend with after their Peru trip, hardly the kind of fixtures they need at a time when both performances and results are proving elusive.

Peru's Renato Tapia shoots to score against Uruguay during the South American qualification football match for the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 at the National Stadium in Lima on September 2, 2021. (Photo by Daniel APUY / POOL / AFP) (Photo by DANIEL APUY/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

The stats

59 - The number of home World Cup qualifying matches Brazil have gone without defeat, a run comprising 47 wins and 12 draws, one they will hope to extend against Argentina and Peru. 57 - The number of away World Cup qualifying matches Bolivia have gone without winning. Since beating Venezuela 7-1 on the road in 1993, they have drawn eight and lost 49 on their travels. Can they break that sequence in Uruguay or Argentina?