Derbies and crunch games aplenty in South America
Three matchdays coming up in the CONMEBOL Zone
Brazil in command, chasing pack jostling for position
No margin for error for teams in the bottom half
South American qualifying for the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™ could reach a turning point over the next few days, with three matchdays including the previously postponed Matchday 5. The 15 games on the card include three derbies, two of them involving Uruguay. FIFA.com looks ahead to South America’s make-or-break triple-header.
Thursday, 7 October
Sunday, 10 October
Thursday, 14 October
Brazil, Argentina lead the way
Though Brazil have a comfortable lead at the top, they do have two tricky assignments ahead: a trip to Colombia and a home game against Uruguay, who invariably provide tough opposition, even if the Brazilians have won the last two qualifying meetings between the pair. Before that, A Seleção take on struggling Venezuela, who will be hampered by the absences of Salomon Rondon and Jefferson Savarino. Second-placed Argentina are on a fine run of form but will need to be watchful with Paraguay, Uruguay and Peru lying in wait. While La Albiceleste will be at home for the last two of those games, La Celeste are on the up and La Blanquirroja have the potential to improve on their current position in the table. Facing a home game against Colombians and clashes with their Argentinian and Brazilian neighbours, the Uruguayans will need all their trademark grit and determination in the days ahead. Three good results could set them well on the way to qualification. Though Uruguay are no strangers to bad results in October, they will be boosted by the returns of Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani, who were both sidelined in September.
Ecuador occupy the last of the four direct qualification places, ahead of Colombia on goal difference, and will be licking their lips at the prospect of a visit from Bolivia and a trip to Venezuela, respectively ninth and tenth in the table. After that comes a potentially decisive meeting with Los Cafeteros in Barranquilla. Colombia are anxiously awaiting that encounter, and not just because of their position in the table, having crashed to a 6-1 defeat in Quito earlier in the competition. Prior to that, however, comes an away day in Uruguay and a home game with Brazil. Though the Colombians will be without the injured Miguel Borja – their leading goalscorer in the preliminaries – for this crucial triple-header, they will be heartened by the return of Duvan Zapata. Paraguay, whose inconsistent form has left them sixth and out of the qualification places, entertain Argentina before visits to Chile and Bolivia, both of which will be stern tests, regardless of what the current standings suggest. La Albirroja welcome back Miguel Almiron, who should give them more of a cutting edge in attack.
Though Peru showed signs of recovery in September, they need to back it up with a big result or two, which could come at home to Chile and away to Argentina. In between comes a trip to Bolivia, where they are unbeaten in two having registered a win and a draw. If they are to make Qatar 2022, La Blanquirroja need to replicate or even improve on the second half of their successful Russia 2018 qualification campaign. Chile’s needs are even greater. Winless in six, they will be without Arturo Vidal, their top scorer so far, for El Clásico del Pacífico in Peru. Currently eighth and six points adrift of the play-off spot, La Roja are the first of three teams who have no margin for error left. Home wins against Paraguay and Venezuela will be needed if they are to stay in the race. Bolivia have three games at altitude to look forward to, a familiar scenario for them. First comes an excursion to Quito to play Ecuador, followed by home games in La Paz against Peru and Paraguay. La Verde will need all their expertise in such conditions and the goals of Marcelo Moreno Martins if they are to turn things around. Like Chile, they have no option but to take all six home points on offer.
The outlook is bleak to say the least for Venezuela, who will also be without several key players. Though the first two of their three upcoming games are at home, they kick off with a visit from Brazil, who have won all eight of their qualifying matches in Venezuela. La Vinotinto’s last game of the triple-header is a trip to Chile, where they have picked up only four points out of a possible 21 in the past.
22 The number of games Argentina have gone without defeat – a run that stretches back to July 2019 and a 2-0 Copa America semi-final loss to Brazil. In World Cup qualifying matches they are unbeaten in 12, since a 2-0 defeat to Bolivia in La Paz in March 2017. 48 The number of years since Colombia’s one and only World Cup qualifying win in Uruguay: a 1-0 victory in July 1973, with the iconic Willington Ortiz the goalscorer. Colombia’s record in the fixture since then reads two draws and five defeats, the last four of them consecutive. 3 The number of successive wins Chile have recorded over Peru in El Clásico del Pacífico, a sequence that started with a 4-3 victory in Lima on October 2015. Chile’s other two qualifying wins on Peruvian soil came in 1985 (1-0) and 2009 (3-1).