Match day one of CONMEBOL World Cup qualifiers blew our minds. After a gameweek filled with surprise losses and incredible storylines, this is how the table currently stands:
Thank god we’re back in action today, with our favorite boys set to take the pitch for their countries for match day two. Something tells me that this might be a round of defeats and massively one-sided victories to make up for complacency and first round upsets, but I’m pretty wary of putting all of my eggs in one basket again after Argentina-Ecuador.
Ecuador vs. Bolivia
Ecuador will face Bolivia at home fresh off their spectacular, historic 2-0 win against Argentina. Bolivia’s first round didn’t go as well, as La Verde suffered a 2-0 loss to Uruguay despite lots of possession and a few solid opportunities. The last time these two met was at Copa América this past June, with Bolivia as the victors in a tight 2-3 match (yes, they did almost blow a three-goal lead).
Paraguay vs. Argentina
The above statistic is pretty unbelievable: a team that lost its first World Cup qualifier at home has never gone on to qualify for the competition. Will Argentina be the first, or is La Albiceleste destined for failure this time around?
Paraguay pulled off a huge 1-0 win over Venezuela in game week one with Dynamo Kyiv’s Derlis González netting the lone goal, but it’s a Messi-less Argentina that’s been making headlines. Carlos Tévez was recently quoted saying that “qualifiers are different and it became clear on Thursday that they are harder than a Copa América match or a friendly. On Thursday there was a lack of attitude. That is what we talked about. The team did not show up at any time and that is what most worries us.” What’s clear is that something needs to change – Carlitos, Zabaleta, and Lavezzi could take on more significant roles this time around. Regardless of my prediction disaster last week, I’m throwing caution to the wind and betting on an Argentina goleada in this one. Come on Ángelito Di María!
Brazil vs. Venezuela
Brazil is hoping for a sweet welcome home against Venezuela after falling 2-0 away to Chile in their first qualifying match. They will once again be forced to do so without their star, as Neymar is set to sit out the final match of his suspension (this seems like a theme against Venezuela this year; the Canarinho defeated La Vinotinto 2-1 without Neymar in the Copa América this past June). David Luiz will also be absent after suffering a knee injury over the weekend.
Peru vs. Chile
Would I ever bet against Alexis Sánchez? Nope, probably (definitely) not. So, it goes without saying that I’ll be hoping for another Chile victory tomorrow. Nothing against Peru, the Chilean side has just gained so much of my respect for their professionalism, unrivaled work ethic, and generally fantastic play.
Inter midfielder Gary Medel has urged his teammates not to get complacent ahead of the match: “We are the champions of South America, but we have to earn respect. We have to keep our feet on the ground and play well in order to qualify for Russia. We have a responsibility to the people. We want to finish among the top places and give the people a reason to cheer. I hope that we play even better than against Brazil. The game is not about revenge for Peru for their loss at the Copa América.”
The last time the two met was in the semifinals of Copa América. La Roja fought its way to a 2-1 win.
Uruguay vs. Colombia
By far the flashiest matchup of the second round – despite missing Suárez, Cavani, and James – this is going to be a partidazo, te lo juro. Los Cafeteros have struggled at the Estadio Centenario in World Cup qualifying – they’ve only won once in eight trips over the past 42 years, and that was back in 1974 – so they’ll be extra eager to reverse their luck. Uruguay, on the other hand, will look to maintain their offensive output without their star strikers. You know they can too, because who else has as potent defenders as Cáceres and Godín?