So matchday three was as sweet as ever. But there’s no time to dwell on Bolivia’s goleada, Ecuador’s 2-1 win over Uruguay, or James’ brilliant strike to make it 1-1 vs. Chile – matchday four is already upon us.
If you haven’t been following South American qualifying action, you’d be remiss not to join in on the excitement. This week is going to be as good as it gets. Here are some things to keep in mind during tomorrow’s games:
Colombia vs. Argentina
Arguably the most important game of the week. This is do-or-die stuff for La Albiceleste coach Tata Martino, who might just find himself without a job if his side fails to secure three points. Argentina is desperate for its first win of the qualifiers (they currently sit in ninth place with two points in three). How desperate? Well, the country has never made it to the World Cup finals after dropping points in its first two qualifying games. These are dire times for the boys, who are currently making do without attacking trio Lionel Messi, Sergio Agüero, and Carlos Tévez, and traveling to play Los Cafeteros will inevitably prove to be quite difficult. Add in the fact that James and co. have had an extra 24 hours to rest, plus the hype from their surprising 1-1 tie vs. Chile, and this thing looks even tougher for Argentina, who, despite dominating for much of the game against a lackluster Brazil squad, walked away with a single point.
Albiceleste faithful will be happy to hear that Gonzalo Higuaín – who missed Saturday’s training with a foot injury after the Brazil game – is fit to play. Maybe he’ll produce another dime pass like the one he sent in to set up Ezequiel Lavezzi’s goal on Thursday.
Venezuela vs. Ecuador
Ecuador is the only unbeaten, perfect team remaining in the CONMEBOL qualifiers. What more is there to say? La Tri might be the sixth-highest ranked team in the confederation, but these guys are not messing around when it comes to their qualifying campaign.
“The most important thing is that we leave it all [on the field] on Tuesday to try to get the three points and finish the year unbeaten,” said Ecuadorian goalkeeper Daniel Azcona ahead of his team’s visit to Venezuela. We’d be shocked if La Vinotinto got anything out of this one after a poor performance against Bolivia last Thursday.
Paraguay vs. Bolivia
While this one doesn’t have the star power of some of this matchday’s other fixtures, it could prove to be a partidazo. Paraguay is coming off a loss to Peru, but don’t let that erase their goal-less draw against Argentina last month. Bolivia is a point behind with three total after their 4-2 goalfest against Venezuela, and Rodrigo Ramallo might be looking to net another couple of goals tomorrow. In fact, I think I’m going for a Bolivia upset as they ride their first victory of qualifying high. They had some moments of brilliance and beautiful fútbol in that last one, so why not?
Uruguay vs. Chile
The last time these two sides met, this happened.
It’s safe to say that tension might be running a little high in the first matchup between second- and third-place Uruguay and Chile since the quarterfinals of the Copa América, when Edinson Cavani was sent off for his reaction to Gonzalo Jara sticking his finger up the forward’s backside (Jara was also retroactively suspended for the rest of the tournament).
“There are many reasons why people are excited [for this game],” Uruguay’s Alvaro González told the press. “Chile are the team that knocked us out of the Copa América, but also because of what Uruguay is doing and because we are playing against a great opponent.”
Chile (and Arsenal) fans should rejoice, for despite the difficulty of a midweek trip to Uruguay, Alexis Sánchez will be a little bit fresher after Jorge Sampaoli let him rest on Saturday. (Thank you, thank you, thank you!)
Brazil vs. Peru
Brazil’s 1-1 draw with Argentina was a pretty generous result given how badly they played. It should suffice to say that Neymar was not great, so watch for him to go off against a Peru side that’s fresh off a victory over Paraguay, thanks to this Jefferson Farfán gamewinner.
We’d be very surprised if Neymar didn’t score (at least a couple) in this one. Here we go!