Tuesday’s crazy slate of CONMEBOL World Cup Qualifiers went down to the wire, with almost every team having something to play for on the final day. That seemed to bring out the bizarre in everyone involved. For example, as Argentina started the day on the outside looking in on qualification, Brazilian and Chilean fans banded together to start a campaign for Brazil to throw their match against La Roja, in order to ruin their mutual hated rival’s chances.
Unfortunately for the Chilean side, Brazil’s actual team had no such plans, as they took care of business via a 3-0 win at home. With Argentina and Uruguay also winning their respective matches, all of Chile’s World Cup chances rested upon the outcome of Colombia’s game with Peru. Chile needed Colombia to win the game in order to oust Peru, while the Peruvians only needed to get a point and some help from Brazil to advance. That’s where things get interesting.
Colombia captain Radamel Falcao was caught on video talking animatedly to Peru’s players towards the end of the match, and El Tigre admitted on Thursday that he had a pact in mind. After seeing the result of the Chile and Brazil match–which confirmed that Peru just needed a draw to advance–he informed one of his opponents, Renato Tapia, that a draw would be enough to let both teams advance. “We knew what was happening in the other matches, we were playing with the other results and in that moment [I tried] to transmit that [to Peru],” said Falcao after the game.
Tapia confirmed this to Panamericana TV: “In the last five minutes, the Colombians approached us. They knew what the situation was in the other games. So we managed the game as we needed to… I spoke with Radamel, who told me we were both qualified, but it’s football and we play to win.”
Whether or not Peru decided to play along with Falcao’s plan is unknown, although both teams did play extremely conservatively to end the match; whether that was because of a supposed pact or just because it was smart to not open yourself up for an unnecessary counter will be argued for years to come. One thing that won’t be argued is that the 1-1 draw was enough to send Colombia through, and to send Peru to the inter-continental playoff against New Zealand.
As for Chile, there were some hurt feelings once Falcao’s conference with Peru made the viral rounds. However, despite rumors that the Chilean soccer federation would report both Peru and Colombia to FIFA for manipulating the result of the match, vice-president Andres Fazio Molina confirmed that they would take no action, telling Blu Radio on Thursday that “it is a baseless rumor, no measure will be taken against Peru and Colombia.” Instead of trying to appeal their way into the World Cup, Chile must now begin to rebuild, as its golden generation–which won back-to-back Copa Americas–begins to be phased out from the squad.