South American Qualifiers Roundup: Argentina Needs Messi Real Bad, Ecuador Continues to Own

Read more

Wow. I think it’s safe to say that CONMEBOL match day two exceeded our expectations, starting and ending in absolutely epic fashion. Here is how the table stands after two games:

We started the afternoon in Quito on a pitch that looked more like a laguna:

Counterattacks were often stopped by standing water, but it didn’t matter – both teams continued to press on and provide us with a fantastic and exciting match. We even got our fair share of Toño memes in the process:

Bolivia hit a rocket off the post in the first half, but La Verde was only able to hold off the Tricolor attack for so long; Miller Bolaños finally broke through in the 81st:

Felipe Caicedo also converted from the penalty spot in extra time, but it’s worth mentioning that Daniel Vaca had a stellar game in goal for Bolivia, regardless of the scoreline; some preemptively declared that he might even become “the best goalie of the qualifiers.”

Ecuador’s 2-0 win was followed by a highly anticipated matchup between Uruguay and Colombia. Perhaps somewhat surprisingly, the former rocked the visitors. Los Cafeteros suffered a 3-0 defeat despite maintaining 66 percent possession and ending even on shot attempts and shots on target.

The man who got the scoring going? Diego Godín, of course, because who else is going to get us underway without Suárez and Cavani? If you find a man more prolific with his head off corners, please let me know (Hint: you won’t. He’s a beast).

Diego Rolán scored in the 51st, followed by a strike from Hull City’s Abel Hernández in the 89th to seal the deal. 3-0.

The moment we were all waiting for upon the final whistle? An excited Suárez selfie, of course.

The next match is hard for me to even talk about. Once again, I put all my eggs in one basket and bet on an Argentine goleada. Not only did Lavezzi, Pastore, Di María, and Carlitos fail to produce said goleada, they failed to score a single goal.

Remember that time Argentina beat Paraguay 6-1 in the Copa América semis a few months ago? Yeah, yesterday’s 0-0 result wasn’t even remotely reminiscent of that.

Some fans highlighted the Mascherano-Kranevitter pairing as the only positive to take away from Tata Martino’s side. “Some” fans. The majority are totally questioning Tata’s tactics.

One point and zero goals in their first two World Cup qualifiers? Can you even imagine? Di María was close to start the second half, and Paulo Dybala came even closer in the closing minutes, but they just couldn’t get the job done.

Paraguay’s efforts shouldn’t be downplayed, either. They had chances. Unfortunately, Zabaleta was there to throw his body in the way.

Do we even need to say it? Argentina misses Messi. A lot.

Brazil’s homecoming probably wasn’t as warm as Dunga would have hoped (he was greeted with a plethora of boos at an empty Castelão stadium), but Willian did his thing; his brace led the way in a straightforward 3-1 win over Venezuela.

Willian was impressive – as much as it truly pains me to talk about a Chelsea player in a positive light – scoring a blast less than 40 seconds into the game and adding a second in the 41st. Venezuela was able to get one back despite a lack of composure and possession (proving that dead ball situations will be crucial for their qualifying campaign). Christian Santos was in the right place at the right time to score in his Vinotinto debut:

Ricardo Oliveira sealed the deal for the Canarinho with this header in the 74th:

Finally, the moment we’ve all been waiting for: Chile. I flicked the game on in the seventh minute and guess what happened? Alexis scored. It was sensational. Peak Alexis. As if he knew I was watching, praying for him to escape unharmed and unaffected by the FIFA virus so that he’ll be ready do the same against Watford this weekend for my beloved Gunners.

I thought the goal fest would start then and there, and it did, but not in the way that I expected. Peru was next to find the back of the net, with Jefferson Farfán beating Claudio Bravo near post just two minutes later.

Christian Cueva then suffered an unfortunate lapse in judgment, receiving a direct red card for his nonsensical decision to literally throw the ball at Jorge Valdivia’s face after being called for a foul. WTF?

For the majority of the first half, it appeared as though Peru was a man up rather than 10-men versus La Roja. They kept pressing and pressing until…penalty! Farfán struck again! But La Blanquirroja’s efforts were futile, as Eduardo Vargas slammed home a beautifully-placed ball by Valdivia and Alexis once again proved that he is not human by completed a first-half brace in the 45th. Vargas completed a brace of his own in the 49th, and Chile won 4-3. Awesome. And you know what? I can honestly say that for one of the very first times, these qualifiers are making me a little bit excited for international breaks.