It’s been an incredible last two months of qualifying in South America as places have been played with, manager sacked, a player retiring and a national team taking preparations to whole other level.
It’s that drama that makes CONMEBOL qualifying the best and most savage around the world as it looks like one of the big guns of South American football may miss out.
As it stands now Chile sit in sixth place, a daunting position which takes them out of qualifying for Russia. However, if we zoom in, they are only one point behind fifth place Argentina and one point away from Peru in fourth.
After two horrific results in the last round of qualifiers (3-0 loss to Paraguay and 1-0 loss to Bolivia) coach Juan Antonio Pizzi could not be in a worse position with growing angst around Chilean people that he is and never was the man to take the two-time Copa America Champions to Russia. Squad selection has been at the top of the lips of Chileans and journalists as it was this morning as he released his squad for the final two matches against Ecuador and Brazil.
Pizzi did not select Chile’s engine and veteran in midfield, Marcelo Diaz which caused quite the furore on social media. Moreover, Pizzi has failed to call players from Chile’s domestic competition. Jaime ‘El Pajarito’ Valdés has been on fire for Santiago powerhouse ‘Colo Colo’.
This team seems lost in transition upfront with Alexis Sanchez failing to produce top performances and so to Arturo Vidal who opened the scoring for Paraguay with an own-goal.
Chile need nothing less than victories over Ecuador and Brazil to qualify for Russia and also the worst thing in football, they will have a calculator on the other hand as results in Argentina and Peru are critical to the qualifying process. Given Chile could either jump Argentina and Peru (am I dreaming?) the possibility of finishing one place higher (sixth) an intercontinental play-off against New Zealand awaits.
Chile goalkeeper Claudio Bravo seemed to have reacted to the axing of Marcelo Diaz with a tweet:
Who would have thought we would be thinking or coming to terms with a World Cup without Messi? I mean, it is possible and I am not being a pessimist. We thought and many Argentines alike, bringing in Jorge Sampaoli was a call to the Gods given what he did with Chile but, as we have seen the albiceleste are struggling.
Sitting fifth does not mean the world is ending and given they stay there qualifying for the World Cup is a step away…or a long plane trip to New Zealand in a play-off match.
The whole point is however, Argentina should have never gotten to his point. They, with the quality and depth of squad Sampaoli is able to conjure should be behind Brazil well…
Argentina failed to collect maximum points in the last round of qualifiers with a 0-0 draw away in Uruguay, Montevideo and at home after a 1-1 draw against Venezuela. Selection is a tough job for Sampaoli especially upfront as he has gone with Inter Milan’s Mauro Icardi ahead of Sergio Aguero who is in freighting form for Manchester City with six goals across all competitions after the international break. Sadly though Aguero is injured after being involved in a car accident in Amsterdam injuring his ribs. Reports are he will miss two months. Gonzalo Higuain however was not selected due to his poor form with Juventus even though the Argentine opened the scoring in their Champions League match against Olympiacos on Wednesday.
Argentina play a crucial match at home against fourth place Peru at the historic and intimidating Bombonera stadium. Funnily enough in the same stadium and same fixture Peru beat Argentina leaving them out of a World Cup
The fairy tale story of qualifying right now is Peru sitting in fourth, automatic World Cup qualifying is two matches away for Peru who by no means have lucked their way into the top four. This team drilled by Ricardo Gareca have reached this milestone by their own means.
After qualifying campaigns after qualifying campaigns Peru have finally reached their heights they and the country deserve. Los Incas have come close recently but now as they look down on Argentina and Peru they can taste.
The Peruvian football Association realised just how close they are to reaching Russia that they decided to call the international break early and put the players into camp before any other nation in the world. A move that should set a precedent to every nation out there.
There are a number of players both past and present that deserve to go to the World Cup with Paolo Guerrero who’s bulldog like approach, passion and goals he brings when he wears the jersey, Claudio Pizzaro who has flown the Peruvian colours all the way to Germany hitting the heights Werder Bremen and Bayern Munich and veteran and most capped player Roberto Palacios.
Putting behind the wonderful story that is Peru they travel to Argentina in a mouth-watering fixture at the Bombonera. Oddly enough the Peruvian FA went to FIFA to change the location of their fixture saying it would be difficult to ensure the safety of the Peruvian football association and also the safety of thousands of fans who are making the trip to Buenos Aires. However, their bid failed and the match will be played in there. It may seem like a double-edged sword; an intimidating close stadium with Peru hoping for a win and hoping for a draw as both results would are beneficial for Los Incas and for Argentina it’s a win or a win as home crowd pressure will be out of this world, pressure we have seen the albiceleste find difficult to control.
In other news Ecuador have fired former coach Quinteros after a failed qualifying campaign which sees La Tri in eighth position. Following Quinteros’ sacking Ecuador striker Felipe Caicedo took to Twitter saying the sacking of Quinteros was unfair, hating the situation Caicedo who sits second on CONMBEL WCQ top goal scorer called it quits with the National Team. Interim coach Jorge Celico is in charge for the final two matches against Chile (A) and Argentina (H)
Brazil were left to replace Felipe Luis who injured his thigh. Jorge of Monaco will replace Luis.
The final round of matches will ALL be played at the same time.
Aguero injured after car accident in Amsterdam injuring ribs