The penultimate round of South America’s World Cup qualifiers had all the drama the world is used as only two teams scored and recorded victories. However, it was the goal-less draws that turned the CONMEBOL Russia 2018 standings on it’s head.
It was a relatively frustrating game for second place Uruguay who could only play out a 0-0 draw against a resilient last placed Venezuelan team. Oddly enough, Uruguay failed to secure an automatic place to Russia leaving their fate of reaching Russia in God’s hands or moreover, in the hands of a Bolivian side who travel to Montevideo full of confidence after 0-0 draw against already qualified Brazil. Luis Suarez and his men know any slip up at home could cost them an automatic place in Russia as only two points separate second and fourth with Chile and Colombia needing victories to also secure their seats on the plane. Nonetheless, Oscar Tabarez and his men are virtually already qualified for Russia as only a defeat to Bolivia (which seems unlikely) will leave their hopes hanging in the balance.
Argentina on the other hand, find themselves in a meticulous position as La Albiceleste currently sit sixth with the reality of not reaching a World Cup looming. History plays a huge part in this final round of qualifying for Jorge Sampaoli and his troops as they travel to Quito, Ecuador to face a rejuvenated young squad who just fell short against Chile losing 2-1 at the death.
Argentina have only failed to not qualify once before for a World Cup back in 1970 with that seeming to be a possibility in 2017, Argentina need to also break the Ecuadorian hoodoo that haunts them as La Albiceleste have not recorded a victory in Quito, Ecuador in 16 years. As mounting media pressure on the shoulders of this seleccion rises along with the stakes, the afterthought of Lionel Messi failing to qualifying for, in theory, his final World Cup is playing on the mind of millions who dream to watch him on the World stage win the final trophy missing on his trophy case. The mental pressure plagued on this national is immense; losing 2014 World Cup Final, 2015 Copa America Final and 2016 Copa America Centenario Final alongside three coaches in three years; Tata Martino, Bauza and now Sampaoli. The world only knows one Argentina the one who makes teams tremble just looking at the line-up, the Argentina who’s pitbull-like approach off and off the ball, the interplay, the goals scored, the goals kept out and most of al the individual brilliance of players that turns games and turns new pages of history of Argentine football. That Argentina needs to be win. That Argentina needs to take it’s people to the World Cup. The people that matter.
Jorge Sampaoli finds himself with more selection dilemmas as Fernando Gago ruptured his ACL five minutes into his substitution and up front as Dario Benedetto left scoreless and more cries for Paulo Dybala to feature in this crucial match in Ecuador.
La Roja are drawing inspiration from the past to motivate them as they face a tough trip away to Brazil on the final match-day of qualification. Juan Antonio Pizzi and his men rallied out 2-1 winners against a vibrant Ecuador side in the final five minutes thanks to an Alexis Sanchez goal.
Roberto ‘Condor’ Rojas is just one of the legends who paid a visit to the national team of the eve their do or die match against the verdeamarela. Condor Rojas believes Chile will qualify, “Chile needs to worry just about Chile and not be worried about what is happening with other results.” La Roja legend was not holding back as he finds the situation the national team finds itself in only their fault. “Chile are here because of the results against Paraguay and then Bolivia.”
Another Chilean heavyweight visited the dressing rooms, Marcelo Salas who believes when Brazil are frustrated on the pitch is when they begin to play more. ‘El Matador’ also touched on the topic of Brazil letting itself lose against Chile so Argentina are left out of the World Cup:
“From what people are talking about here [Brazil] the taxi drivers say they want Brazil to lose so Argentina are eliminated. They’re the comments being made by everyone.”
Pizzi, in the match versus Ecuador lost midfielder Arturo Vidal through accumulated yellow cards and called Esteban Pavez into the national team and is also racing against the clock on the fitness of Bayern Leverkusen midfielder Charles Aranguiz.
With a victory La Roja will qualify for their third straight World Cup, if they draw and Peru-Colombia draw they will also qualify however, things do get complicated if Chile draw and Argentina win and so too Peru the play-offs beckon.
Los Blanquirojos’ fairy tale rise up the CONMEBOL World Cup qualifying standings have been nothing short of a surprise. Ricardo Gareca’s men have always been recognised as a force to be respected. With a star studded line up, Peru have taken advantage of the downfalls made by Chile and Argentina. Today, Peru find themselves a victory away from qualifying for their first World Cup appearance in 35 years.
After going away to Argentina and having to change to the intimidating Bombonera stadium, Peru walked away with a positive 0-0 draw against La Albiceleste. A match that could have gone both ways with Jefferson Farfan who skewed his shot past the near post and at the death as Paolo Guerrero’s bullet free-kick was saved by Sergio Romero.
The final match for Peru will be played at home in Lima in front of a full, loud, passionate crowd who owe it all to their national team for letting their country believe and dream amidst tough economic and social times. On the other hand though, it was time for the national team to give back to the past players of the failed 1982 World Cup campaign and past like Cubillas and Gallardo who took Peru to the highest of heights back in the day. There is nothing more difficult than beating a squad who are 90 minutes away from defying all the odds placed on them from match-day of qualifying. This team know the stakes that are on the line and know deep down they can do it. After goal-keeper, Gallese and his performance to keep Messi out and Benedetto he knows he can keep fly scoring Radamel Falcao out too. Colombia will enter a very hostile stadium as they too need to, somehow get a victory or draw to secure automatic qualification or a play-off spot.
Jefferson Farfan is out.
All final World Cup qualifying matches will played at the same time:
Wednesday, 10th October at 10:30am AEST