Monday, October 23, 2017

CONMEBOL World Cup Qualifiers Analysis: Who’s In, Who’s Out With Two Games Left To Play?

Juan Pablo Aravena in Editorial, World Cup 3 Oct 2017

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Several experts believe the CONMEBOL World Cup Qualifiers are the toughest ones in the world. It’s not just the fact that it features probably eight of the 40 top teams in the world. There often are extreme weather and altitude conditions that can transform every single game into a huge challenge.

There are only two games left on the schedule, so we will soon find out which teams will survive the Qualifiers to clinch a berth in the upcoming World Cup. But how do the standings look right now? Unsurprisingly, things are tough as nails.

Which Teams Have Clinched Their Berth?

With only two games left on the schedule, Brazil are the only CONMEBOL side that already clinched a berth for next year’s event. Tite’s men have demolished their competition, and already secured the top spot in the Qualifiers as well. They have 37 points in 16 matches, and are riding a 15-game undefeated streak. The one time they lost it was against Chile in the opener in Santiago.

Teams On The Verge

Uruguay and Colombia should clinch berths in the tournament as well. Los Celestes sit second with 27 points and their two remaining fixtures (Venezuela away and Bolivia at home) should not be much of a challenge. Barring an epic collapse, Washington Tabarez’s men should find themselves playing in Russia next year. Once again Edinson Cavani and Luis Suarez have led the way for them.

As for Colombia, Los Cafeteros will host Paraguay and visit Peru in the final two matches. Securing the three points against La Albirroja would be enough to clinch a WC berth, and that sounds like a feasible outcome. Several Colombia players are on a good run of form at the moment, and Radamel Falcao started the season on fire for AS Monaco. Just like Uruguay, Jose Pekerman’s team would have to suffer an epic meltdown to not secure their place in the World Cup next year.

Teams On The Bubble

This is where things get tricky. Peru, Argentina, Chile, Paraguay and Ecuador remain alive, but these five teams will essentially compete for 1 1/2 spots. One will punch a direct ticket to Russia, another one will play against New Zealand, and the other three will be eliminated. But which team has the edge?

Contenders

Surprisingly, Peru have the “easier path” here. They will play against Argentina (a team that been a massive disappointment considering the strength of their squad) in Buenos Aires, but their final match will be against Colombia at home. Colombia could easily find themselves qualified for that game, and Peru have been impressive at home of late with a 4W 2D 2L mark during the current qualifying phase. Knowing they have the edge on points and goals scored over Argentina, Peru have big chances to return to the World Cup after a 36-year absence.

Argentina need to win against Peru in order to not complicate themselves too much. But what happens if that is not the case? Well, in that scenario, they would have to travel to Ecuador to fight for the playoff berth. Ecuador could be out of the WC race by the time the match comes on October 10. However, Argentina tend to struggle when playing in Quito. After all, Estadio Olimpico is located at 2,787 meters above sea level. And Argentina tend to struggle when playing on altitude conditions. They absolutely need to win against Peru and hope for a draw (or loss) in Chile’s game against Ecuador. Otherwise, they will play not only against Ecuador and the altitude, but themselves as well in the final game of the Qualifiers.

Chile might have won the Copa America in back-to-back years and are coming off a second-place finish in the 2017 Confederations Cup. But the team lost their past two games, and now sit in sixth place. They still depend on themselves since Argentina and Peru have to face each other, but their scenario is far from ideal. La Roja needs to win over Ecuador at home (in a result that would eliminate Ecuador) and then they MUST get something out of their game against Brazil away. There is a chance they still qualify with only a win against Ecuador, but they should not play that card. Just like Argentina, this is a team that should have puched their ticket a while ago. But now it is quite likely that one of the two will be out of the tournament.

Pretenders

Paraguay and Ecuador have mathematical chances of making it to the playoff round. But if we are being realistic, then both teams have a slim chance to actually clinch a berth on the tournament.

Paraguay are three points behind the playoff zone, and will face Colombia (away) and Venezuela (home) in their final two games. They need to win at least one of the two games to have a shot. But that might not be enough. The most likely scenario is that Paraguay will need to win both games solely to make it to the playoff tie against New Zealand. And even that might not be enough.

Ecuador are on an even tougher spot. They started the Qualifiers as one of the top teams with four straight wins, but have crumbled ever since. Los Amarillos only have eight points over their last 12 matches, and sit four points behind the playoff zone. In fact, a loss against Chile (away) on Thursday would eliminate them automatically. And winning there seems quite complicated, as the team recently changed their manager and the squad lacks firepower and experience. All signs indicate they are beginning to plan the road to Qatar 2022 in this next two games.

Already Eliminated

Bolivia and Venezuela were eliminated a while ago. However, they have a huge chance of playing spoiler in the next two games. Bolivia play against Brazil at home, and Uruguay away. Their two games might not matter much, honestly. Brazil are already qualified, and there is a chance Uruguay clinch their berth before facing Los Altiplanicos. But Venezuela could certainly play a role in the final two games.

Rafael Dudamel’s men will host Uruguay and visit Paraguay. Both teams have qualifying aspirations, although it would not be a shocker if Paraguay are already eliminated by the time they take on Los Llaneros. That is pure speculation, though.

The one thing that is clear is that the CONMEBOL World Cup Qualifiers have not disappointed anyone. And we should be in line for two thrilling matchweeks starting this Thursday.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Juan Pablo Aravena


A freelance writer and sports analyst with almost five years of experience in the industry before joining SoccerNews, Juan Pablo Aravena is based in Chile and currently contributes to several publications and websites including SoccerNews, 12up, and Sports From The Basement, while also working as a fantasy beat writer for RotoWire, as a database editor for EA Sports, and as a football analyst for SmartOdds and InsideFutbol. His areas of focus are Serie A, Bundesliga, Premier League, LaLiga, and Ligue 1, but he has also written about MLS and South American football in the past.

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