Initially of final month South America had solely obtained via a 3rd of its marathon 2022 World Cup qualification marketing campaign. By the top of subsequent week, two thirds may have been accomplished. The motion goes forward at breakneck tempo, pushed by the controversial triple headers — three video games per spherical as an alternative of two — and this time it is with the authorised participation of gamers from England‘s Premier League.
True, the golf equipment are grumbling in regards to the third of the three matches, which is able to make it inconceivable for his or her extremely paid stars to be again in time for league motion on Saturday week. However the quarantine challenge, which was such a vexing topic final month, appears to have been solved. On their return to England absolutely vaccinated gamers will likely be allowed out of quarantine to coach and to play for his or her golf equipment.
Over the following few days, although, the main target is on what they do for his or her nationwide groups. Spherical 10 of 18 takes place on Thursday and each Brazil and Argentina have a sport in hand — the consequence of final month’s farce the place their conflict was halted early by Brazilian well being officers. FIFA have but to determine what to do with that sport, however when it comes to qualification it hardly issues: Brazil have a 100% file and 24 factors, when 28 has at all times been sufficient for an automated qualification slot. Argentina have 18, and loads of time to choose up sufficient factors to get them over the road.
Basically the remainder of the marketing campaign for the massive two is an prolonged gown rehearsal for the World Cup, an opportunity to take a look at choices as they construct a crew for Qatar. Though they path Brazil by six factors, Argentina look additional down the road on this activity, with a set mannequin of play and confidence boosted by the Copa America triumph on their rivals’ turf in July.
Dropping the Copa at residence has put strain on Brazil coach Tite, and even together with his facet successful all their qualifiers they haven’t reproduced the fashionable swagger of his golden first 18 months in cost in 2016-17. Some in Brazilian soccer, just like the legendary Romario, are brazenly arguing for Tite to get replaced, so there isn’t a house to chill out regardless that the crew are so near the ending line.
From the viewpoint of the opposite international locations, all of that is not more than the issues of the wealthy. Everybody else is scrambling round for factors and this tenth spherical options two direct confrontations — one increased up the desk, the opposite a bit of decrease down.
The previous is the conflict between Uruguay and Colombia, the match that kicks off Thursday’s motion. Uruguay are third; Colombia are two locations behind, within the playoff place, trailing fourth-placed Ecuador on aim distinction. There may be historical past between the 2: Within the 2002, 2006 and 2010 campaigns they ended up disputing the playoff spot, which went to Uruguay on slim margins. Each have made it via to the final two World Cups; each might nicely make it via once more this time as they’re unbeaten in 5 video games (which, within the case of Colombia, is the complete reign of coach Reinaldo Rueda).
Again in 2019 when Oscar Washington Tabarez’s Uruguay gained 3-0 in Colombia their opponents had been nonetheless underneath Carlos Queiroz. Rueda, a methodical supervisor, has steadied the ship. However within the extended absence of James Rodriguez, does he have sufficient real invention and high quality? Can the gifted Juan Fernando Quintero fill the void? Is 35-year-old centre-forward Radamel Falcao again to his greatest? He has but to begin a sport on this marketing campaign however, with three targets in 4 video games for brand new membership Rayo Vallecano in LaLiga this season, would possibly Montevideo be his second?
Uruguay have the previous agency of Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani again in harness — the final World Cup qualifier they performed collectively was that 3-0 win over Colombia in 2019, when each had been on the right track. Will Tabarez begin them each? Or will he take a look at different methods, such because the 4-3-3 which he has used with some success whereas one or each of his strike pair have been lacking?
Getting the steadiness proper is significant for each groups they usually have a tricky few days forward.
Within the different two rounds, Uruguay journey to Argentina after which Brazil; Colombia host Brazil and Ecuador. This triple header might launch both Uruguay or Colombia to the brink of qualification, or ship them again down into the dogfight.
Peru are in seventh place, 5 factors off the tempo; Chile are some extent behind them. One in every of these international locations would possibly have the ability to make a dart and get into the qualification locations, nevertheless it appears to be like inconceivable for each of them to do it. It’s a case of now or by no means.
Chile have gone six video games and not using a win and their solely triumph within the marketing campaign to this point was a 2-0 victory over Peru in Santiago. Each targets got here from Arturo Vidal and, so as to add to Chile’s woes, he sits out this match via suspension. There have been some promising indicators from Peru final month. Simply as they did across the 2016 Copa Centenario, they’ll hope that some pleasing performances within the latest Copa America can kick begin their marketing campaign and ship them via to a second consecutive World Cup, however there may be a number of floor to make up.
There will likely be much more if fourth-placed Ecuador can win at residence to second-from-bottom Bolivia. This can be a assembly of the altitude specialists. Certainly, Bolivia have left lots of their big 53-man squad in La Paz for the 2 residence video games developing, the place something lower than most factors will certainly finish their hopes. With only one win of their final 5 matches, Ecuador have been dropping some priceless residence factors. For this sport they’ve taken the bizarre step of leaving their mountain fortress in Quito and as an alternative are taking the Bolivians all the way down to sea degree at Guayaquil. There may be loads at stake. Something lower than a win will likely be an enormous jolt to Ecuador’s confidence and with two away video games to observe they’d run the chance of ending the triple header exterior the qualification slots. However three factors on Thursday ought to enhance their place.
That’s as a result of Paraguay — the primary crew exterior the qualification slots — are at residence to in-form Argentina. The Paraguayans have been sturdy, dropping simply twice (solely the unbeaten pair of Brazil and Argentina have accomplished higher), however they’ve solely gained two video games — each towards Venezuela. It’s arduous to see the place they will seize sufficient targets to haul themselves into consideration, although not less than they will rely on the return of Miguel Almiron, whose tempo ought to fear the Argentina defence.
Venezuela, in the meantime, are nonetheless with out Salomon Rondon for the go to of Brazil. A lot of their attacking technique is determined by the Everton centre-forward, however for one purpose or one other he has missed virtually all of this ill-fated marketing campaign. Rondon has solely been current for 2 video games: a creditable 1-0 loss away to Brazil, and the 2-1 overcome Chile, the place he scored the winner. It’s the solely victory Venezuela have recorded to this point, and it will be a significant shock if the second was to return towards the Brazilians.
However there may be some cheer for the Venezuelans. Neymar is suspended and Casemiro has needed to pull out with a fever. Brazil, then, are with out the gamers that Tite dubs his technical chief and his aggressive chief. Can Venezuela take benefit? Can the underside facet convey down the crew on the prime? Or will the Brazilian juggernaut roll on, successfully reserving their place in Qatar after simply 9 video games out of 18?
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