That Argentina is in danger of failing to qualify for the World Cup in 2018 will come as something of a shock to those not following South American qualification. Finalists in the last World Cup and the last two Copa America’s, it’s unthinkable that they wouldn’t be represented in Russia in two years time, but that is the fate they face unless form improves dramatically.
eleven matches into an eighteen-game qualification group, Argentina are in 6th place. The top four qualify automatically and the 5th place side enters an inter-confederation play-off, so there is considerable work to do for a squad that boasts the talents of Messi, Di Maria, Higuain and Aguero. On Tuesday night they are scheduled to play a ‘must-win’ home game against Colombia and are worthy of support to get the result they need.
Messi cut a forlorn figure at the end of last week’s 3-0 defeat to Brazil, but there are no such problems for his Barcelona teammate Neymar. The talented playmaker scored in that match which was Brazil’s fifth consecutive win and put them top of the standings ahead of Uruguay. They face a tricky away game in Peru in the small hours of Wednesday morning (GMT), but are expected to come away with another three points en route to qualification.
Meanwhile Uruguay, who have also had an exemplary campaign so far, travel to Chile for a match that could put them in a very strong position to qualify.
Argentina v Colombia
As things stand Colombia occupy third place in the CONMEBOL standings with 18 points. Brazil and Uruguay are slightly out of touching distance with 24 and 23 points respectively, but Ecuador and Chile are breathing down Colombian necks with 17 points. Argentina are back in 6th place with 16 points, and anything less than a victory here would see the other sides pull further away.
A run of nine consecutive wins across World Cup qualifiers, friendlies and Copa America matches was brought to an abrupt end with defeat on penalties to Chile in the Copa final. The failure to win a third final in a row prompted Leo Messi to hand in his internationaal retirement, but he was quickly persuaded otherwise and returned to score the only goal of the game in the next qualifier against Uruguay. His absence since that game clearly caused a problem for Argentina as they struggled to 2-2 draws with both Venezuela and Peru, before being beaten 1-0 by Paraguay on their own patch. Messi’s return against Brazil didn’t work the wonders that Argentine fans would have hoped, but they were playing a side high on confidence on home soil.
Colombia were 2-1 losers to Brazil back in September, but snatched a 1-0 away win in Paraguay in the following qualifier. They’ve been held to draws the last twice – at home to Chile and Uruguay – but remain well in contention for a spot at Russia 2018.
Argentina could leapfrog their opponent with three points, and depending on other results, that could catapult them back into the top four automatic places. Colombia are a good side, but historically have often struggled against both Argentina and Brazil. They’ve won just one of the last ten meetings, Argentina have won six, and there have been three draws. With home advantage and a desperate need to win and put last week’s result behind them, Argentina are fancied to get the job done.
Chile v Uruguay
Another tight affair is the one between Chile and Uruguay, where the best value on offer looks to be the -150 with Bet365 about Uruguay on the double chance.
Luis Suarez is undoubtedly the star of the Uruguay team, but he’s only scored two of their eleven goals in the last four qualifiers. That suggests Uruguay are less reliant on the Barcelona hitman than they have been in recent years, and with 23 points from 11 games it would be a surprise if they don’t qualify from here. They’ve won three of those most recent four qualifiers, with the other a creditable 2-2 draw in Colombia.
Chile have won two of their last five qualifiers – against Peru and Bolivia – but they’ve lost to Paraguay and Ecuador and drew 0-0 with Colombia last week. Chile have also won just two of the last six meetings with Uruguay, and the way the group is set up favours the away side. In fifth place with 17 points, Chile need a good result to stay ahead of the chasing pack, but Uruguay are in a strong enough position to play conservatively and a draw would be a positive result given the circumstances. They are also adept at hitting teams on the break, which is exactly the tactic one expects them to employ.
Peru v Brazil
Finally Brazil can be backed at -146 with 188Bet to get the better of Peru.
The Peruvians fought back from a goal down against Paraguay last week, scoring four goals in a belting second-half display. They’re just three points behind Chile in 5th place, and are still in with a shout of qualifying. However, a game against an in-form Brazil is not the one they would have chosen to help reduce the gap.
Coutinho, Neymar and Paulista were on target in that 3-0 win against Argentina, and the swagger is back after Tite replaced Dunga as manager. They’ve won five qualifiers on the bounce, scoring 15 goals and conceding just once. That impressive run began with a 3-0 success in Ecuador, less than three months after they were knocked out of the Copa America at the group stage.
Peru are not the worst side by any standard but that 1-0 Copa America win in June was their first victory over Brazil since 1975, and as it was the result that effectively knocked Brazil out, revenge is also on the cards.
Argentina to beat Colombia
Tuesday 15th November, 23:30 GMT
Uruguay or Draw
Tuesday 15th November, 23:30 GMT
Brazil to beat Peru
Wednesday 16th November, 02:15 GMT