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The international break has given us a chance to look at some of the matches going on the world over, and we hit a great result when the Argentina v Brazil game ended in a draw last weekend. There’s more action in the South American section this week, with the games taking on extra importance in light of the competitive nature of the qualifying group.
Argentina in particular have had a poor start, and they currently occupy 9th place in the group table after two draws and a defeat from their opening two matches. They face a tough trip to Colombia on Tuesday night, but are worth following at a huge price after dominating Brazil. In other matches, Ecuador stand out as a viable bet when they travel to Venezuela, with three wins from three putting them top of the table and in with a real chance of World Cup qualification.
With ten teams in one group and 18 rounds of matches, it’s a long and grueling campaign for the South American teams. However, that amount of games shouldn’t disguise the importance of a good start, because once a team falls behind it becomes very difficult to catch up, with no easy games for anyone. At present, after three rounds, Ecuador have the only 100% record after recording wins against Uruguay, Argentina and Bolivia. The results against Uruguay and Argentina (away) have given them ‘bonus’ points that they might not have expected, and they can give qualification a real shot from this position.
Chile and Uruguay have a couple of wins apiece and they sit 2nd and 3rd ahead of Brazil, who are 4th with four points. Argentina are second-bottom of the table in 9th, and with only the top four guaranteed of a place in Russia 2018, they have considerable work to do.
Colombia v Argentina
They can start that work on Tuesday night by taking three points from an inconsistent Colombia side. After grabbing the attention of the world in Brazil in 2014, Colombia have failed to live up to the hype ever since, going out at the quarter-final stage (to Argentina) in this summer’s Copa America. They’ve had an indifferent start to this campaign too, with the early 2-0 win over Peru followed by a 3-0 defeat to Uruguay and a 1-1 draw with Chile. They’re currently 6th in the table with four points, and although they have every chance of qualifying from that position, they look far from unbeatable.
Argentina have had an even worse start with the 2-0 home defeat to Ecuador an awful way to begin. They were held to a 0-0 draw next time around by Paraguay, and were then pegged back by Brazil in their recent outing. However, they were completely dominant in that game and deservedly took a 1-0 lead into half time. Brazil fought back to grab the equalizer and then held on for the final whistle, but can probably consider themselves lucky to get a point. Despite the absence of Messi – which is a huge blow – if Argentina can take that form to Colombia on Tuesday night, they ought to get their reward.
The Copa America quarter-final tie between the two ended 0-0 after normal time and Argentina went on to win after penalties, having dominated the game. Such is their attacking prowess that many teams try to sit back and soak up the pressure against Argentina, but that gameplan is always a dangerous one. Even without Messi and Tevez, Argentina still have the triumvate of Di Maria, Higuain and Lavezzi, and those three are more than enough to cause Colombia damage.
Venezuela v Ecuador
Ecuador’s qualification campaign started superbly with a 2-0 win in Argentina, and they haven’t looked back since. They went on win a double-header at home with a 2-0 win over Bolivia and a very impressive 2-1 win against Uruguay last Thursday. They travel to the group’s bottom side Venezuela on Tuesday night, and they are also a big price to snatch three points.
Along with a Copa America victory over Mexico and a friendly win against Honduras, it’s now five in a row for Ecuador, and they are on a bit of a roll. The same can’t be said for Venezuela who have lost each of their first three games in this qualifying campaign. A 1-0 home loss against Paraguay was followed by two away defeats in Brazil and most recently Bolivia, but that brings Venezuela’s run to six defeats in seven matches. They can’t even point to their home form as a case for confidence, having lost two of the last three, including a 3-0 loss to Honduras.
Ecuador don’t have the best of records in Venezuela – their last win here was in 2000 some six games ago – but they have beaten then twice in the last four meeting overall. Furthermore, Ecuador have scored six goals and conceded just once so far in this qualifying campaign, while Venezuela have already conceded eight goals in their three defeats. The 4-2 loss to Bolivia last Thursday was particularly damaging – Bolivia had lost their other two games and finished joint-bottom of the last World Cup qualifying group – and Venezuela will know nothing less than victory here will be good enough. That could play into Ecuador’s hands as a side with plenty of pace on the counter-attack, and the price looks well worth a nibble for a side in form against a side woefully out of it.
Argentina to beat Colombia
Tuesday 17th November, 20:30 GMT
Ecuador to beat Venezuela
Tuesday 17th November, 21:00 GMT
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