In last week’s blog I started to assess the World Cup qualification chances of each CONMEBOL nation. With only 3 or 4 games having been played it is still early days but already the more established countries are rising to the top. The only exception seems to be perennial qualifiers Paraguay who despite currently being 7th in the table should rise to an automatic qualifying spot.
With Brazil qualifying as hosts, the rest of the countries will battle for the best 4 places and a 5th place play off place against a country from the Asian zone.
The next country in the current table is Columbia with 4 points from 3 games (2-1 away against Bolivia, 1-1 home draw against Venezuela and 2-1 home lost against Argentina). Los Cafeteros (The Coffee Growers) have a healthy mix of players in teams from Europe, South America and Mexico and are managed by the experienced Argentine, Jose Pekerman.
Their internationally based stars are completed by a smattering of Columbian based players, the best of which is the creative midfielder, Dorlan Pabon. Skillful Pabon can produce opportunities for his attackers as well as chip in with a few vital goals.
Columbia's Dorlan Pabon
Falcao of Atletico Madrid is their star striker and he has had a stellar season since his €40 million move form Porto last year and if he can partner up successfully with Rodallega of Wigan they may yet push for the play off place.
However, Columbia has not qualified for a World Cup since 1988 and last year’s Copa America showing was largely disappointing so they will have turn improve their recent form to qualify.
QUALIFICATION CURRENT STANDINGS
Team P W D L GF GA Pts
Uruguay 3 2 1 0 9 3 7
Argentina 4 2 1 1 7 4 7
Venezuela 4 2 1 1 3 3 7
Ecuador 3 2 0 1 5 2 6
Chile 4 2 0 2 7 10 6
Colombia 3 1 1 1 4 4 4
Paraguay 4 1 1 2 3 6 4
Peru 3 1 0 2 4 6 3
Bolivia 4 0 1 3 4 8 1
If Chile manages to qualify for Brazil they will be hoping they don’t meet the hosts during the tournament. In their last two appearances (1998, 2010) Brazil convincingly eliminated Chile in the 2nd round.
At the moment Chile lie in 5th position with 6 points from 4 games (a 4-2 home win against Peru, a 2-0 home win against Paraguay, a 4-1 away defeat to Argentina and a 4-0 away defeat to Uruguay).
Despite no longer having the likes of Ivan Zamorano or Marcelo Salas, La Roja can call on the likes of Alexis Sanchez (Barcelona) and Arturo Vidal (Juventus) to spearhead their attack.
With an average age of 23 most of Chile’s foreign based stars play in Italy’s Seria A but their real strength is in the core players of Universidad de Chile and Union Espanola, both of which have progressed to this year’s last 16 of the Copa Libertadores.
Chile should be in the mix for a qualification spot but their away form has been dreadful and more heavy defeats will seriously hamper their chances.
Ecuadorian football has been in somewhat of a renaissance in the last 10 years. Two appearances at World Cups in 2002 and 2006 were followed by a first ever Ecuadorian Copa Libertadores win in 2008 with LDU Quito.
Non-qualification for South Africa 2010 and a poor showing in last year’s Copa America looked to have ended their purple patch however a strong start to this terms qualification may signal a return to form.
Ecuador have 6 points from 3 games (two 2-0 home wins against Venezuela then Peru and a 2-1 away loss to Paraguay) and sit in 4rth place above Chile on goal difference.
The majority of their players come from the major teams of Ecuador’s Serie A but their main goals threat come from Mexico’s Premier Division in Christian Benitez (America) and Jaime Ayovi (Pachuca).
Antonio Valencia (Manchester United) and Christian Noboa (Dynamo Moscow) are the team’s superstars and will be key to El Tri’s possible qualification. If they can hold their current position it would be deemed a major success.
To be continued.