Things are hotting up in the battle for a World Cup spot in South America. Brazil have qualified, and Uruguay are on the cusp of reaching Russia, but below those sides it’s all to play for.
Just three points separate third-placed Colombia from Chile in sixth. Between them are Peru and Argentina. Two of the quartet will get through automatically and one will face a play-off against New Zealand. The other will miss out altogether.
So, with just two games remaining, what awaits the sides in contention…
Colombia (Third Place / Pts: 26, GD: +3)
Jose Pekerman’s side need just one win from their final two WCQ games to secure an automatic spot. A 1-1 draw with Brazil last time out suggests they have the quality to do that, though Los Cafeteros drew with lowly Venezuela in the match before that.
They host Paraguay on 4 October, a game we expect Pekerman’s side will win. However, if they fail to, a colossal clash against fellow challengers Peru would likely be on the cards. And speaking of Ricardo Gareca’s men…
Peru (Fourth Place / Pts: 24, GD: +1)
After a three-game winning run, Los Incas are now sitting in CONMEBOL’s final automatic spot. However, the evidence suggests an automatic spot at their first World Cup since 1982 could be just beyond the overachievers on this occasion.
Gareca’s side looked good (if unspectacular) in 2-1 victories over strugglers Bolivia and Ecuador in their past two qualifiers, but face the daunting task of a visit to Argentina next time out, before meeting Colombia on Matchday 18.
Having lost on each of their last five visits to Argentina, and failed to beat Los Cafeteros in six meetings, we think Peru might yet fall agonisingly short. That said, we wouldn’t put a play-off spot past them, with Chile massively out of sorts.
Argentina (Fifth Place / Pts: 24, GD: +1)
Goals scored are the only thing that separate La Albiceleste from Peru. And goals have very much been the problem for this Argentina side. Despite having the likes of Lionel Messi, Sergio Aguero and Mauro Icardi in their ranks, they’ve found the net just 16 times in as many qualifying games.
Winless in the last three – including a 2-0 loss in Bolivia – Argentina’s top talents seriously need to step things up, with games against Peru and Ecuador ahead. We think they’ll just about manage, but they’ve underperformed massively to date.
Chile (Sixth Place / Pts: 23, GD: +1)
Talking of underachievement, current Copa America holders Chile have been utterly dismal of late. A 3-0 defeat at home to Paraguay was followed by a 1-0 loss in La Paz on Tuesday night. La Roja have a ton of quality in their ranks, but look totally out-of-sorts as a team.
On paper, they should be beating Ecuador in their next qualifier, but on recent form they’re hard to back. As for their final game, away to an imperious Brazil side, it could well prove the death knell for Chile’s WCQ 2018 spot.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing