Honours even in La Paz

The Albicelestes would have been mindful of their last visit to La Paz during World Cup qualification. 4 years ago they were hammered 6 – 1 in the thin air of the Bolivian capital. It wasn’t quite as bad this time around but they did struggle.

The home team dominated the first half and deservedly went ahead in the 25th minute. A long ball by Chumacero drifted into the penalty area and met the head of Marcelo Martins, then the net. The defending was fairly dreadful but the ex-Wigan striker did well to direct the ball past Sergio Romero.

The goal stung Argentina into action and they equalised just before half time through Ever Banega. Again the defending was poor when Clemente Rodriguez crossed to the penalty spot. With 3 defenders around him, Banega managed to direct his header low into the Bolivian net.

Argentina pushed for the winner during the 2nd half but they were unable to beat the impressive Sergio Galarza. Banega and Messi were both thwarted by the Bolivian veteran late on.

 

Match goals

 

The point keeps Argentina at the summit of the qualification table 4 points ahead of Ecuador, Bolivia lie 2nd bottom and struggling to make the qualifying positions.

 

 

P            W           D            L              Pts

Argentina            11           7              3          1              24                          

Ecuador              10           6              2           2             20                            

Colombia             10           6              1           3            19                         

Chile                    11           5             0            6            15   

Venezuela            11           4              3           4            15 

Uruguay               11           3              4           4           13

Peru                     10            3              2          5           11

Bolivia                  11            2              3          6            9

Paraguay              11           2              2            7            8

CONMEBOL Qualifier results.

Colombia 5 Bolivia 0

“El Cafeteros” were the first to start on Friday afternoon and they wasted no time in slapping aside Bolivia in Barranquilla. Torres, Valdes, Gutierrez, Falcoa and Armero each grabbed a goal to bolster their 2nd place position and condemn Bolivia to 2nd bottom.

Paraguay 1 Uruguay 1

In Montevideo, Luis Suarez had looked to have sealed a win with a late volley in 82 minutes. However, Benitez struck 4 minutes late to steal a valuable and unlikely point.

Argentina 3 Venezuela 0

In Buenos Aires it was business as usual as Gonzalo Higuain claimed a brace and a Messi penalty in between. The Argentinians consolidated the pole position, 4 points above Colombia.

Peru 1 Chile 0

Jefferson Farfan was the hero in Lima as he struck in the 87 minute against Chile. The Peruvians have had a rotten campaign but this rare win sees them rise above the bottom dwellers and reintroduce them to the 5th place battle.

POS TEAM P W D L F A GD Pts
1 Argentina 10 7 2 1 23 7 16 23
2 Colombia 9 6 1 2 19 6 13 19
3 Ecuador 9 5 2 2 12 9 3 17
4 Uruguay 10 3 4 3 17 19 -2 13
5 Chile 10 4 0 6 14 19 -5 12
6 Venezuela 10 3 3 4 8 12 -4 12
7 Peru 10 3 2 5 11 15 -4 11
8 Bolivia 10 2 2 6 12 19 -7 8
9 Paraguay 10 2 2 6 7 17 -10 8

Argentina top the table

Argentina continue to top the CONMEBOL table after their 2-1 away win against Chile last night.

Chile fell asleep for 4 minutes in the first half and allowed Messi and Higuain to claim a quick brace in 28 and 31 minutes. Argentina then needed only to hang on to claim 3 points but they did concede a late Gutierrez consolation.

In Puerto La Cruz, Ecuador recorded a fine away draw against Venezuela to bolster their qualification chances.

“La Vinotintos” took the lead, with what must have been the goal of the night through Juan Arango. The veteran captain collected the ball 30 yards from goal then unleashed an unstoppable howitzer past the flailing Dominguez.

Ecuador rallied and restored parity 15 minutes later through Segundo Castillo when he struck low from inside the box. Although both teams had chances to win it a draw was probably a fair result in an open and entertaining game

In Asuncion, Pablo Aguilar claimed the only goal of the night to win the bottom of the table clash against Peru. Barring a small miracle neither team should be in contention for the qualification spots.

The surprise of the night was in La Paz where Bolivia hammered Uruguay 4 -1. Carlos Saucedo grabbed a hat-trick to condemn Uruguay to their second defeat in five days. Luis Suarez got one back near the end.

Concern must be growing for” La Celeste” as they have managed to take only one point form three games, two of which were at home.

BOLIVIA 4 – 1 URUGUAY

PARAGUAY 1 – 0 PERU

VENEZUELA 1 -1 ECUADOR

CHILE 1 – 2 ARGENTINA

The COMNEBOL table seems to splitting in 3 parts with Argentina, Ecuador and Colombia moving away slightly form the pack. That being said two positive results can alter qualification chances dramatically and no team is in the clear yet.

CONMEBOL team of week 9 (12/10/2012)

Week 9 saw Argentina, Ecuador and Colombia win and move away from the pack. The qualifying group has now split into 3 parts with Chile and Uruguay losing form in the last 3 games.

Messi was at his imperial best against Uruguay. It has often been touted that little Leo does not perform for his country and cannot replicate his Barcelona form. This qualifying campaign, and the recent Brazil friendly largely dispels this myth.

His second goal was particularly impressive. It wasn’t as spectacular as his recent free-kick against Real Madrid but it was the apparent simplicity and ease in his execution to slip the ball low past the keeper.

BOLIVIA  1 (Chumacero 51′) PERU 1 (Marion0 21′)

COLOMBIA 2 (Falcoa 52′, 90′) PARAGUAY 0

ECUADOR 3 (Caicedo 33′,56′, Castillo 93′) CHILE (Paredes OG 25′)

ARGENTINA 3 (Messi 66′,80′ Aguero 75′) URUGUAY 0

 

In Quito, Ecuador finally broke down a stubborn Chile after initially going behind. A couple of rash challenges had Chile eventually go down to 9 men and Ecuador took full advantage. Their tormentor in chief was Felipe Caicedo who continued his impressive international form and scored his 3rd and 4th goals in 3 games.

 

Man of the moment Radamel Falcao scored a brace against bottom dwelling Paraguay while in La Paz, Bolivia and Peru recorded 1-1 draw helping neither of their qualification chances.

My best 11 of last Friday’s games:

 

 

Ecuador can go top of the table with win against Chile

If results go their way on Friday and Tuesday, Ecuador could top the CONMEBOL table and bolster their World Cup qualification chances.

The coming games against Chile at home then Venezuela in Caracas are not the easiest, but winnable even without some key players.

Antonio Valencia will sit out the Chile game through suspension and Jairo Campos has ruptured his Achilles but apart from that Ecuador have a full strength squad.

Christian Noboa returns after suspension and Jefferson Montero is back after missing the game in Uruguay through injury.

Ecuadorian coach Reinalda Rueda should be aiming for at least 4 points from these two games. In last month’s game against Bolivia is team were fairly dreadful and had to rely on a poor penalty decision to take 3 points. In Montevideo their fortune was reversed and they suffered because of shambolic refereeing display.

Ecuador’s last 5 games

Sep 11, 2012       Uruguay 1 – Ecuador 1    WCQ

Sep 7, 2012         Ecuador 1 – Bolivia 0        WCQ

Aug 16, 2012       Ecuador 3 – Chile 0           Friendly

Jun 10, 2012        Ecuador 1 – Colombia 0  WCQ

Jun 2, 2012          Argentina 4 – Ecuador 0 WCQ

It’s difficult to make any inferences form August’s friendly game as it was in the USA and Chile did not look like they took it so seriously. But their last game against a resurgent Colombia was very disappointing.

Chile’s superstars are Alexis Sanchez (Barcelona) and Eduardo Vargas (Napoli) but they have a spread of players in most of the top leagues in Europe. Currently Chile also has a strong domestic league and teams like Universidad de Chile, Colo Colo and Universidad Catolica usually compete in the latter stages of the Copa Libertadores and Copa Sudamericana.

I doubt Chile will be as negative and defensive as Bolivia or Colombia in the Atahaulpa stadium but I still expect them to play on the counter attack.

Chile’s last 5 games

Sep 11, 2012       Chile 1 – Colombia 3         WCQ

Aug 16, 2012       Ecuador 3 – Chile 0           Friendly

Jun 9, 2012          Venezuela 0 – Chile 2      WCQ

Jun 2, 2012          Bolivia 0 – Chile 2               WCQ

Apr 12, 2012       Peru 0 – Chile 3                Friendly

Ecuador has better form going to Friday’s game and should take confidence from their recent friendly win. Competitive games between the countries have been tight affairs.

Head to Head

Aug 16, 2012       Ecuador 3 – Chile 0          Friendly

Oct 14, 2009        Chile 1 – Ecuador 0           WCQ

Oct 12, 2008        Ecuador 1 – Chile 0           WCQ

Jun 27, 2007        Ecuador 2 – Chile 3          Copa America

Game Prediction :  Ecuador 2 Chile 0

CONMEBOL Qualification table

                      P            W        D         L          GF       GA      GD      Pts

 Argentina           7              4              2              1              15           6              +9           14

 Colombia           7              4              1              2              12           6              +6           13

 Ecuador               7              4              1              2              8              7              +1           13

 Uruguay              7              3              3              1              15           11           +4           12

 Chile                  7                4              0              3              12           13           -1            12

 Venezuela         8              3              2              3              7              8              -1            11

 Peru                    7               2              1              4              9              13           -4            7

 Bolivia                 7              1              1              5              7              12           -5            4

 Paraguay            7              1              1              5              5              14           -9            4

 

Realistically, unless they turn around their poor form Paraguay, Bolivia and Peru are out of contention for one of the 5 qualification spots. However with only 3 points between the top 6 any of the other nations can aspire to be in Brazil.

Hope comes with double Fletcher return for Scotland

 

Friday will see the return of both Fletchers but which one will have the greatest effect on the already faltering World Cup qualification campaign?

Scotland captain and Manchester United midfielder, Darren Fletcher should return to bolster a weak looking centre of the team. Fletcher’s calming influence and dynamism was sorely missed in the recent games against both Serbia and Macedonia.

His unexpected return to first team action in the EPL and Champions league for United after a career threatening illness has provided the long suffering Tartan Army with a rare boost.

After an inauspicious start at Old Trafford Fletcher has gone on to become a regular starter in Alex Ferguson’s team. Combative and cultured, on his day Fletcher can make the difference in midfield, even popping up with the occasional goal. Although slight in build he is capable of bossing the midfield with tenacious tackling and solid marking.

Aged 28 Fletcher has made 58 appearances for Scotland, scoring 5 goals. He is an integral part of the Scotland team and a rare class player in a quality starved squad. The only question that remains is if he can last for two tough international after such a long absence especially as against Belgium he will, alike his team-mates spend a lot of time chasing the ball.

Scott Brown will also return to the squad for the game against Wales and his partnership with Fletcher should give Scotland a strong midfield base.

 

 

 

 

 

Steven Fletcher returns to the Scotland squad after a 2 year self-imposed absence. During the summer he completed a £14 million transfer to Sunderland and since then has started the seasons impressively scoring all of the Black Cat’s goals. Fletcher is an accomplished striker and target man with a decent record in the EPL. Although he does not do the running and tracking back of Kenny Miller Craig Mackail Smith he is deadly in front of goal. His starting 11 inclusion is a “no brainer” it just remains to be seen if he receives the adequate service to convert chances.

The childish spat between Fletcher and Craig Levein was finally healed, after media and fan pressure last week hopefully their new found amity will produce results on Friday and Tuesday.

 

Squad for games against Wales and Belgium:

 

Goalkeepers

Matt Gilks (Blackpool), Allan McGregor (Besiktas), David Marshall (Cardiff City)

Defenders

Christophe Berra (Wolves), Gary Caldwell (Wigan Athletic), Daniel Fox (Southampton), Grant Hanley (Blackburn Rovers), Alan Hutton (Aston Villa), Russell Martin (Norwich City), Charlie Mulgrew (Celtic), Andy Webster (Heart of Midlothian)

Midfielders

Charlie Adam (Stoke), Scott Brown (Celtic), Darren Fletcher (Manchester United), James Forrest (Celtic), James McArthur (Wigan Athletic), Shaun Maloney (Wigan Athletic), James Morrison (West Bromwich Albion), Robert Snodgrass (Norwich City)

Forwards

Steven Fletcher (Sunderland), Jamie Mackie (Queens Park Rangers), Kenny Miller (Vancouver Whitecaps), Matt Phillips (Blackpool), Jordan Rhodes (Blackburn Rovers)

 

Although the inclusion of both Fletchers and Scott Brown has been praised by all there are still many criticising Levein’s omission of Celtic midfielder, Kris Commons. Although Commons has started the SPL well and impressed in Europe the Scotland coach has again omitted the player from his squad, even after Steven Naismith’s 2 match ban for violent conduct. His non-inclusion is puzzling in the extreme.

 

probable team to face Wales on Friday 12th October:

 

Scotland 4-4-2 football formation

 

On paper Wales are too daunting an opponent but they do have two genuine European class players in Gareth Bale and Aaron Ramsay. The Celtic duo of Adam Matthews and Joe Ledley should not hold any surprises however Joe Allen in midfield will be a player to watch. The Welsh have had a poor start to their campaign and are coming off a 6 – 1 hiding against Serbia. They know already that a loss to Scotland may end their faint qualification hope.s

 

Wales 4-4-2 football formation

Belgium have an extremely talented group of players at present.Not only is the majority of the team playing in the EPL but they are also flourishing for their respective teams, all of which are currently in the top 6 or in the Champions League.

Dembele, Hazard, Felliani and Lukaku have hit the new season running and Vincent Company was the player of the season last year.Added to this Vertonghen, Vermaelen and Van Buyten (the three V,s??) are experienced quality defenders.

 

Belgium football formation