Suarez hits out while “La Vinotinto” hit back.

As a Liverpool fan I tend to see the best in Luis Suarez and forgive him for his indiscretions. There is no doubt he has been vilified by a calumniatory, English press but he doesn’t do himself any favours.

Last night, again, he was attracting headlines for the wrong reasons. Playing for Uruguay against Chile in a World Cup qualifier, Suarez responded to defender Gonzalo Jara’s attentions by jabbing him on the chin. Granted, it wasn’t a punch worthy of the ring but it should have deserved a red card.

The decision did not change the match as Chile battled to a deserved 2 – 0 victory over an unsteady Uruguay. Esteban Paredes opened the scoring in the 11th minute after some awful Uruguayan defending. Both Matias Aguirregaray and Alvaro Pereiraha had chances to clear the danger but only proceeded to gift Paredes his chance 5 yards out.

Eduardo Vargas sealed the win with 12 minutes remaining after some more shambolic play at the back by Uruguay. Matias Fernandez found Mauricio Isla with a defence splitting ball, Isla’s shot was then saved by Fernando Muslera but Vargas snatched to score while the defenders floundered.

After last week’s home draw against Paraguay, “La Celeste” are fumbling at a vital point in qualification. The Copa America holders will have to reverse their slide down the table if they want to repeat their impressive display in South Africa. Similarly, Chile have been erratic and find themselves in a 4/5th place battle after a strong start to their qualification campaign.

In Puerto Ordaz. The in-form Colombians tumbled to a surprise defeat against Venezuela. Salomon Rondon grabbed an early lead in the 13th minute and that was enough to win the match. Falcoa had some late chances and was denied an equaliser by the woodwork.

Despite the hiccup, Colombia are still in a good position for qualification while Venezuela need to secure a few more wins to ensure attendance at their first ever World Cup.

                            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

We are all going to Brazil (apart from you Scotland)

The English may have droned on about “Football coming home” in Euro 1996 but in reality the spiritual home of football and the World Cup is Brazil.

It is has been a long held belief that the Brazilians have an unmatched, style and grace to their game, in tempo with their Samba beats. Some call it “Jogo bonito”, most simply football as it should be.

Brazil have qualified for every World Cup since its inception in 1930 and made an indelible mark every time. The Brazilians are synonymous with the World Cup. A World Cup without them is unthinkable while a tournament in their back yard will not doubt be amazing.

Every football fan has their special, Brazilian World Cup moment stretching back decades.

The more aged love to recall Pele’s goal in Sweden 54’ or his saved header against Gordon Banks during Mexico 70’. Brazil’s 4rth goal in the World Cup final in 1970 is regarded by many as the best ever: the free-flowing dribble of Jairzinho, lay-off by Pele then daisy cutting screamer by Carlos Alberto encapsulating Brazil in one fluid passage of play.

While the seventies and eighties were lean in terms of success we still got to see Zico, Careca and Socrates waltz around hapless, defences and 86’ they were part of a wonderful game against France in the quarter finals.

In the nineties we had the Bebeto and Romario  baby-cradle celebration at USA 94’ and Ronaldinho’s cross come chip over the ponytailed David Seaman in 98.

This signaled Brazil’s return to form with tournament wins in 94 then 2002 and following. Both these wins were marked by the “original” Ronaldo, his apparent pre-final collapse in 94’ redeemed by his performance in Japan and Korea.

Personally, from a Tartan point of view I recall Jim Leighton’s needless parry into Muller’s path in 1990 and Tommy Boyd’s bundle into his own net in the opening game of France 1998.Both classic examples of Scottish football suicide against Brazil.

There will not be any Scotland/Brazil World Cup moments for some time.

32 teams will compete for the 20th World Cup in Brazil, firstly in 8 groups of 4 then breaking into 16, the quarters, the semi-finals then the final on Sunday the 13th of July.

This is a breakdown of the probable competitors in at Brazil 2014 (in my opinion).

Europe (UEFA): 13 places

Europe garners the most qualification spots and already the cream is rising to the top. Spain will not receive an automatic qualification spot as holders but their passage to Brazil is a certainty. Similarly Holland, England, Italy and Germany will breeze their way to Rio without much hassle.

Current form team Belgium will face stiff resistance from Croatia but should eventually take 1st place in Group A while Sweden and Portugal should overcome most of the 2nd placers to progress.

Belgium, Italy, Germany, Netherlands, Switzerland, Russia, Greece, England and Spain

4 extra places:  France, Portugal, Croatia and Sweden are arguably the best of the runners-up but they may be pitched against each other in the play-off draw.

Africa (CAF): 5 places

The ten winners of the current groups will play in 5 fixtures: home and away to determine qualification. It is hard to predict the qualifiers at such an early stage but the completion of the  current African Cup Nations should give us a clue to the strongest teams on the continent. That being said powerhouses such as Egypt and Cameroon missed out on this year’s tournament but will probably claim a qualification spot.

Ghana, Ivory Coast, Nigeria, Zambia and Egypt (providing the country does not slide into anarchy and they get their national league in order).

Asia (AFC): 4 or 5 places

Japan, South Korea, Australia and Uzbekistan

Japan, South Korea and Australia have been perennial qualifiers in recent tournaments. With a healthy amount of their players competing in some of Europe’s stronger leagues they should confirm their qualification with little problem. Uzbekistan has been the surprise team in the qualifiers so far.

A 5th place team will have to battle out a play-off with the COMNEBOL 5th place team. This will probably be a hard task to complete as the South American teams are of a far higher level.

South America (CONMEBOL) 4 or 5 places (+ Brazil qualified automatically as host nation for a total of 5 or 6 places)

Argentina, Uruguay, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela

Hosts Brazil takes an automatic spot and shall be joined by 4 teams automatically qualifying and the 5th place team who must play off against 5th place from the Asian Football Confederation. In reality this means an extra team for South America as any team from the COMNEBOL zone is more than capable of overturning the likes of Qatar, Iran or Iraq.

The surprise teams of this campaign have been Ecuador and Venezuela both of which have hurt the big guns home and away. Although Ecuador made 2002 and 2006, Venezuela have never graced the greatest tournament so far and will be eager to make history. Paraguay usually claims a spot but has had a hellish campaign thus far and already out of the reckoning.

North, Central American and Caribbean (CONCACAF): 3 or 4 places

Mexico, USA, Costa Rica and Honduras

Mexico and the USA will be fight it out with each other for top spot, leaving Costa Rica and Honduras to battle for the automatic 3rd place. 4th place will, in all likelihood, have to play-off against New Zealand which is a far better team than previous decades.

Oceania (OFC): 0 or 1 place

New Zealand will have to play-off with the 4th place CONCACF team for their berth in Brazil. They managed it last time round over a limited Bahrain but will have to step it up this time around. They left South Africa, 2010 undefeated after recording draws against Slovakia, Italy and Paraguay.

Tight at the top of CONMEBOL table

After a poor start, Colombia got their campaign back on track in dramatic fashion on Tuesday. Following on from their excellent 4 – 0 win against Uruguay on Friday “El cafeteros” turned over Chile 3 – 1 in Santiago.

Falcao

Colombia’s Falcoa celebrates

Despite going behind just before half-time through Matias Fernandez, Colombia rallied in the second half with goals from Rodriguez, Falcoa and Gutierrez. Both teams finished the match with ten men.

Uruguay eventually managed to scrape a draw against Ecuador, thanks largely to a totally inept refereeing display form Carlos Amarilla. The Ecuadorians had the measure of their hosts for the majority of the game and deservedly went ahead through a Felipe Caicedo penalty in 9 minutes. Edison Cavani restored parity in 67 minutes for Uruguay but not before Ecuador was denied a stone-wall penalty.

Caicedo for Ecuador

Christain Benitez had raced forward upon goal but when he rounded the keeper he was crudely, bundled to the ground.  A penalty and goal-keeper red card seemed obvious but the referee opted to book Benitez for diving. To rub salt into their wounds the referee also sent off Ecuador’s captain and talisman Antonio Valencia. The Manchester United winger now automatically misses the next two games.

Chile          1-3       Colombia

Uruguay       1-1     Ecuador

Paraguay     0-2      Venezuela

     Peru        1-1       Argentina

 

Paraguay tumbled to another defeat realistically ending their qualification chances for Brazil 2014. This is all the more surprising with consideration that they have qualified for the last 4 World Cups and improved each time. Salomon Rondon grabbed a gaol either side of half time for Venezuela to earn a precious away win.

 

In Lima, Peru recorded a credible draw against group favourites Argentina. The hosts had already missed a third minute penalty before took the lead in 22 minutes through Eintracht Frankfurt’s Carlos Zambrano. Argentina’s Higuian got the equalizer just before half-time.

 

 

 

 

 

CONMEBAL Qualification table

Team         P        W      D       L        GF     GA    Pts

Argentina      7              4              2              1              15           6              14

Colombia       7              4              1              2              12           6              13

Ecuador           7              4              1              2              8              7              13

Uruguay          7              3              3              1              15           11           12

Chile                 7               4              0              3              12           13           12

Venezuela    8              3              2              3              7              8              11

Peru                  7                2              1              4              9              13           7

Bolivia             7               1              1              5              7              12           4

Paraguay        7              1              1              5              5              14           4

This month’s double header results have left Bolivia and Paraguay rooted to the bottom of the table adrift of everyone else.  With 4 points separating the top 6 teams and only 4 automatic qualification spots there is all to play for.

Uruguay has suffered the greatest with a 4 – o humbling and a poor home draw and they must improve if they don’t want to slide further down the table. Similarly Chile has lost form after leading the table.

Colombia and Ecuador are the major surprises so far but again next month’s results should tell us much more.

Next month’s CONMEBOL World Cup qualifying fixtures.

FRIDAY, OCTOBER 12, 2012

Argentina            v             Uruguay

Bolivia  v             Peru

Colombia            v             Paraguay

Ecuador                v             Chile

TUESDAY, OCTOBER 16, 2012

Bolivia  v             Uruguay

Chile     v             Argentina

Paraguay             v             Peru

Venezuela          v             Ecuador

CONMEBOL results and table

Colombia shot into third place in the CONMEBOL qualifying section after two fine wins yesterday. Uruguay , who lost to Colombia on Friday scrambled to a home draw versus Ecuador. Largely thanks to a baffling referee performance.

Paraguay dropped out of contention with another loss to Venezuela and Peru recorded a fine draw against Argentina.

 

 

  Chile 1 – 3 Colombia
  Uruguay 1 – 1 Ecuador
  Paraguay 0 – 2 Venezuela
  Peru 1 – 1 Argentina

 

 

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

South American (CONMEBOL) World Cup qualifying (part 3).

The coming international double header may provide the opportunity for some countries to move ahead and away from the pack.  Uruguay and Argentina have only one game to play but as home ties should feel confident in extending their lead at the top of the table to 10 points.

However with Venezuela and Ecuador close behind and benefiting from two games they could overtake the current leaders and favourites.

 

Saturday June 2nd

Uruguay v Venezuela

Bolivia v Chile

Argentina v Ecuador

Sunday June 3rd

Peru        v   Colombia

Saturday June 9th

Bolivia   v Paraguay

Venezuela     v Chile

Sunday June 10th

Ecuador v Colombia

Venezuela faces a tough trip to Montevideo followed by a home tie versus Chile. La Vinotinto (The Burgundy) have never qualified for a World Cup but are currently enjoying their most successful period. After a best ever 4rth position in last year’s Copa America they now lay 3rd after 4 games.

With most of their players now playing in Europe Venezuela has a strong squad which includes the likes of Juan Arango (Borussia Mönchengladbach), José Salomón Rondón (Malgaga) and Nicolas Fedor (Getafe) in attack.

Allied to this they have an imposing centre half duo in Oswaldo Vizcarrondo (Club America), who scored the only goal in their last competitive match against Bolivia in November and veteran José Manuel Rey (Deportivo Lara).

Venezuela vs Bolivia (November 2011)

Indeed ring rustiness may be a factor in Venezuela’s coming games as they have only played friendly games this year and with mixed results (defeats against Spain, Costa Rica, the USA , Mexico and one win against Moldova).

These two difficult games will go a long way to determining Venezuela’s qualification even at this relatively early stage.

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

It’s hard to imagine a World Cup without Argentina and without the unnerving influence of Diego Maradona this time, La Albiceleste (The White and Sky Blue) should easily qualify for Brazil. Despite a disappointing World Cup and an even more disappointing Copa America on home soil, Argentina currently have a side to match any on the planet.

Captain and current World player of the year Lionel Messi again has had an impressive season with Barcelona. Although he has not managed to win any major trophies this year his goal tally has reached an unmatched 73 in all competitions. It only remains to see if he can replicate his club form as so far for Argentina he has largely disappointed.

Lionel Messi

With a triumvirate of Messi, Kun Aguero (Man City) and Higuaín (Real Madrid) and back-up in Tevez (Man City), Lavezzi (Napoli) or Milito (Inter) it is hard to match the attacking potency of Argentina.

Similarly in midfield Di Maria (Real Madrid), Pastore(PSG) Maxi Rodriguez (Liverpool) have the guile and creativeness to create while Mascherano (Barcelona) and Cambiasso (Inter) can provide the defensive cover for the likes of Burdisso (Roma) and Zabaleta (Man City).

Argentina must keep pace with leaders Uruguay and can ill afford another slip up at home alike against Bolivia in November. Too many home draws could mean all the difference in a tight qualifying group especially when the still have to visit the oxygen starved Andean nations.