Thursday, 10 September 2009

CONMEBOL World Cup Qualifying Round 16

Paraguay 1-0 Argentina
Bolivia 1-3 Ecuador
Brazil 4-2 Chile
Venezuela 3-1 Peru
Uruguay 3-1 Colombia

Paraguay confirmed their place in South Africa after defeating Argentina in Asunción 1-0. It was a strange performance from Argentina, who now drop into 5th place in the table and facing a play off against the 4th placed team in the CONCACAF region. Saturday's match winner Salvador Cabañas was a constant threat for Paraguay and it was no surprise he had a hand in the only goal of the game. Neat passing between Cabañas and Edgar Baretto released Nelson Valdez and he slotted past Sergio Romero. Juan Sebastián Verón was dismissed for two yellow cards in the second half as the frustration showed from the visitors who could only muster one Lionel Messi effort in reply.

Ecuador bounced back from defeat in Venezuela to boost their chances of qualification by overcoming Bolivia in the altitude of La Paz. Ecuador were out of the blocks quickly and Jefferson Montero rattled the Bolivian cross bar as early as the first minute. The lead quickly followed three minutes later when Edison Mendéz found a way through the Bolivian defence to fire home. Bolivia clung on to somehow go in just one down at half time but Ecuador doubled their lead just after half time when Antonio Valencia's 30 yarder found the back of the net. 10 minutes later and it was all over, Valencia turning provider for Christian Benítez to add a third. The Ecuadorians then relaxed and allowed Yecerotte a consolation goal as they leapfrogged Argentina into the last automatic qualifying position.

In a rainy Salvador, Chile missed out on securing automatic qualification after going down 4-2 to an under strength Brazil team who were without Robinho injured and Lucio, Kaka and Luis Fabiano all due to suspension. Nilmar was the star man for Brazil, grabbing a hat-trick. La Selecão opened up a two goal lead, Nilmar volleying home on the half hour before Julio Baptista doubled the lead. Chile hit back just before half time when Humberto Suazo converted from the spot after a foul by Melo. Melo was the shown a straight red card for a very poor challenge just after half time and whilst Brazil were reorganising Chile levelled the game when Suazo claimed his second of the night. After the introduction of Elano and Diego Tardelli, Nilmar took advantage of poor Chile defending to put Brazil in the lead 15 minutes before time before completing his hat trick two minutes later. The teams were levelled in number by the dismissal of Alexis Sánchez moments after and Chile would be left to wait on qualification.

Venezuela's hopes of pipping Argentina for 5th was boosted when they defeated Peru 3-1. Valencia CF's Miku put the home side ahead on the half hour but the teams went into the break level when Juan Fuenmayor's own goal levelled things up. Seven minutes after half time a second from Miku restored the lead for Venezuela and Ronald Vargas made sure of the points when he added a third 20 minutes from time. Venezuela, with two rounds to go are in the mix of qualifying for the finals for the first time ever although their last two games are against the already qualified Brazil and Paraguay.

Uruguay also remain in contention after a 3-1 victory over Colombia in Montevideo. Uruguay left it late though relying on two goals in the final 15 minutes to secure their victory. Uruguay were ahead as early as the sixth minute when Luiz Suárez fired them ahead against a disorganised Colombia side. Then Uruguay were reduced to 10 men after Carlos Valdes was dismissed but he was soon followed down the tunnel by Teófilo Gutiérrez almost straight after half time. Jackson Matrínez scored for the second straight game to level things for Colombia immdiately after coming on as a substitute. Another substitute, Andrés Scotti fired Uruguay ahead before Sebastián Eguren sealed things three minutes from time to leave them in the hunt for a possible automatic qualification spot.

So after Round 16 it's tight as a ducks bum in South America. We've already covered Argentina's shortcomings elsewhere but Brazil and Paraguay are definitely off to the big show, Chile should be joining them as they currently have a 4 point gap between them and fourth placed Ecuador. Then there are 5 teams for two spots, Ecuador have 23 points and are currently in the last automatic qualifying spot. Argentina are now fifth a point behind, Uruguay and Venezuela are a point back on 21 and then Colombia are far from done on 20 points. The only other things confirmed are that Bolivia and Peru will fight it out for the wooden spoon when they meet in Round 18. Finishing 5th isn't the easy passage to the finals either as Mexico may be lurking in the play off game.

Round 17 Fixtures

Bolivia v Brazil
Colombia v Chile
Venezuela v Paraguay
Argentina v Peru
Ecuador v Uruguay

Round 18 Fixtures

Uruguay v Argentina
Peru v Bolivia
Paraguay v Colombia
Chile v Ecuador
Brazil v Venezuela

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