Doing some CONMEBOL math
By Juan Arango
Clear Sky Blues
Things look mighty good for Argentina despite the draw in La Paz. Uruguay's loss separated them even more from the reigning South American champs while keeping their distance from Chile and Venezuela at nine points with five matches left for the three squads.
The Albiceleste are a point away from the magical 25-point mark that would assure them of a playoff spot at least. A Uruguay loss and Argentina win against Colombia at home would guarantee them that ate least. Now to clinch a direct spot, they would have to also earn a result at the Atahualpa in Quito later in the month of June.
As of right now Argentina would need six points at least to assure themselves of a spot as their goal differential is superior (+13) over Chile and Venezuela (-3).
ARG remaining matches: vs.COL, @ECU, @PAR, vs.PER, @URU
On An Atahualpa High
Ecuador coach Reinaldo Rueda talked about the need to assert the fortress atop the nearly 2,800 meters above sea level they have at their disposal. Check that one off for the Ecuadorians. Their level of play also saw a fundamental change in their approach and saw them become one of the most dynamic teams in South America. That went hand in hand with a run of form that helped them become the best home team in the qualifying round.
At this stage what they are doing is closing in on a World Cup spot and they have a match in hand. This means they would need five points out of a possible 18 to get to the magical 25 points. In reality, they know that if Venezuela and Chile run the table they would need a maximum of 10 points to qualify if things were to get hairy. If that were to be the case, they would have to do something that has been their Achilles heel since 2009 in qualifying play- win on the road.
ECU remaining matches: @PER, vs. ARG, @COL, @BOL, vs. URU, @CHI
Down But Far From Out
Colombia lost to Venezuela but they are still in prime position to qualify for their first World Cup since 1998. Their road form has been amongst the best in the qualifiers up to now pulling out important results in Chile, Bolivia and Peru. They know that a result against Argentina will be paramount for their intentions and they will also have the Barranquilla summer (temperatures over 100F) as a slight "advantage" when they host Peru and Ecuador in the summer.
They too know that they have the vital match in hand that they will look to take all points from. More importantly, if things do get complicated, their final two road matches are looking mighty accessible. A Uruguay in freefall and the present state of the Paraguayan national team added to their recent history at the Defensores del Chaco, look like they are not bothered at all.
Yet they also know that the two teams behind them will play for their respective lives in Chile on September the 7th. Venezuela would also have to play Uruguay prior to that.
Colombia are six points from the magic number and would need 11 points in the hairiest of situations.
COL remaining matches: @ARG, vs.PER, vs. ECU, @URU, vs.CHI, @PAR
Chile Coming Back
Amongst stops and starts and coaching controversies, Chile are still alive. How, I am not sure I can answer that quite yet. Jorge Sampaoli's side got a vital win against Uruguay and will sit back and enjoy when Uruguay and Venezuela square off in June. They just have to stave off Venezuela and Uruguay and their eternal rivals Peru. Sounds easy, right?
Chile remaining matches: @PAR, vs.BOL, vs.VEN, @COL, vs.ECU
Looking To Stop The FreeFall
Uruguayan fans were sky high when their team won the Copa América. Now that team looks so distant as their form and their coach's tinkering has seen them drop points and fall out of a World Cup spot. After their 2-0 loss to Chile, Uruguayan coach Oscar Washington Tabárez said that the team should "focus on fifth place". Their form and age are really showing and two points seem like such a steep mountain to climb especially when they have not been able to snatch three points at a time since June.
Their reality: Lots of points and lots of luck
Uruguay remaining matches: @VEN, @PER, vs.COL, @ECU, vs.ARG