CONMEBOL WCQ Preview- Round 14
By Juan Arango
World Cup qualifiers are right at our doorstep and in CONMEBOL there is a great deal of anticipation as a new round in the world’s most difficult region has some storylines set up that will surely have most of the continent on edge.
Both Colombia and Ecuador are waiting with baited breath what will end up happening with AS Monaco goalscorer Radamel Falcao García. His injury last weekend set off all alarms- in the Ecuadorian press, especially. As of his arrival to the city of Barranquilla, Falcao was already being discarded although he could be an important option off the bench.
Several in Colombia are also aware that the team is deepest up front. If Falcao is not available, then José Pekerman would go to Porto sharpshooter Jackson Martínez. If that was not the case, the hometown fans could get a tremendous treat as both Teófilo Gutiérrez could be paired up with former Junior teammate Carlos Bacca. Bacca, arguably has shown some great form since arriving at Sevilla from Club Brugge and could be a big difference maker if needed.
Defense is the big question mark though as Cristian Zapata and Mario Yepes are out due to injury that will bring in Cruz Azul defender Luis Amaranto Perea. Fiorentina’s Juan Guillermo Cuadrado is also nicked up and he was replaced by Pablo Armero.
For La Tricolor, their rallying has been “Win it For Chucho”. For the squad it will be a tremendously emotional match as they play their first significant match without the late Christian Benítez. Ecuador, and former Colombian national team coach, Reinaldo Rueda looks to have an ultra offensive lineup in place for Los Cafeteros as former South American Player of the Year Joffré Guerrón and Club América’s Narciso Mina could be the point man in a 4-5-1 attack. On paper, it sounds mighty defensive, but if you start to see that Edison Méndez will be dropping back a touch while Jéfferson Montero and Manchester United’s Antonio Valencia could cause some problems for the Colombian backline.
TREND: Colombia have not lost at home in 23 months. Since José Pekerman’s arrival they have only lost one. A win would assure Colombia of fifth-place at least in this region the day after the 20th anniversary of the 5-0 win against Argentina at the Estadio Monumental in Núñez. Ecuador have not lost a home match in over four years. Quito has been a very favorable venue for them. They have not lost at the Estadio Atahualpa since October 10, 2009 against Uruguay. The problem for Ecuador is their record on the road. Their last win was back on September 9th, 2009 in La Paz against Bolivia.
COLOMBIA: David Ospina; Cámilo Zuñiga, Carlos Valdés, Amaranto Perea, Pablo Armero; Abel Aguilar, Freddy Guarín, MacNelly Torres, James Rodríguez; Teo Gutiérrez, Jackson Martínez
ECUADOR: Máximo Banguera, Julio César Paredes, Jorge Achilier, Frickson Erazo, Walter Ayoví; Segundo Castillo, Christian Noboa, Edison Méndez, Antonio Valencia, Jefferson Montero; Joffré Guerrón
Referee: Heber Lopes
The Battle for Last Place
Speaking of road ineptitude, another high altitude side that suffers from this is Bolivia. They look to end that 20-year jinx when they lock horns with Paraguay in a battle that will most likely determine who the first team eliminated from World Cup qualifying will be. Bolivian coach Xabier Azkargorta will look to set up an ultra-defensive squad that is poised to at least get a point out of the Paraguaya capital.
This is why Flamengo goalscorer Marcelo Moreno Martins will most likely not start against Paraguay.
Azkargota also left six players in La Paz looking to rest as well as avoiding another yellow card. Currently eight key players would have to face a one-match suspension should they receive another yellow card. Marcelo Moreno Martins (will be replaced by Juan Carlos Arce) as well as Sport Recife’s Alejandro Chumacero will not be in the lineup because of this. The risk that is run also is that players like Ronald Raldes could miss that crucial match at home against Ecuador in La Paz.
Meanwhile Paraguayan national team coach Víctor Genes looks very confident to see his team put up a fight until the end for a very faint chance at getting to the World Cup. His discourse was direct in a press conference on Wednesday. “The nucleus is there. It’s the teams that played against Germany.” Might sound like 100% sure, but he also said in that press conference that he will do some tweaking and the official lineup would not be given out until right before kickoff.
Genes as well as many member of the Paraguayan press know that this is the chance for them to get three points and somewhat stay alive. A negative result can prove the second to last nail in their coffin as they will have to head to play Argentina midweek.
TREND: Bolivia’s last win in a non-altitude venue happened back in 1993 when they defeated Venezuela.
PARAGUAY: Justo Villar, Salustiano Candia, Paulo Da Silva, Paul Aguilar, Miguel Samudio; Victor Ayala, Wilson Pittoni, Richard Ortíz, Jonathan Fabbro; Roque Santa Cruz, José Núñez
BOLIVIA: Sergio Galarza; Ronald Raldes, Edward Zenteno, Abraham Cabrera, Edemir Rodríguez, Marvin Bejarano; Walter Veizaga, Pedro Azogue, José Luis Chávez, Rudy Cardozo; Juan Carlos Arce
Referee: Víctor Carrillo
STOMACH PAINS AND SILENCE
César Farías has always been a big talker and in this match against Chile he was not the exception. Farías talked about how his team was poised to earn the three points in Santiago and continue their road to their first-ever World Cup at the senior level. He also remembers the last time Chile lost to Venezuela in Santiago back on September 4th, 2001. That has been the rallying cry for La Vinotinto as history can repeat itself.
The bad news was that his plans took a major hit when 20 players were affected by a stomach bug after eating contaminated food. The inconvenience put a damper on their preparations, but everything seems back on track. The effects of that contamination will only be seen truly on the pitch in Santiago on Friday.
Defender Oswaldo Vizcarrondo said that the objective was simple. “Keep our goal at zero,” said the Lanús defender. “By doing that we know we have quality forwards to make a difference.”
Chile in the meantime are looking to find a way to replace the injured Humberto Suazo in the starting lineup. This is virtually the only bit of speculation left on the part of coach Jorge Sampaoli. Many are looking at Grêmio’s Eduardo Vargas to replace Suazo over Zaragoza’s Angelo Henríquez, but that will also be a game time decision.
The big news out of Chilean camp in the past few hours is the departure of José Rojas, who ended up consuming an illegal glucocorticoid and will not be available until further notice. According to the statement released by his club, Universidad de Chile, he did not take this medication to obtain a “sporting advantage” instead it was for pain and inflammation.
Out of the pitch, there is a great deal of support for La Roja but many are asking for the Chilean national team to be silent when they score their first goal of the match to not be celebrated as the 40th anniversary of the coup d’etat that overthrew Salvador Allende from power.
CHILE: Claudio Bravo; Mauricio Isla, Gary Medel, Marcos González, Eugenio Mena; Marcelo Díaz, Arturo Vidal, Jorge Valdivia; Alexis Sánchez, Eduardo Vargas,Jean Beausejour
VENEZUELA: Daniel Hernández; Roberto Rosales, Oswaldo Vizcarrondo, Alexander González, Gabriel Cichero; Franklin Lucena, Luis Manuel Seijas, Agnel Flores, Juan Arango, César González; José Salomón Rondón.
Referee: Sandro Ricci
In Lima, Peru and Uruguay will face off in what could be the most intense matchup of the round. Both teams find themselves mired in the middle of the table fighting for fourth and fifth place.
Peruvian coach, Uruguayan Sergio Markarían mentioned in an interview on Wednesday that the players “know how extreme the situation is”. The Peruvians know that this match could help either end their 31-year World Cup absence. The major change for Peru was the insertion of Josepmir Ballón in place of Juan Vargas in the midfield as he adds a bit more balance.
Meanwile Oscar Washington Tabárez knows that the team’s first win in 12 years in the Peruvian capital would help their World Cup pretensions
TREND: Uruguay are looking for their second consecutive road win in WCQs after having gone nearly four years without winning outside of the Estadio Centenario. Eleven players for La Celeste are on yellow card caution.
Peru; Raúl Fernández; Luis Advíncula, Yoshimar Yotún, Christian Ramos, Alberto Rodríguez; Jéfferson Farfán, Josepmir Ballón, Luis Ramírez, Rinaldo Cruzado; Claudio Pizarro, Paolo Guerrero
Uruguay: Fernando Muslera; Maximiliano Pereira, Diego Lugano, Diego Godín, Martín Cáceres; Walter Gargano, Egidio Arévalo Ríos, Cristian Rodríguez; Diego Forlán, Luis Suárez y Edinson Cavani
Referee: Patricio Loustau
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