2018 World Cup qualifiers: Can Argentina AND Chile qualify from South America?
There is just one more match to go and there is now a distinct possibility that we may not see Argentina at the 2018 FIFA World Cup next year. The odds of La Albiceleste booking their ticket to Russia are a lot lower following their 0-0 draw at La Bombonera in Buenos Aires today.
It seems almost unimaginable that a country that finished runners-up at the 2014 World Cup and the last two Copa America editions could soon be watching the quadrennial tournament from the comfort of their living rooms.
So what does each country looking to seal qualification have to do in the final game next week?
CONMEBOL standings will be decided on the final matchday
The South American qualifiers are different from other continents such as Europe and Asia as there are only 10 countries involved. As a result, they play each other twice (home and away), resulting in a total of 18 games each.
17 games are done and dusted - only one more fixture remains. This is how the teams stand as they head into their final fixture.
As things stand, Brazil have already qualified. The Selecao have competed in every World Cup and had qualified back in March this year. Ecuador, Bolivia and Venezuela do not stand a chance of qualifying as they are too far behind to leapfrog the mid-table teams.
Uruguay are currently second but they may not finish there. However, they are assured of at least finishing fifth which is good enough for an inter-confederation playoff with New Zealand (the team to qualify for the playoff from the Oceania Football Confederation).
It's a fight between Chile, Colombia, Peru, Argentina and Paraguay for the final three slots.
Final CONMEBOL fixtures
Here are the final fixtures for Matchday 18 which will be played on 10 October:
- Brazil vs Chile (Sao Paulo)
- Ecuador vs Argentina (Quito)
- Peru vs Colombia (Lima)
- Uruguay vs Bolivia (Montevideo)
- Paraguay vs Venezuela (Asuncion).
All five fixtures will be played at the same time on the evening of 10 October (11 October at 5 AM IST).
What does each team need to do to qualify?
Brazil vs Chile could be one of two game that decide the final standings. Whether the Selecao play a full-strength squad against Chile is a question that needs to be asked, though.
Chile were down in sixth place before Alexis Sanchez popped up with a late winner against Ecuador to see them rise up to third. It was a welcome result for La Roja who were under severe pressure following losses in the previous two fixtures against Bolivia and Paraguay.
Argentina's 0-0 draw on Matchday 17 against Peru at home has severely dented their chances of qualifying for the group stages directly. Lionel Messi and co are now in sixth place - not even good enough for a playoff spot.
Their fate is no longer in their hands. And the reverse fixture had seen Argentina lose 2-0 to Ecuador at home. The 2014 runners-up not only need a win but they also need results to go their way.
That is where they might have some luck going in their favour. The other fixture that could decide the final standings is Peru vs Colombia.
Since both teams play each other, only one of them can get all three points. If Argentina win their match, they will definitely leapfrog one of Peru or Colombia.
Colombia and Peru should also keep an eye on Paraguay who are below Argentina. A win for Paraguay could see them finish above either of the two teams (or even both if Colombia and Peru play out a draw). And La Albirroja have a very good chance of sneaking into the playoff spot because they play Venezuela (a team that has won just once so far), provided Argentina lose.
It is very tough to call at the moment. With all teams playing at the same time, there is no way teams can collude to get their desired result to qualify.
Brazil and Chile could play out a draw (Chile won 2-0 in the reverse fixture), Colombia could beat Peru (they won 2-0 in the reverse fixture) and Argentina could beat Ecuador. That will see the teams finish in the following order.
Final standings prediction: #1 Brazil (39 points), #2 Uruguay (31), #3 Colombia (29), #4 Argentina (28), #5 Chile (27)
That will see Brazil, Uruguay, Colombia and Argentina qualify for the group stages while Chile (who will finish fifth thanks to their higher goal difference) will have to qualify via the playoff.