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Dublin: 1 °C Saturday 18 January, 2020

Uefa qualifying is down to the wire but things in South America are just as captivating

With one round of games remaining, six teams are still in contention for four spots.

Image: Natacha Pisarenko

FOR OBVIOUS REASONS, the focus has been on Uefa qualifiers as the Republic of Ireland remain in contention for a place in Russia next summer.

There have been plenty of compelling storylines and subplots, particularly over the last few days with one result potentially changing the course of another team’s chances.

But things are incredibly captivating in South America too.

With just one round of games left (on Tuesday), six teams are still battling it out for the four remaining spots.

Brazil have breezed through qualifying, losing just one of their 17 games so far and are already assured a World Cup place.

Meanwhile, Ecuador, Bolivia and Venezuela have been eliminated.

But for every team in between, it’s survival of the fittest.

Screen Shot 2017-10-08 at 10.53.14

In CONMEBOL qualifying, the top-four make it through automatically while the team that finishes in fifth will advance to a two-legged play-off against New Zealand next month.

Much has been made of Argentina’s peril. Right now, they’re sitting outside the top-five and whether they make it to Russia is out of their hands.

Here’s how the final round of fixtures looks.

Screen Shot 2017-10-08 at 11.02.30

For Lionel Messi and his team-mates, a win over Ecuador may not be enough. Yes, they can still make it through automatically but only if Colombia and Peru finish level or Colombia win and Chile draw or lose to Brazil.

There are plenty of other permutations but Jorge Sampaoli’s side need snookers. To avoid even more crunching of numbers and requiring help from elsewhere, they need to lock down a victory against Ecuador. If that happens, at least they kept their side of the deal.

But the other big storyline of CONMEBOL qualifying has been Peru. They lost three of their first four games but are unbeaten in their last five. They pulled off a big victory against Uruguay back in March and host Colombia in Lima on Tuesday.

Without a World Cup appearance since 1982, it promises to be quite the party if they secure qualification or a play-off spot.

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About the author:

Eoin O'Callaghan

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