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Sorting The Pile: Which CONMEBOL Teams Will Make It To Russia 2018?

Thursday 7th September 2017
There are two games left in the 2018 CONMEBOL World Cup Qualifiers, and everything is up for grabs. Seven teams are vying for three-and-a-half spots, and we will try to determine which teams will make it to Russia next year once the Qualifiers end next year.

The CONMEBOL World Cup Qualifiers once again are the most intense qualifying stage in the world. With two games left and eight teams alive on the quest for four-and-a-half spots, everything will be decided in October. But which teams have an edge over others? And ultimately, which team has the bigger chance to make it to Russia next year?

The Standings



First, let's take a look at the standings. Colombia, Uruguay, Peru, Argentina, Chile, Paraguay and Ecuador are still alive in the race for a World Cup berth. Brazil have clinched their spot a while ago, and both Bolivia and Venezuela are eliminated. But if we consider teams only have two games left, things are as tight as they could be.
However, some teams have an easier path than others. Let's take a look at what is in store for the aforementioned teams.

Uruguay



Uruguay needs to win their upcoming match against Venezuela (away from home) to secure a World Cup berth. That seems doable, although Venezuela can't be taken for granted since they are coming off two straight draws against Colombia and Venezuela. Their final game will come at home against Bolivia, so they will have a huge chance to finish near the top of the standings against two eliminated teams.

Luis Suarez, Edinson Cavani and the rest of Los Charruas have the easiest path of any team remaining, and they should cruise their way into Russia rather easily.

Colombia



Colombia are quite unpredictable, but they are riding a four-game undefeated streak with two wins and two draws over that span. But their matches against Paraguay (at home) and Peru (away) will be quite tough because they will face teams with a chance to get to Russia in both matches.

Los Cafeteros have a favourable scenario, though. They have clinched 15 points at home and 11 on the road, so chances are they will get positive results on both matches if we consider on both games they will take on teams that are on win-or-go-home situations. So while it might be tough to predict them on paper, Colombia should hold on and secure a WC spot in the end.

Peru



Out of the three teams that are currently securing a World Cup place, Peru have the toughest road to make it to Russia. They will visit Argentina in Week 17, and will - probably - define everything hosting Colombia in Week 18. So there is a big chance Los Incas will try to claw their way to Russia until the very last minute.

History does not look kind for Ricardo Gareca's men, though. If we take a look at the most likely result on paper, they could easily lose against Argentina and might draw against Colombia, a superior team. and one that will likely try to secure their direct WC berth in the final week of the campaign. But they are riding a four-game undefeated streak, and at the very least they will make things difficult for any team that faces them.

Argentina



Who would have thought one of the best teams in the world would have so much trouble trying to get into the World Cup? Argentina are coming off two straight draws against Uruguay and Venezuela and will define their fate in the final two weeks of the campaign against Peru (at home) and Ecuador (away).

Lionel Messi and company need to live up to the hype around them. They are one of the best teams in the world, but if they don't perform up to those standards in the final games, there is a realistic chance they won't be in Russia 2018. But as it has been the case in several instances before, Messi will carry them towards glory again. It's safe to say we can pencil La Albiceleste on Russia.

Chile



There is still hope for Chile. Despite dropping their last two games against Paraguay and Bolivia, they have a golden chance to bounce back against Ecuador at home. And while no one would like to decide their fate against Brazil in the final week of the calendar, Chile already defeated them in the qualifiers. And this time has a history of competing properly against some of the top sides in the world in recent years.

To gain two positive results, however, the team needs to improve on the attack. If we add the Confederations Cup into the mix, Chile have not scored in any of their past four matches. A return to form of players such as Alexis Sanchez and Arturo Vidal would be incredibly helpful. But the chance is there to, at least, fight for a playoff spot until the final match of the tournament.

Paraguay



Paraguay are three points away from a playoff spot, and they have a huge chance to play spoiler in the final two weeks. They remain alive, but their performances could have a huge impact on the rest of the teams since they will visit Colombia in Week 17. A positive outcome would give them hope ahead of their Week 18 match at home against Venezuela, but a loss would eliminate them completely.

They have their backs against the wall. But their fate will likely be decided in the match vs Colombia. Considering they have only clinched 10 points in eight away matches, they will have a hard time getting something out of Colombia. And if that's the case, then their chances of playing on Russian soil next year will be over.

Ecuador



Out of the seven aforementioned teams, Ecuador have the toughest path to achieve a World Cup place. With 20 points and two complicated matches against Chile (away) and Argentina (at home) on the horizon, Los Amarillos need to win both contests and wait for other results to go their way. They would need Argentina to lose against Peru and Chile to lose against Brazil solely to have a shot at a playoff berth.

The biggest challenge they face is themselves. Ecuador started the Qualifiers on fire, but they have four straight losses and their defending has been nothing short of awful of late. Unfortunately, they are just not good enough to compete right now. Especially if we consider the opponents they will face next month.

Final Verdict



Colombia and Uruguay have a relatively easy path and should qualify quite easily. But what about the fourth spot and the playoff berth?

I reckon Argentina and Chile will get the results they need and win against Peru and Ecuador in Week 17. That would put Peru in dire need of a positive result against Colombia, but Los Cafeteros will also fight for their berth in that match even if they win against Paraguay in their previous one. Peru would have the home-venue advantage, but that might not be enough.

Chile are likely to defeat an out-of-form Ecuadorian side, and Argentina - as mentioned - should get the win against Peru as well. Even though both teams have complicated away fixtures in the final round, both have proven their value over the past few years and will get a positive result. As crazy as it sounds, Chile might have an easier path against a Brazilian side that is solely looking for alternatives ahead of the World Cup, while Argentina will travel to Quito's altitude looking for their WC berth. And if Jorge Sampaoli plans the game well, La Albiceleste might get a point against a - potentially - eliminated Ecuador side.

So if things go as mentioned above, then Brazil, Uruguay, Colombia and Argentina would clinch a berth in the next round, while Chile would get the playoff spot against New Zealand. Peru, Paraguay, Ecuador, Bolivia and Venezuela would have to wait four more years to return to the World Cup.
Juan Pablo Aravena

29-year-old sports analyst and journalist with over three years of experience in the industry. Writes about all kinds of sports from football to golf, but there is no question his biggest passion in life is football. Manchester United, Borussia Dortmund and Colo Colo fan.


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