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Venezuela profit without kicking a ball

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Tim Vickery | 11:16 UK time, Sunday, 14 October 2012

A gap has opened up as South America's World Cup qualification campaign reaches the halfway stage. Victories on Friday for Argentina, Colombia and Ecuador mean that three teams have pulled away from the pack.

But the round had another winner, who did not even take the field on Friday. It was sixth-placed Venezuela's turn to take a rest, and their position improved while they sat and watched as Uruguay and Chile, the teams above them, both lost.

Three rounds ago Chile were first and Uruguay were second. Now they seem to be in free-fall. On Friday all they managed to accomplish was further damage to their goal difference - and things could get still worse for them in Tuesday's 10th round.


Venezuela's World Cup chances have been advanced despite them not playing this week. Photo: Getty

Chile have now conceded 16 goals in their eight games. Defence is not their strong point. Under previous coach Marcelo Bielsa they tried to mask the weakness by pressing in the opponent's half but current coach Claudio Borghi - now fighting for his job - drops his back three deeper, exposing all the more the team's vulnerability.

And there are specific problems for the next game at home to Argentina. Goalkeeper and captain Claudio Bravo is injured. His run of 27 consecutive World Cup qualifiers came to an end on Friday, when Miguel Pinto stepped in for the 3-1 defeat away to Ecuador - a game in which experienced defender Pablo Contreras and key midfielder Arturo Vidal picked up red cards that keep them out of Tuesday's match.

Chile, then, will field a makeshift defensive unit against opponents who are well able to take advantage. Argentina played some breathtaking football in Friday's 3-0 win over Uruguay. Lionel Messi is now showing club from for his country, linking up well with Fernando Gago behind him and exchanging passes at bewildering speed with Sergio Aguero in front of him.

Messi, Aguero and Angel Di Maria combined beautifully, and the team are developing an interesting variation - Messi drops deeper, pulling the opposition with him and creating space for the long ball over the top for Aguero.

Chile's defence could well be in for another tough 90 minutes - as should Uruguay's be. This time it is not Messi and company who will torment the reigning Copa America champions, but the extreme altitude of La Paz. With no time to acclimatise, Uruguay now travel to meet Bolivia in the Hernando Siles stadium some 3,600 metres above sea level.

This would be a tough task at any time but Uruguay will have to do it without their best three defenders - Diego Godin, Martin Caceres and captain Diego Lugano are all suspended. Bolivia, for whom nothing but a win is good enough, will go all out to take advantage.

The chances are, then, that both Chile and Uruguay will struggle to pick up points on Tuesday. It is Venezuela's big opportunity to overtake them and get into the qualification places.

This is the first campaign in which Venezuela have been serious contenders for a World Cup slot, which brings pressures of its own. Coach Cesar Farias will have to ensure his side are mentally well prepared for their match at home to Ecuador.

Farias is alert to the dangers. Venezuela lost their last home match (2-0 to Chile in June), and he used the occasion to warn his players that they were in danger of becoming too big for their boots. Indeed, his youthful appearance belies a steely nature. To an impressive extent he has managed to impose his own vision and personality on his team.

At the turn of the century an Argentine coach, Omar Pastoriza, identified a generation of players who would be useful for Venezuela. Results only improved, however, after he was replaced by a local coach, Richard Paez. Where previously Venezuela had taken the field mainly in the hope of avoiding heavy defeat, Paez now sent them out to win. His team were a happy-go-lucky affair, capable of turning on the flair but very loose defensively.

This is something that Farias was keen to correct. "Our first priority was to improve the defence," he said recently. A total of eight goals conceded in the first eight games shows he has been successful - only the top two teams, Argentina and Colombia, have conceded fewer. But Farias is aware that a focus restricted to defence will only take the team so far. "If we want to go to the World Cup," he said, "we must have an aggressive idea of play in our home games."

In Venezuela's last match, in Paraguay a month ago, Farias freshened up his attack, fielding the slippery and talented youngster Josef Martinez behind strong centre forward Salomon Rondon. The combination worked well, Rondon weighing in with both goals in an excellent 2-0 win.

This, though, was against opponents obliged to come forward, leaving space for the counter-attack. On Tuesday Ecuador will have no such obligation. Their 100% home record means they can afford to keep things tight on their travels, seek to frustrate their opponents and then slip in Luis Antonio Valencia or one of the other dangerous options they have down the flanks - such as the pace of Renato Ibarra or the elusive dribbling of the highly gifted Jefferson Montero.

Ecuador are more than just an altitude side, strong only in their mountain fortress of Quito. Last month they were unfortunate to come away from Uruguay with only a 1-1 draw. In August they took Chile apart on the way to a 3-0 win in a friendly held in the United States. If Venezuela over-commit, they could find themselves in serious trouble. It is a game that calls for cool heads and concentration.

Tuesday's match in Puerto La Cruz is probably the most important meeting ever between Venezuela and Ecuador - the first time that both are realistically chasing a World Cup slot. And if things go wrong once more for Uruguay and Chile, even a draw could be enough to carry Venezuela above them.

Comments on the piece below. Send questions on South American football to, and I'll pick out a couple for next week.
From last week's postbag;

Q) I was curious about your opinion on about Paulo Henrique Ganso's move to Sao Paulo rather than one of the European giants - he was linked with the likes of Arsenal, Tottenham, Man United, and both AC and Inter Milan. Did he make the right choice in staying in his native Brazil? He was touted as the next Kaka, Brazil's biggest creative fulcrum and hope for 2014, but now those tags seem to have disappeared with the emergence of Oscar.
Shahib Uddin

A) I'm not sure he had the option of moving to Europe at the moment, because it is far from clear that one of the continent's clubs would have paid big money for him. He is certainly very talented - capable of seeing and delivering the defence splitting pass. But I'm not sure that all that premature hype did him any favours. The playmaker position is one that demands maturity in the choice of options, and he has yet to show that he is anywhere near the finished article.

Then, of course, there is the question of his fitness. He has spent a lot of time injured over the past two years, and after his medical at Sao Paulo his new club described the condition of his knees as merely 'reasonable'. Indeed, it is far from certain he will play this year.

His relationship with Santos had broken down. At this stage a move down the road to Sao Paulo is probably his best option as he seeks to regain momentum.


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  • Comment number 1.

    I am one person who will be rooting for Venezuala over Uruguay, at least - I still haven't forgiven the country for Ghana's elimination at South Africa. Plus, it would be nice to see the reemergence of South American football through smaller countries such as Venezuala.

  • Comment number 2.

    At 14:29 14th Oct 2012, Zee Zee Top wrote:
    it wasnt uruguay just suarez and hs learnt from his mitake
    venezwala are nt a good team and wont quaify because of the lack of goals - 7 goals in 8 game not good nough
    besides, even if venezwala overtook urugay they would still be in the qualifiyication zones, bcuse of chile

  • Comment number 3.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 4.

    At 14:34 14th Oct 2012, FulhamLord27 wrote:
    yours isnt much better. what you mean is my spelling is horrendous. we dont put actually into it at all.
    Suarez only dived once and now he's in the news everyday for it. lots of players dive, and they all come from chelsea - drogba used to do it, lampard used to do it, and now torres, oscar, hazard
    if you havent seen venezuala play then why are you even on this blog?

    but to answer your question, venezuala play rather dully and dont scroe often. not good enough for world cup standard.

  • Comment number 5.

    "Venezuala play rather dully and dont score often. Not good enough for world cup standard"
    If you're going by logic then England aren't World Cup Standard either. Or Italy, come to think of it...
    You can't really use the term 'World Cup Standard' for a country like Venezuala. If they qualify for the World Cup without cheating in any form then they are World Cup Standard, because they beat other teams to the allocated places to the World Cup.

  • Comment number 6.

    @3. I don't think it was a mistake, the handball kept his country in the WC, I would do the same for mine!

  • Comment number 7.

    At 14:41 14th Oct 2012, mkalltheway wrote:
    I just noticed your name - mkalltheway. You have a disgraceful name if you named it after that horrible rap duo off the X Factor.

  • Comment number 8.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 9.

    How is Clarence Seedorf getting on at Botafogo?

  • Comment number 10.

    I'm sorry BBC, was that word too inappropiate?
    If he thinks that then he is one.

  • Comment number 11.

    Regarding horrendous spelling, I think it's important that we apply the "let he who is without sin cast the first stone" epithet. The complainer here didn't spell Venezuela correctly, which is the crux of the entire article, and we must remember that the BBC draws readers from many nations for whom English is not their native tongue. Even Tim made an error in the article, typing from instead of form when referring to Lionel Messi. As a newspaper editor and writer, I'm a stickler for proper English, but I have to say mistakes are easily made, and it happens to all of us. The most important thing is that people can express opinion, not fear a backlash from other posters, and hopefully keep their posts on topic.
    Tim's articles are always excellent, and it's always interesting to learn more about football from around the world. I watch a lot of Central American football, and it's nice to expand the horizons a little and realize that the world doesn't revolve around the Manchester clubs, Chelsea, PSG and Real Madrid. The joy in the World Cup is to see unheralded nations make it through, and it would be great for Venezuela to challenge the usual suspects for a place in Brazil. As long as they then don't go on to beat England - assuming we make it that far...

  • Comment number 12.

    Well said, exhull. I would also point out that it is unwise to mock anyone's spelling on the internet - how do you know they're not dyslexic, for a start? Anyway, go Venezuala! I don't know a great deal about S.American football, but being English I am genetically programmed to support the underdog! Also to queue patiently... ;-)

  • Comment number 13.

    An excellent article Tim.

    Argentina are developing into a formidable team. Their attacking players are probably the best in the world at the moment. If they can improve defensively over the next two years they have a great chance of winning the World Cup in Brazil.

    I know little about the Venezuela team but it is always good to see a new team at the World Cup. It seems like they have a realistic chance of qualifying for the World Cup in 2014.

  • Comment number 14.

    Uruguay problem is inability to start grooming another set of players to carry on. Oscar Tabaraz is solely dependent on majority of his south african squad. Yes, they're good. But they've already brought themselves to world exposure. So teams have succeeded in finding there weak points. It's high time he started testing other players. Suarez is the most wasteful player on planet. His contribution is equal to a beautiful nonsence. Liverpool and Uruguay will always bear the brunt of his laxity. Messi keeps bringing up special tricks every season. Now Ronaldo must have a think about freekicks, cos Messi has usurped him in that already.

  • Comment number 15.

    Zee Zee Top, your comment was both insulting to that particular poster, and ignorant in many ways.

  • Comment number 16.

    I would love for Venezuela to qualify 4th. However, Uruguay should qualify 5th. A World Cup just isn't a world cup without the 4x World Champions/tiny football giants. The World Cup needs every one of the iconic world football nations.

  • Comment number 17.

    Zee Zee Top,
    your comment on hating Uruguay because of Luis Suarez is disgusting. Being that they're the most successful football nation of all time (20 major FIFA titles with 3 million people), and a legendary/iconic, they are one of the most generally cherished football nations on earth. ...You say you want the underdog to come through, and yet there is no greater loved underdog in football history than Uruguay.

    I assume you started watching football this week. Only thing that can explain your ignorance.

  • Comment number 18.

    I could really care less about Venezuela. Very boring football team. The above post is spot on. A world cup without Uruguay would lack mystique. You need the big 3 in Brazil.

  • Comment number 19.

    Regarding the Suarez hand ball zzzzzZZZzzzzZZZZZ. Mate. That must be the most boring topic on earth.

  • Comment number 20.

    The lad is a legend in South America for all time because of that. I for one did not buy the "all for Ghana" media-agenda for a second. They were a dirty, cheap team that deserved what they got. Plus, it was the only genuine moment of excitement for me during the whole world cup. I stand up to tip my hat at the man for what he did. Legendary stuff.

  • Comment number 21.

    As for Chile. They have really fallen off the radar. It seems that their last success was 100% due to Bielsa. They never had that much talent really. Venezuela have a few interesting players. Uruguay, on the other hand, have incredible talent, but it isn't being used correctly. Tabarez needs to sort themselves out. History demands they be at every world cup.

  • Comment number 22.

    @16 foxfang4 and 18 anthonyheath1978

    No team has the right to qualify for the World Cup simply because of their history - otherwise there is no point in having qualification in the first place. Anyway, Uruguay have failed to qualify for 3 of the last 5 World Cups so it would not be a shock if they did not qualify.

  • Comment number 23.

    I'm sorry, I really am. I had to re-read my posts (or that bloke above) to see if anyone stated "right". What I wrote is that the it's a big loss for a World Cup not to have Uruguay (like losing Argentina or Brazil). I was glad that that "Recoba, we have the right" mentality was killed by Tabarez. The current squad is ultra humble, but they have work to do.

  • Comment number 24.

    In terms, of "should" be there, it's not about "Qualifying automatically", but in the sense of saying, without them , the world cup is not the same. Kind of like having a Premier League season without Liverpool or Manchester United.

  • Comment number 25.

    It could happen, but I personally hope they make it. They have such a tradition for creating football epics. I knew that Ghana v. Uruguay would be memorable before the match even took place.

  • Comment number 26.

    Nice piece Tim.

    I see the Independent (UK) published one of your blogs of a couple of weeks ago, re Brazil's readiness or not for 2014.

    Nice story about Gigghia arriving at Rio airport a few years back in the article alongside by Glenn Moore.

  • Comment number 27.

    @23 anthonyheath1978

    I realised that you had not actually used the word "right" but that seemed to be the gist of your posts.

    I really hope Uruguay qualify for the World Cup in Brazil as it will be a fitting swansong to end Forlan's career and another opportunity for Cavani and Suarez to show how good they are.

  • Comment number 28.

    @BaggiosPonytail , oh I know mate. Believe me, I wouldn't even think that of England, and I know that Uruguayans are not like that. In a way, I'm more impressed by their humility (considering their history) than all the titles Argentina have won. I've always had a soft spot for Uruguay, as I know many do.

  • Comment number 29.

    Speaking of the qualifiers: I am thrilled for Colombia. They are a criminally underestimated proud football nation. They might not have Argentina, Brazil or Uruguay's famous histories, but their passion for the game is truly unique. Ecuador have a top 10 team, and Venezuela could be a big surprise this World Cup.

    I predict:
    1. Argentina, 2. Colombia, 3. Ecuador, 4. Venezuela or Uruguay 5. One of those 2.

    Chile and Peru could surprise some, but it's more on "Can Uruguay/Venezuela cave under pressure" rather than their actual potential. I love South American football.

  • Comment number 30.

    Predictions for the games on Tuesday?

  • Comment number 31.

    @28 anthonyheath1978

    Oh I wasn't suggesting that Uruguay and their fans think it is their right to be at every World Cup and realise that is not what you meant either.

    I think quite a few England fans expect us not only to qualify for every tournament but win them too. Having watched every tournament since Euro 88 I do not have high expectations.

    I agree with your predictions and think Uruguay will finish 4th with Venezuela going into the play-off.

  • Comment number 32.

    @ 3: that's a very aggressive attitude considering that this blog attracts interest from around the world, and especially South America, naturally. Try and be patient with the quality of people's English and if you don't understand it (the prime quality criterion, I would've thought), ask them to clarify. International blogs are for international communication, after all, and we English speakers are lucky so much of it is in our own language. It is an effort for non-natives to participate, but if they make the effort they should be encouraged, not frightened off (imho).

  • Comment number 33.

    @ 11: I responded immediately to 3, before discovering that he is evidently a troll (the "Lord" should've alerted me), and your nice response.
    Given your interest in Central American football, imagine how discouraging it would be if your efforts to learn more were met by "Speak in Spanish, and make sure you spell it right!". Language differences are an artificial barrier between people and we must battle to overcome them, not reinforce them!

  • Comment number 34.

    Dear Tim,

    1. Is there any coach available that can make the Chilean team work? Borghi clearly can't and apparently he will quit if we lose to Argentina.
    2. This is the story you were asked about in the last football phone in, regarding a player that is able to practice while serving time:,09c7852435119310VgnVCM10000098cceb0aRCRD.html

  • Comment number 35.

    34 - thanks for that.
    Still a bit early to write Borghi's obituary - remember that Chile were top of the table just 3 rounds ago. Agree, though - it's hard to see him getting the defence right.
    Manuel Pellegrini will surely take the job one day, but not now. I wonder about Sampaoli, though he has other offers coming in. How about Bielsa's assistant in his time with Chile, the former Argentina defender Eduardo Berizzo?
    Knows the players, knows the scene, and 3 months ago was just a few heartbreaking seconds away from taking O'Higgins of Rancagua to their first league title.

  • Comment number 36.

    @ FulhamLord27

    Have you considered the fact that English may not be his first language. Maybe he is an immigrant who did not have the same education as you did. Are you implying that you are racist? I am an immigrant. Is my spelling and grammar good enough for you?

  • Comment number 37.

    Following up on a story that we debated a couple of weeks ago, Millonarios of Colombia have announced that they will not be giving up the league titles they won in 1987 and 88, when the club (like others in the country at that time) had financial connections with the drug trade.

  • Comment number 38.

    Number 36 Pulls out 'the old chesnut'..........


    Fantastic once again. Am I right in thinking that Venezuela are the only South American county that have not yet qualified for the World Cup?

  • Comment number 39.

    Your spelling doesn`t bother me, what does is the fact that you say `Suarez only dived once`. Sorry but he dives at least three times every game, did you actually see the one against Stoke, that would have won gold at the olympics.

  • Comment number 40.

    39.At 08:58 15th Oct 2012, mark a sims wrote:
    Your spelling doesn`t bother me, what does is the fact that you say `Suarez only dived once`. Sorry but he dives at least three times every game, did you actually see the one against Stoke, that would have won gold at the olympics.

    I dont think you could class the Suarez incident against Stoke as a dive.

    It was way after the initial contact and no-one was around Suarez when he "bunny hopped" , no ref in the world would have given that as it was so outrageous.

    Ashley Young did a similar "dive" last season and got a penalty , but his timimg was more precise.
    Maybe Suarez should give up the diving and leave it to the experts :)

  • Comment number 41.

    Last weekend's games were very interesting.

    Chile couldn't cope with the size and power of Ecuador, which is unsurprising because Uruguay had struggled against them too in the previous round. Chile look very lightweight.

    Peru drew in Bolivia with a team almost entirely composed of altitude-acclimatised players from Andean clubs.

    Colombia struggled to get past Paraguay at home, and I don't think that they are as good as their current lofty position implies.

    Argentina v Uruguay was a superb match, and we were privileged to have it live on free-to-air terrestrial tv here in Australia. Argentina confirmed why I think they are the team to beat in Brazil: they press high up the pitch and play at an extraordinary pace and tempo. Uruguay's first-half game-plan was ideal: defend deep with bodies behind the ball and allow Argentina no space, while launching rapid counter-attacks. But Uruguay's coach made a terrible blunder in switching to a high defensive line at half-time, which simply created spaces for Argentina to run into at pace.

    And Uruguay's coach had already made a much worse blunder. Most of us could see that they would not pick up any points in Argentina, but he could at least have sent his best players to Bolivia last Sunday week to start acclimatising to the altitude: if they win in La Paz on Tuesday they would still have picked up 3 points out of six this double-header.

    Peru's Uruguayan coach employed a similar strategy in La Paz last Friday, and escaped with a point while the team's key players were already in Asuncion for tomorrow's match with Paraguay. But Uruguay now take to La Paz a squad already on its last legs after being run off their feet by Argentina.

    By the way, I'm not sure that I subscribe to the view that Argentina, Colombia and Ecuador have already broken free at the top and have one foot in Brazil, while Uruguay, Chile, Venezuela and Peru are scrapping for the last two places.

    South American qualifying is a marathon, not a sprint. Both Colombia and Ecuador have limited squads and have had relatively easy recent matches.

    As for the next round of matches, my predictions are:

    Bolivia 2 Uruguay 0
    Venezuela 1 Ecuador 1
    Paraguay 1 Peru 1
    Chile 0 Argentina 2

    That would leave the table as follows:
    1. Argentina 9 matches / 20 points
    2. Ecuador 9 matches / 17 points
    3. Colombia 8 matches / 16 points
    4. Uruguay 9 matches / 12 points
    5. Venezuela 9 matches / 12 points
    6. Chile 9 matches / 12 points
    7. Peru 9 matches / 9 points
    8. Bolivia 9 matches / 8 points
    9. Paraguay 9 matches / 5 points

  • Comment number 42.

    Well done to everyone responding to Tim's (excellent as usual) article. For the small minded individuals who only come on here to belittle others and generally troll around, get a life. This is about football, not stroking your pathetic egos. If you just want an argument then get on McNulty's "blog".

  • Comment number 43.

    As for Suarez, if he played in another league his behaviour would be acceptable, however he does play in the EPL so he should learn to behave accordingly... as he has had too regarding his use of language that is "acceptable" elsewhere but not here.

  • Comment number 44.

    40.At 09:58 15th Oct 2012, repo wrote:

    Morning mate,

    Did you watch the Portugal game? I unfortunately had to miss it, but caught up on the result. Told you we play a lot more defensively now!! ;)

    Looking ominous already, could be a repeat of the U-21 Group.....

  • Comment number 45.

    41.At 10:51 15th Oct 2012, yakubusdiet wrote:

    Morning (or afternoon / evening to you in Oz),

    Did you catch any of the euro WC qualifiers? I know you said you'd keep an eye on Serbia v Belgium. An impressive performance from the Belgians. Will be interesting to see how they play against Croatia.

    Russia got an excellent win as well, guess that may be one step at proving the "haters" wrong.

  • Comment number 46.

    @45 ESG
    I was impressed by Russia's result, although I've only seen the goal. I thought that Capello might be a poor fit as national team coach - he disappointed me enormously with England - but they seem to be responding to him. Russia has the potential to be a very dangerous team, but I guess that up to know I've discounted them as "mentally fragile" - which might no longer be true.

    I don't know whether it's premature to fear Belgium. It's obvious that they have a once-in-a-lifetime generation of players in terms of Kompany, Vermaelen, Vertonghen, Fellaini and Lukaku, but they also now have a genius in Eden Hazard, and that makes them potential world champions, but only if they can gel as a team. Winning in Belgrade is a good start but they have Croatia in the group who are tough and experienced and will be hard to get past.

    My main conclusion from last Friday was that Argentina is really gelling as a team. Uruguay played pretty well for an hour in an "only managing 30% possession but occasionally breaking out" sort of a way, but Argentina pulverised them in the end.

    Sadly, Uruguay's veteran coach Tabarez is starting to lapse into relentless conservatism. When his ageing captain Lugano had to go off he overlooked Coates and Victorino and instead brought on the almost 37 year old Scotti who was a journeyman a decade ago in his prime, and who was run off his feet by Aguero, Messi, di Maria and Higuain. It was an act of suicide. And if Uruguay lose in La Paz, they will have dropped 11 points out of the last 12, and Tabarez will head off into retirement.

    To be honest, the mistake of Tabarez was in not replacing his veterans Forlan, Lugano and Perez with Ramirez, Coates and Gargano a year ago.

  • Comment number 47.

    At 10:51 15th Oct 2012, yakubusdiet wrote:

    By the way, I'm not sure that I subscribe to the view that Argentina, Colombia and Ecuador have already broken free at the top and have one foot in Brazil, while Uruguay, Chile, Venezuela and Peru are scrapping for the last two places.

    South American qualifying is a marathon, not a sprint. Both Colombia and Ecuador have limited squads and have had relatively easy recent matches.

    As for the next round of matches, my predictions are:

    Bolivia 2 Uruguay 0
    Venezuela 1 Ecuador 1
    Paraguay 1 Peru 1
    Chile 0 Argentina 2

    That would leave the table as follows:

    That would leave the table as follows:
    1. Argentina 9 matches / 20 points
    2. Ecuador 9 matches / 17 points
    3. Colombia 8 matches / 16 points
    4. Uruguay 9 matches / 12 points
    5. Venezuela 9 matches / 12 points
    6. Chile 9 matches / 12 points
    7. Peru 9 matches / 9 points
    8. Bolivia 9 matches / 8 points
    9. Paraguay 9 matches / 5 points

    Surely you have contradicted yourself a bit there? If your predictions are correct after the next round of matches Colombia would be 4 points ahead of Uruguay with a game in hand. Wouldn't that suggest the top three have almost broken away?

  • Comment number 48.

    At 11:37 15th Oct 2012, yakubusdiet wrote:

    My main conclusion from last Friday was that Argentina is really gelling as a team.

    Yes if they continue to improve defensively then they definitely have a great chance of winning the next World Cup. They seemed to have found a way to get the best out of Messi - I think it has taken him time to adjust to a different way of playing than he is used to at Barcelona.

  • Comment number 49.

    @47 BaggiosPonytail
    Yes, for the time being Argentina, Colombia and Ecuador have a 4 point cushion over the chasing pack of Uruguay, Chile, Venezuela and Peru.

    But that is because they have all just put together a strong run of results. A short slip-up would drop them right back into the chasing pack: for example next June Ecuador have to go to Peru and then four days later host Argentina.

    It's not much easier for Colombia: they sit out the next round, then have an easy home tie against Bolivia but then play away in Venezuela and Argentina. Which means that while other teams will be playing two double-headers, Colombia might only pick up 3 points.

  • Comment number 50.

    44.At 11:17 15th Oct 2012, Eduard_Streltsov_Ghost wrote:
    Morning mate,

    Did you watch the Portugal game?

    Hi ESG
    I watched most of it , missed the middle part due to commuting.
    The way I saw it was Russia got the goal and then sat back and looked to hit on the counter attack. Portugal had all the possesion but could not break Russia down.

    The goal was strange , Pepe had a rush of blood and charged out of defence to try to win a ball in midfield that he was never going to reach. This left the eventual goal scorer a free run on goal due to Alves being stranded on the other side of the pitch ( marking nobody ).

    The strange thing was the pitch , it looked like they were playing with a rugby ball it was that bobbly. I did wonder if it was prepared like that deliberately to nullify the Portuguese passing game ?

  • Comment number 51.

    morning all

    Argentina/Uruguay, great match, Messi could not be marked, he was totally unplayable. They have found a way of using him to full effect by giving him no defined position in the team. I do not see how he can be controlled in a game because he's roaming in a large area of the pitch, from 10/15 yards inside his own half he's then popping up in a poachers position in the box. Plus he's drawing players towards him when he makes those runs. He's now doing something as an individual player at international level, that I have not seen for a few years, controlling the game.

    The only problems for Argentina is the reliance that is placed upon Messi. Their defence is also suspect by being very static, they are very slow to react to any attacking threat.

  • Comment number 52.

    46.At 11:37 15th Oct 2012, yakubusdiet wrote:

    Argentina look like a good attacking side, but I wonder how they would do against a team that is happy to soak up pressure and hit on the counter? I can see them being a typical argentinian team, look amazing in the group WC games, but then being unstuck by an organised european side a la Germany 2010, Italy 2006, Holland 2002 etc.

    Their defence just looks poor to me. Who was there on Friday? Zabaleta? Garay? I think it's clear that Uruguay are no longer the side they were 2 years either.

    Belgium are essentially dark horses.They're on paper a quality side, but I question the experience and unity and mentality that other big sides will have. Still, if they get a result against Croatia they will surely be favourites to qualify.

    I joked that Capello was underrated in England because a majority of the english players were tactically inept and didn't understand his tactics, hence his "perceived" failure. My worry for Russia was that:
    a) He did not have the skills to bring through some youngsters into the ageing pool
    b) He'd stifle the natural creativity and the "passovochka" style inherent in Russian play in favour of a more "italian" approach.

    As you've pointed out, Russia have had a similar english big game mentality and bottling it at the main stage. Hopefully he'll be able to change that. What I have noticed is that we play more controlled and disciplined. On their day Russia are as good as anyone (as shown by wins v Czechs in Euros, Italy in friendly b4 euros etc), they've just rarely been able to do it at the big stage

  • Comment number 53.

    All these carp spelligns are doing my haed in, get it rihgt will you. or dont brother pasting at all...

  • Comment number 54.

    You mention that:
    "Tuesday's match in Puerto La Cruz is probably the most important meeting ever between Venezuela and Ecuador - the first time that both are realistically chasing a World Cup slot."
    I must remind you that Ecuador have been to 2 world cups and in 2006 had a great chance of beating England in the last 16.
    Ecuador have a really strong team and should finish second behind Argentina.
    1. Argentina
    2. Ecuador
    3. Colombia
    4. Uruguay
    5. Chile

  • Comment number 55.

    eduard @52

    moring eduard

    your 100% correct regarding Argentina. Hold them up front and you will beat them because a quality team will get at them.

    For me the key to beating Argentina is Messi he's now more than capable of doing a Maradona for them, therefore he has to be stopped first.

    Just caught the Russian result bet your as pleased as punch.

  • Comment number 56.

    @52 ESG
    I'm not sure that Uruguay is in significant decline.

    Rather, I think that they and Paraguay over-achieved at the Copa America by keeping their 2010 teams intact, while other teams were yet to peak.

    Now Uruguay and Paraguay are trailing behind Argentina and Colombia in terms of the development of their 2014 team, while Ecuador are just using their physical size to bully the opposition.

    I can't exaggerate how good Argentina were on Friday, against a very strong Uruguay team. Their 3-0 victory was more impressive than Colombia's 4-0 one a month ago, because Colombia relied upon the heat and humidity to sap Uruguay while Argentina did it with pace on and off the ball.

    And I don't think Sabella has discovered some new formula. He has just accepted that Messi and Aguero have been playing together well for years, and just need to be left to do their thing. He uses Higuain almost as a decoy for those two.

    The back four, by the way, looks perfectly strong. Uruguay got the ball to Cavani and Suarez a few times, and they dealt with them well. And let's face it, if you can contain Cavani and Suarez you can contain anyone.

  • Comment number 57.

    50.At 12:21 15th Oct 2012, repo wrote:
    watched most of it , missed the middle part due to commuting.
    The way I saw it was Russia got the goal and then sat back and looked to hit on the counter attack. Portugal had all the possesion but could not break Russia down.

    Seems like a very "italian" performance then! At least we're not playing 4-4-2. Portugal were missing Ronaldo as well were tehy not?

    I'm not sure about the pitches. Russia tend to play a passing style as well, so I would imagine it didn't benefit them either. It may have been the artificial pitch if it was at Luzhniy Stadium. It's getting to that time of year when conditions become arctic so it may be the reason why.

  • Comment number 58.

    yakubusdiet @56

    I tend to agree regarding Uruguay. I believe if they make the world cup they will prove to be a massive threat to any European team. The Argentina game is not the best way to judge them, I doubt any team would of controlled Messi, he was sensational.

    A player that interested me was the sub Barcos, I had only seen him once before but for the short time he was on, he looked a pretty useful addition for them.

    Regarding Argentina at the back I tend to disagree, I thought they looked static and slow to respond. But they do have time to correct their defence which I think they will because it is more about concentration than an inability to defend.

  • Comment number 59.

    55.At 13:28 15th Oct 2012, Londoner in exile returns wrote:
    eduard @52

    moring eduard

    your 100% correct regarding Argentina. Hold them up front and you will beat them because a quality team will get at them.

    Delighted about the Russia result, especially after the ribbing that Repo was dishing out on Thurs! ;)

    How was the hols in Argentina? Glad you enjoyed the game.

    Argentina just don't look safe in defence. To me it's going to be the same old story. Potent in attack, weak in defense. Easy to say if you stop messi you will win, but just think the likes of Italy & Portugal may be too much.

  • Comment number 60.

    54- I'm wellaware that Ecuador have made it to 2 World Cups. My BBC debut in 1997 was a radio piece on the ris of Ecuador, arguing that they would fall short of France 98, but were a tem to look out for in future World Cups - if only all my predictions were half as accurate!
    Perhaps the line you are complaining about misses a word - 'simultaneously.' This is the first time that both Vebezuela and Ecuador are simultaneously realistically chasing a World Cup slot.' It's ugly like that though...

  • Comment number 61.

    57.At 13:43 15th Oct 2012, Eduard_Streltsov_Ghost wrote:
    Seems like a very "italian" performance then! At least we're not playing 4-4-2. Portugal were missing Ronaldo as well were tehy not?

    Ronaldo played but he was ineffective. The ref let a lot of physical stuff go unpunished from both sides.
    The players seem to realise that and Ronaldo was taken out "unfairly" on a few occasions and towards the end of the match he looks as if he was not interested.

  • Comment number 62.

    eduard @59

    the hols were special, especially the game, the atmosphere was electric, just wish England could recreate the same for their games. But anyone going to the world cup needs to be aware, they will need a mortgage because everything seems to be so expensive and my friends tell me Brasil is even more costly.

    As I said before, like you Argentina do look frail defensively but as i said earlier it's more a case of not reacting to what's in front of them quickly enough. It is that Messi factor though, on his day and he does seem to be having more of them now for Argentina, he is unplayable. The team also recognise that and willingly play to his strengths. Aguero for example, I cannot believe a player of his quality can work so hard but he does. Higuain is the same.

    That Russian team, it may well be that Capello can turn what is undoubtably a talented bunch into a team that no one would want to play. He never suited England but i would say that was more England's fault than Capello's. I doubt we were mentally geared for Capello.

    The big question would be, are Russia and their mentality geared for Capello?

    If the answer is yes, they will go a long way because he is a top coach whose teams are difficult to beat but they can also win games.

  • Comment number 63.

    61.At 14:14 15th Oct 2012, repo wrote:

    Didn't see the game so cannot comment. I thought ROnaldo was on his 99th cap and would make it 100 v Russia? Oh well my mistake.

    Of course the key match will be the one in Lisbon?

  • Comment number 64.

    I have been a longtime reader of this blog and have always been an admirer of the quality of articles (not just focusing on culture, heat / altitude but also on the distinct tactics employed only in South america like the romanticism with an enganche / brazil's ultra physical midfield and defence).
    This time I felt i had to register an account to join in the cultured discussions with people who had really cool monikers - baggio, streltsov and obviously yakubusdiet (who seems a sureshot future quinela winner for his bang on predictions).
    My two cents from the matches i saw - Argentina are a good WIP and if sabella can be weaned from his estudiantes leaning they will have an even better team. Midfield can be tweaked a bit to suit some matches.
    Ecuador are a robust team and in Montero they have a rare talent.
    My bet is on Argentina, colombia, ecuador and either venezuela or chile to nick
    the slots.
    Looking at the quality on display, one sometimes wonders whether FIFA has got the quota allocation wrong. I believe Europe should get 18, SA-6, Asia - 2, Africa 5 and Concacaf 1 slot. No way should Oceania get such an easy shot at qualification when South american qualifiers have to travel to the depths of hell and back to qualify.

  • Comment number 65.


    Was Ronaldo injured before the game, did they patch him up for the game or was he injured during the game?

  • Comment number 66.

    62.At 14:17 15th Oct 2012, Londoner in exile returns wrote:

    Can anybody answer who the back 4 for Argentina were / are? (I'm being lazy and don't want to look it up!!).

    What do you mean you wish England could have the same sort of atmosphere? You're not a fan of some of the terrace songs and the brass band?

    Argentina look like a team solely geared to Messi. I've said it before that it will be their downfall. I can just see a team like Italy completely (tactically) rolling them over. They may be favourites, but they won't win it.

    Ah the old Russian Football team and mentality. It's like England and penalties. Russia are probably more tactically adept than England so may be able to adapt better to Capello's principles. The whole issue of discipline should be fine as well (historically we've generally been well disciplined). It's just about mentality. If (like you say) he gets that sorted, they will be a very dangerous outfit and a banana skin for any team.

  • Comment number 67.

    yes, but which team wouldnt be if they have a top 5 talent of all time. pros of having a messi dependent team outweigh other options where there are multiple efficient formations. Messi himself can adapt his game to the situation (winger, enganche, false 9) plus in higuain and aguero they arent that dependent on him. I would like to see pastore and lamela to play a bit more as plan B in case messi gets injured.

    Also eduard_streltsov -> any idea where i can buy an old soviet jersey with letters CCCP online.

  • Comment number 68.

    65.At 14:30 15th Oct 2012, Londoner in exile returns wrote:

    Was Ronaldo injured before the game, did they patch him up for the game or was he injured during the game?

    He bruised his shoulder playing against Barcelona on the previous Saturday. He did not train with the rest of the squad until Thursday I believe.

    I do not think this hampered him, or be used as an excuse. As I said previously he took a bit of stick from the Russian defenders which the ref let go, and he ended up looking disinterested.

  • Comment number 69.


    for the 4-3 it was the following:


    Attack is certainly the best form of defence it would appear.

  • Comment number 70.

    eduard 66

    You gotta cheek eduard, that brass band don't do it for me. LOL

    I've come to realise the FA want good wholesome families attending England matches at Wembley. Argentina on the other hand, their fans created a cauldron for their team.

    Of course you are right, they are 100% geared to Messi but without him they would be distinctly less of a team. Your also right about several top class teams on their day being capable of beating Argentina. I was almost certain that Messi could not have a Maradona effect for Argentina but looking at them, i am now inclined to believe he can.

    The back four, I believe need to be controlled [Adams style for Arsenal] I think Fernandez may be the one to do it for them. Zabeleta and Garay look ok but they just do not seem to play as one unit. Not sure about the keeper he didn't have anything to do.

    One player i was suprised by was Barcos, he came on as a sub but had a disallowed goal but he looked the business. Bit old in his late 20's with a good touch, he looked like he'd do well here in England.

  • Comment number 71.

    66 - first choice for argentin a cross the back ( r to l)
    Zabaleta, Fernandez, Garay, Rojo.

    Rojo - who had his best game for Argentina - got injured on Friday, Campagnaro coming on at right back with Zabaleta switching flanks

    62 - if you think Argentina is expensive, then Brazil is a different thing entirely - much, much more. Anyone thinking of coming over in 2014, start saving yesterday!

  • Comment number 72.

    @ Tim Vickery

    Thanks for the team sheet! So what are your expert thoughts on the defence? To me they have never looked particularly strong or settled. Is this the proposed defence in 2014? What are your thoughts of Federico Fernandez? I can't say I've heard too much about him....

  • Comment number 73.

    70.At 14:52 15th Oct 2012, Londoner in exile returns wrote:

    I think that's always been the difference between the two. England have always been geared as a place to watch with your family, where as Argentina has been for male fans only. Hence the different levels of intensity.

    Hmmm, with Messi and Argentina I guess only time will tell. My personal thought is that he won't do it, but it will be a pleasure to see me eat my words. Think Russia might stuff them! :P

  • Comment number 74.

    if you think Argentina is expensive, then Brazil is a different thing entirely - much, much more. Anyone thinking of coming over in 2014, start saving yesterday!

    That is what my friends have said, I was looking at the cost of getting around and general living costs whilst I was there.

    Argentina is a great country for a visit and I enjoyed the venue which I thought was a strange choice before I got there. The atmosphere the supporters created really did make a great game an even better experience.

    I'm a tad envious of you and your job Tim.

  • Comment number 75.

    Plus the fact the world cup will be there in 2014 the prices will sky rocket, which always suprises me really as the average fan of Brazil will be your everyday hard worker, unable to afford the ticket prices meaning stadiums half full.

    Brazil is by no means on the whole a wealthy country so im sure they must be thinking of ways to get a country football mad able to go to the games.

  • Comment number 76.

    @ 41 -
    "Colombia struggled to get past Paraguay at home, and I don't think that they are as good as their current lofty position implies."
    "South American qualifying is a marathon, not a sprint. Both Colombia and Ecuador have limited squads and have had relatively easy recent matches."

    "relatively easy matches" you claim?
    Colombia an Ecuador recently faced direct rivals for the WCQ, in both Chile and Uruguay. Remember Colombia beat Chile in Santiago 1-3. And Uruguay barely drew with Ecuador in Montevideo. Short of Argentina, Chile and Uruguay are the 2 toughest opponents Colombia and Ecuador could have faced.

    Also, having watched the Paraguay match, stating Colombia 'struggled' is pretty ridiculous considering Colombia had at least 4 additional clear opportunities to increase the margin in comparison to one option by Paraguay. Paraguay's strategy was to play defensive keep the ball away from Colombia during the 1st half and it worked for Pelusso. Second half it was all Colombia. Take note, Colombia has also won every match as a visiting team, except the 0-1 in Quito. Beat Bolivia in La Paz, beat Peru in Lima, beat Chile in Santiago, and is having the best visitors campaign thus far in all qualifiers.

  • Comment number 77.


    As you know I've been around a few years but watching this Argentinian team is like a throwback to a bygone age. It's a breath of fresh air.

    They have a couple of players who will carry the ball, taking on players and beating them.

    Fernandez looks a natural leader for the defence, whether that happens is open to question but as i said before they need someone to do that for them.

  • Comment number 78.

    I was in the river plate area this time 4 years ago. I can say that my bank account wept with relief when I crossed from Brazil into Argentina. I don't know if prices in Argentina have crept up since, but I can only imagine that Brazil is getting rapidly more expensive during this boom. I regret having cut a good week or two of travel in the far south of Brazil out of my original route because it was SO much cheaper to get around in Argentina, but at least it gave me a reason to go back one day.

    Well said Kromekote #76. Colombia's last few games have been far from easy on paper. And they have already put all the altitude games behind them. Just a shame we slipped up against Venezuela and Argentina at home. Like Argentina with Messi, Colombia have finally found the way to get the best out of Falcao and we can only that continues into the spring qualifying matches. Argentina away isn't going to be a repeat of 1993, but a draw would be very useful. Then playing the likes of Peru and Ecuador at home should be easy.

  • Comment number 79.

    77.At 15:21 15th Oct 2012, Londoner in exile returns wrote:

    yes, you are a wise sage when it comes to football history! ;)

    I can imagine that they are a breath of fresh air to the stuffy, negative, risk averse possession based teams we see today. I have always liked Argentina and their style in WC, but I have always been left disappointed and thought them to be naive at times, playing with freedom but leaving themselves open.

    Not seen Fernandez at Napoli or Argentina at all, so no idea. Is he another Walter Samuel in disguise? I remember he was awesome on Champ Man, but WAY too slow in real life.

  • Comment number 80.

    eduard @79

    Do you know? I know absolutely diddley about 'Champ Man' but I presume it is a computer game. lol

    Fernandez is young and as i say if he learns how to marshal the defence and get them organised they will take another step to being defensively sound.

  • Comment number 81.

    Cheers for clarifying that Tim,
    This is also the first time that both Colombia and Ecuador are "simultaneously" realistically chasing a World Cup slot. These 2 countries have always supported each other in WC Quialifiers and it would be great to see them both in Brazil 2014.
    Ecuador wont have Renato Ibarra available as he was injured in the match against Chile in Quito, and will also miss the attacking power of Felipe Caicedo through suspension.

    My predictions for the next round of matches are:

    Bolivia 2 Uruguay 1
    Venezuela 0 Ecuador 2
    Paraguay 1 Peru 0
    Chile 0 Argentina 3

  • Comment number 82.

    79. Eduard_Streltsov_Ghost

    Fernandez is a player with great quality, his heading ability is second to none. His two goals against bayern last season are examples of this. Certainly one for the world cup as he's 23 now he will be at the perfect age for the Brazil WC. Looking forward to seeing his development in the next 2 seasons.

  • Comment number 83.

    80.At 16:01 15th Oct 2012, Londoner in exile returns wrote:

    Hahaha I shall have to get you the new Football Manager (the successor to Championship Manager) when it is out for Christmas. it is a perfect game for a retired football enthusiast as yourself. Everton even use it as a starting point for their scouting!

    It is a must for any armchair pundit!

  • Comment number 84.

    82.At 16:06 15th Oct 2012, signori wrote:

    He sounds a lot like Walter Samuel in that case. Whatever happened to him? And Christian Chivu for that matter?

  • Comment number 85.

    84. Eduard_Streltsov_Ghost

    both at Inter

    Samuel, well he has won Serie A 6 times, the coppa 3 and the champions league once...not bad for someone that was 'too slow in real life' hey.

    Chivu won serie A 3 times the coppa 3 the champions league once and i remember having Ronaldo in his pocket in 08-09 in the champions league home game.

    both have had injuries (more so Samuel) but both very reliable in their day.

  • Comment number 86.

    85.At 16:22 15th Oct 2012, signori wrote:

    SAmuel must be what, 37 now?

    I just remeber SAmuel at Madrid being absolutely hapless and shown up for having zero pace. That was the same for Argentina. In Italy he could get away with it because it is much slower. You have to take 3 of those Serie A's with a pinch of salt, they were under the Manchini era where Inter had the best team by a mile and zero competition.

    Chivu I remember was a decent player, I wasn't sure if he was still there or not. Remember him and Mexes bossing the Roma defence.

  • Comment number 87.

    86. Eduard_Streltsov_Ghost

    Samuels 34 so still life in the old dog yet.

    Yeah at Real he was no good, they were looking for a leader at the back and someone who could play a bit, sadly Samuel didnt fit the 'play a bit' role. They wanted someone who could play it out from the back. Walter is a stick his body on the line and where it hurts kinda player hence the nickname Il Muro 'the wall' so he didnt fit in with the galactico's.

    A title is a title, you can only beat whats put in front of you really, i would never take away someones achievments based on opposition, Inter had a very good team then, i do see your point however it does seem a little harsh.

    Yeah Chivu was set to go to Spain too, to either of the big clubs but never materialised and went to Inter from Roma instead. i think of the two Chivu would have suited Real more.

  • Comment number 88.

    72 - Fernandez is coming on nicely and I'm a long time admirer of Garay - pity that he's so injury prone. Neither of them are express though - which means they are happier in the middle, and that gaps can open up in the channels between them and the full backs - it happened a couple of times against Uruguay, mainly donw the Argentina right - the stand out example is when Suarex got into the space, pushed the ball through the legs of Fernandez and was only foiled because Zabaleta got back well to cover inside his centre back.
    Don't know what others think, but I've never been entirey convinced by Romero in goal.

  • Comment number 89.

    What are your thoughts on Juan Guillermo Cuadrado, who came in during the 2nd half for Colombia against Uruguay? His impact on the team was obvious, but he always seems to be used as an impact substitute rather than a starter by Pekerman (maybe I'm wrong). I love watching him play whenever he is put in.

  • Comment number 90.

    87.At 16:40 15th Oct 2012, signori wrote:

    My god! Only 34? He seems to have been around forever!! I didn't think he was suited to Spain. Real at that point made a few howlers in the transfer market. Samuel reminds me a lot of vidic to be honest!

    Riquelme at Barca was another odd one (although it looked perfect on paper).

    I know but one was literally taken away from Juve and given to Inter. Then that season the team that won it were playing in serie b with their best players moving to INter, and the team that finished 2nd starting with a sizeable points deduction!

    From what I remember, CHivu and Mexes were both defenders that could play the ball.

  • Comment number 91.

    89 - I think Cuadrado is excellent in exactly that role - of impact sub. he changed the game on friday, as paraguay coach pelusso admitted afterwards. His presence wide right stretched the paraguayan defence, and helped open up space for james rodriguez and macnelly torres.

  • Comment number 92.

    90. Eduard_Streltsov_Ghost

    yeah he started young Samuel and is a name that often people remember, he's had some sizeable transfers too! Real certainly did! i remember when Pepe was first ont he scene though and he was very irratic, seen him kick someone in the back on the floor, very strange character.

    Riquelme was an absolute wizard the man literally was born to play football, he always seemed to have such grace on the ball. what a shame we never saw possibly the best of him.

    Yeah totally agree with those 2 titles there mate.

    Roma look very good at the moment, even worse so De Rossi is playing his best football, he's even scoring for Italy! wish we had bought him! :(

  • Comment number 93.

    81 - I was there in the stadium in Quito 11 years ago when Ecuador qualified for their first World Cup. For some reason I'd been given a photographer's accreditation, so rather than watching from the stands I was on the pitch, stading behind the goal Ecuador were attacking - I can just about see myself when Kaviedes scored the vital goal.
    It was an afternoon game, and as soon as it finished I had to rush baclk to the hotel to watch the other matches in the round, then broadacast and write when it was all over. When I got up next mornign I could see the streets ankle deep in broken glass, the remnants of all the celebrating that had gone on. I felt sorry at having missed it - from the debris it looked like quite a party!

  • Comment number 94.

    92.At 16:57 15th Oct 2012, signori wrote:

    Haha Pepe was a joke when he joined. People say Rooney is indisciplined, Pepe's had more red cards than Gazza's had pints!

    Riquelme was odd at barca, he just didn't seem to fit. Then moved to Villareal and was a magician again. Maybe he just needs to be the centrepiece?

    Hasn't De Rossi fallen out with Zeman? Jan transfer rumour perhaps?

  • Comment number 95.

    @75 signori

    Tim. feel free to correct me if I'm wrong.

    In Brazil, OAP's & students are entitled to half price entry to football matches.

    I believe one of the legacies of the recently resigned and much maligned Ricardo Teixeira was to secure an extension of this to the finals themselves, much to the annoyannce of FIFA. I think something like 300,000 tickets have been set aside for this purpose.

    Oh and selling beer at the games as well (Y)

  • Comment number 96.

    94., Eduard_Streltsov_Ghost

    i think he went for some help to be honest as he seemed to be a very misguided person.

    Riquleme has to be the centrepiece much like Pirlo does play everything through and around him.

    Hmmmm i'd love to say yes but i really cant see it, we now dont have room and would be expensive and would have to get rid of like for like.....

  • Comment number 97.

    I was at the game in Quito on Friday and while Ecuador deserved to win they, as usual they made heavy work of it.

    In the absence of Antonio Valencia, Felipe Caicedo really has stepped up to the plate. His first goal was excellent:having the presence of mind to round the keeper instead of a rash shot and he did well to take his rebounded penalty (especially after the ref ordered the ball to be re-spotted 2-3 times).

    Depending on Tuesday's results, the top 3 are in danger of moving away from the pack and leaving Uruguay, Chile and Venezuela in a battle for 4th and 5th spots.

    Messi was impressive versus Uruguay. The myth his incapability to replicate his Barcelona form has surely been debunked now?

    Falcao also put another £5 million on his asking price with his brace against Paraguay.

    Yesterday , I went to watch Aucas vs Cuniboro. The game wasn't too sharp but the supporters were very enthusiastic for a Sunday afternoon. Also got the chance to see Ivan Kaviedes, Wellington Sanchez and Gustavo Figeroa again, all of which played for Ecuador in the past.

    Bolivia 2 Uruguay 2
    Venezuela 2 Ecuador 2
    Paraguay 1 Peru 1
    Chile 0 Argentina 2

  • Comment number 98.

    I'm not sure about Argentina's back 4, Zabaleta should be in the first team, the two CBs im not sure yet and Rojo should definitely be on the bench. Sabella needs to call Burdisso and Coloccini (maybe Otamendi from Porto), and give a chance to Sanchez Miño as LB.
    We need a plan B too, call Lamela (Roma), Ocampos (Monaco) or Gaitan and Salvio (Benfica) two quick and skillful attacking players that can do it on the two bands. Maybe Tevez if Messi gets injured, he links well with Aguero at Manchester City.
    Get rid of Guiñazu and Braña, give a chance to Banega or Yacob.

  • Comment number 99.

    64. At 14:29 15th Oct 2012, bodymaster_mcginty wrote:

    Looking at the quality on display, one sometimes wonders whether FIFA has got the quota allocation wrong. I believe Europe should get 18, SA-6, Asia - 2, Africa 5 and Concacaf 1 slot. No way should Oceania get such an easy shot at qualification when South american qualifiers have to travel to the depths of hell and back to qualify.
    Why does Europe deserve 18? Only 6 of the 13 could only make it to round of 16 in South Africa. 7 of the 13 were outlclassed by teams from SA, Asia, Concacaf and Africa. Africa have not done much better at World Cup than Asia to have 3 more spots than them. Oceania does not have an automatic qualification. The Oceanian team will most likely lose the playoff anyway. Concacaf 1 slot? lol. Where were you when USA topped a group containing two of your mighty European teams (England and Slovenia)? How was the match between France and Mexico? Oh right...

  • Comment number 100.

    Why doesn't coloccni play regularly for Argentina ? Newcastle had a solid defence last year and he was one of the main reasons for this and with the lack of quality centre halves Argentina can choose from, surely he should be an automatic starter for both club and country?

    And what about Tevez, why doesn't he play? He has been on much better from than Higuain this season ? Why does Sabella continue to ignore him?


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