CONMEBOL World Cup Qualifying Is A Mess But We’re Here To Sort It Out For You
CONMEBOL is fun, guys. Through 17 games only one team out of 10 — Brazil — has clinched its spot in the 2018 World Cup. Six teams still have a chance for the remaining three automatic qualifying berths, with one more team qualifying for the intercontinental playoff against New Zealand. Five of those teams control their own destiny. On Tuesday, all 10 teams play in five matches kicking off simultaneously with South American World Cup hopes on the line.
The scenarios for how each team can qualify for the World Cup are many. The table is large and there are a lot of numbers, some of them bigger than 3, so we’re here to simplify it for you. Here is what each CONMEBOL team needs to do to qualify for the World Cup.
Brazil is already in. They clinched back in March and cruised through qualifying, racking up a plus-27 goal differential (the next best goal differential is Uruguay at plus-10). Brazil leads CONMEBOL in goals scored (38) and fewest goals conceded (11) and are deservedly back at the World Cup to try to help the country forget last tournament’s embarrassing 7-1 defeat to Germany in the semifinals. Brazil, with a record five world championships, has qualified for every World Cup.
In with win or tie, probably in with draw
Uruguay has finished in the playoff spot for the last four World Cup cycles, reaching the tournament every year except 2006, when it lost to Australia on penalties. This time around, Uruguay can feel confident barring a spectacular collapse, they’ll be in the 2018 World Cup without needing to go to the intercontinental playoff.
To put it simply, Uruguay only needs a draw at home to Bolivia, which has lost nine of 10 qualifiers in Montevideo, to ensure its spot in Russia next summer, however even a loss isn’t likely to bump them from the competition. In a worst-case scenario, Uruguay could lose to Bolivia and have Chile beat Brazil, Argentina beat Ecuador and have a winner in the Colombia-Peru matchup. That could drop Uruguay into a one or two-way tie for the final spot, but with a plus-10 goal difference compared to the plus-one for Peru and Argentina, it would take a dramatic swing to see Uruguay fall all the way to fifth. It’s not gonna happen — Luis Suarez is going to the World Cup.
In with win, probably in with draw
Chile is in a good spot in third place in the table but plays in Brazil for its final match. While the Seleção have nothing to play for, they sent out a quality team to play Bolivia on Thursday (though they promptly drew 0-0). A win and Chile is in. Anything else and it gets complicated.
With a draw, Chile would be on 27 points, which could be passed by a Colombia-Peru winner and Argentina and tied by Paraguay, which would need to make up seven goals in goal differential. Unless Paraguay overcame the large goal difference, Chile would end up in the playoff, so a draw would likely get Chile to the World Cup.
But Chile has been struggling immensely lately and a loss to the five-time champions is possible, especially with Arturo Vidal suspended. Chile lost to Paraguay and Bolivia before righting the ship with a late equalizer against Ecuador on Thursday. A loss to Brazil would see Chile passed by either Colombia or Peru, likely Argentina and possibly Paraguay if it beats last-place Venezuela at home.
In that doomsday scenario, it would depend on the result of the Peru-Colombia result as to whether Chile finished fifth or sixth. A Colombia win (combined with Argentina and Paraguay wins) would see Chile fall to sixth. A Peru-Colombia tie (again, combined with Argentina and Paraguay wins) would also see Chile fall to sixth. Even an Argentina tie would pull them ahead of Chile if Chile loses to Brazil by more than one goal.
Chile could still remain in World Cup contention if Argentina or Paraguay lose, but if you want to see Alexis Sanchez, Vidal and the two-time reigning Copa America champions in the World Cup next summer, hope they can get a point from Brazil.
In with win or draw, probably in with draw
Colombia hasn’t lost a World Cup qualifier in Peru since 1981 and if they can avoid defeat on Tuesday they’ll likely be headed to Russia. Los Cafeteros are in for sure with a win. A draw would likely put them in unless Chile gets a point from Brazil and Argentina and Paraguay both win, with the latter making up a significant amount of goal differential.
If Colombia loses to Peru, they’ll be in trouble. A loss combined with wins from Argentina and Paraguay and a Chilean point would see Los Cafeteros fall to sixth. If Chile doesn’t get a point, whichever team loses by less (or Chile if it’s equal), takes fifth place.
James Rodriguez and Colombia were a thrill to watch in Brazil 2014, and they’ll be back in the World Cup as long as they avoid defeat in Peru.
In with win, or draw with help
Peru knows one thing: Win at home against Colombia and they’re in the World Cup for the first time since 1982. But, as mentioned above, Peru hasn’t beaten Colombia at home in a World Cup qualifier since 1981, the year it last qualified for a World Cup.
If Peru gets a draw, it would need Argentina and Paraguay to lose to remain in contention, or just one of those two teams lose if Brazil beats Chile.
If Peru loses, La Blanquirroja would require Argentina and Paraguay to both lose, without losing by more than Argentina loses.
If those things don’t happen, Peru will miss out on a ninth straight World Cup.
In with win, or draw and help
Finally we reach Lionel Messi and Argentina, currently in sixth place in the CONMEBOL standings. Fortunately for La Albiceleste, because Colombia and Peru, the two teams in front of them, play each other, they still control their own destiny.
If Argentina wins on the road at Ecuador, Messi will be in Russia, leapfrogging the Colombia-Peru loser (or both if they tie) and possibly Chile if it doesn’t beat Brazil. The worst-case scenario with a win would be a fifth-place finish and as bad as Argentina has been in qualifying, no one would expect them to lose to New Zealand.
But Argentina has struggled to score in qualifying. With teams loading up defensively against Lionel Messi, La Albiceleste have scored 16 goals in 17 matches, a mark only better than Bolivia. A draw would only be enough if both Peru and Paraguay lose.
If Argentina loses, La Albiceleste do have a chance to qualify only if Paraguay loses and Peru loses by more goals than Argentina’s loss.
It’s all in Argentina’s hands. They’ve been to 11 straight World Cups dating back to 1974 and the world’s best player needs a result or he’ll forever tarnish his legacy.
In with win and help, or draw with lots of help
That Paraguay is still in contention is a stunner after they trailed Colombia 1-0 after 85 minutes on Thursday. But Oscar Cardozo and Antonio Sanabria scored late to lift Los Guaraníes to an unlikely win and keep their World Cup hopes alive.
Unfortunately for Paraguay, it may not be enough. Even a win at home over Venezuela doesn’t guarantee a spot even in the playoff. Paraguay needs to win and have Argentina not win and Chile lose. A draw for Paraguay would only be enough to reach the playoff if Peru and Argentina suffer defeats of at least 6 or 7 goals.
Ecuador tried to keep its World Cup hopes alive with a late equalizer against Chile on Thursday, but Alexis Sanchez found an even later winner to eliminate Los Amarillos. Prior to that defeat, Ecuador had qualified for three of the last four World Cups, including its first ever appearance in 2002.
Bolivia has been eliminated for some time but has garnered some respect with a win over Chile and draw against Brazil in its last two qualifiers.
Given the state of the country recently, it’s little surprise Venezuela will finish in last place in CONMEBOL World Cup qualifying. La Vinotinto are still the only CONMEBOL country to never have qualified for the World Cup.