After two goalless draws and an awful result for Chile, South American qualification sees seven countries still in with a chance of reaching Russia

In round fifteen of the highly competitive World Cup qualifiers, Uruguay and Argentina met at the Estadio Centenario in a vital clash. Both sides are part of a seven-way battle for tickets to the World Cup in Russia next summer and therefore Thursday’s clash held great importance.

However, like many recent meetings between the neighbor countries, the game was one lacking any sort of excitement and ended in a goalless draw.

Uruguay, as we have come to expect, played the 4-4-2 formation with Edinson Cavani alongside Luis Suárez up top. Suárez’ presence surprised a lot as he was ruled out for four to five weeks with a knee injury sustained while playing for Barcelona just fourteen days ago. El Pistolero has made it a habit to recover from his injuries in record time, though, and being deemed fully fit after two weeks is just another example of that.

So with Suárez, Óscar Tabárez’ game plan was as follows. Uruguay allowed virtually no space between their defensive and midfield line and therefore tried to eliminate the threat of Lionel Messi and Paulo Dybala who both played in between the lines behind No9 Mauro Icardi. Uruguay’s game plan worked as both Dybala and Messi were hardly able to cause any danger all game.

While Argentina didn’t really manage to put Uruguay in trouble, Jorge Sampaoli’s did have the edge in terms of possession. In the former Chile manager’s trademark 3-4-3 formation, Argentina allowed a lot of space behind their back line. Uruguay’s intention was to wait for a mistake and then try to punish the Albiceleste on the break. But just like Argentina’s, Uruguay’s attacking game plan didn’t work. La Celeste wasn’t accurate in the final third and squandered the few opportunities they had.

Towards the end, both sides looked satisfied with a point and seemed more frightened to lose rather than eager to win two and therefore settled for a draw.

South American qualifiers wide open

Elsewhere some interesting results have made the South American World Cup qualifiers even more nerve-wracking. In Santiago, the biggest upset of the night took place as Chile lost 3-0 to Paraguay on home soil. The winners of the last two Copa América’s looked off the pace and need to get it together very quickly if they don’t want to miss the flight to Russia.

Paraguay on the other hand, have put themselves back in contention for World Cup qualification and are now two points off Argentina and Chile who are fifth and fourth, respectively. Another team that is back in the race is Peru. With a win over Bolivia, the country has now risen to sixth, just one place off fifth – which guarantees an intercontinental playoff for Russia 2018.

Colombia remains second after round 15 as they drew 0-0 with Venezuela, while Ecuador, once top of the table, continued their free fall with a 2-0 loss against current leaders Brazil – who have already secured their World Cup ticket.

Next up for Uruguay is seventh-placed Paraguay – who are just three points off Uruguay. As mentioned earlier, the Albirroja beat Chile 3-0 on Thursday night and will face Uruguay with momentum behind them. Paraguay will be hard to beat in their own stadium and with the stakes higher than ever, both teams will probably be playing not to lose rather than to win.


Uruguay might have the upper hand, however, as they possess that extra quality in Suárez and Cavani – something Paraguay lack.

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