Despite failing to grab the win against Venezuela, it would take a footballing disaster for Uruguay to fail to make it to Russia 2018 with one game left
After an away win in Paraguay during last international break in September, Uruguay started this month’s final set of World Cup qualifiers full of confidence. With two games left to play against bottom sides Venezuela and Bolivia, only a miracle could stop Uruguay from grabbing at ticket for Russia.
The first of the final two games was in San Cristóbal against Venezuela on Thursday night. Uruguay manager Óscar Tabárez was right to point out that although Venezuela are last in the table, the side have become hard to beat of late as the Vinotintos recently took points off both Argentina and Colombia.
5 nations, separated by 2pts, heading into the last round. The fate of Messi & Argentina is out of their hands pic.twitter.com/T00oGDwLoH
— Adriano Del Monte (@adriandelmonte) October 6, 2017
Uruguay won their last game against Venezuela 3-0 in Montevideo, but have had their problems with their opposition. In the Copa América Centenario, for example, Uruguay suffered a group stage defeat to Venezuela which practically knocked them out of the competition. The U20 sides also met in the U20 World Cup semi-final earlier this year with Venezuela coming out on top.
With all of that in the back of their minds, La Celeste travelled to Venezuela knowing that a win would secure direct World Cup qualification.
The game started off with both sides having decent spells, but neither managed to create big chances. The state of the pitch didn’t allow many free-flowing attacks and when one of the two sides did string some passes together, the final ball was missing.
The second half started off in similar fashion with the only real danger coming from set-pieces or long-range efforts. It wasn’t until the 65th minute, when Rodrigo Bentancur came on for his Uruguay debut, that Tabárez’ side began to show some decent football. Uruguay switched from the usual 4-4-2 to a 4-1-2-1-2 formation with Matías Vecino playing as a 5 and Federico Valverde just behind Luis Suárez and Edinson Cavani.
Uruguay improved in possession and showed something we haven’t come accustomed to with the side; ball retention. When Giorgian De Arrascaeta came on for Valverde with 10 minutes left to play, Uruguay really looked like opening the scoring. De Arrascaeta proved to be the perfect link between midfield and attack, Uruguay desperately needed.
The Cruzeiro playmaker created two big chances and if it the strikers, most notably Cavani, would have kept their composure in front of goal, the 23-year-old would rightfully be praised as the game-changer.
So despite Uruguay coming close in the second half, the match ended goalless and it meant that Uruguay rise to 28 points; two points from third and fourth-placed Chile and Colombia and three points ahead of the playoff spot.
Mathematically Uruguay could still end up in the playoff spot but with a far superior goal difference than their competitors, tricky away games for both Chile and Argentina and a home game vs. Bolivia up next, Óscar Tabárez and co are destined to directly qualify for Russia and make it to their third consecutive World Cup.