South American World Cup qualifiers resumed on Thursday after a seven-month hiatus caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, though that doesn’t mean the virus has weakened in the region.
Brazil at the top of the table and Argentina in second place could take decisive steps in the next two rounds to provide a somewhat calm route to Qatar, while Peru, which reached Russia three years ago but now has one point after four games, already fighting for survival.
The last qualifying rounds for the World Cup in South America were in November. More matches to be played in March were postponed when clubs from other confederations refused to allow their players to travel due to the pandemic.
The top four teams will automatically qualify. The fifth team will enter the intercontinental playoffs. The current ranking shows Brazil (12 points), Argentina (10), Ecuador (9), Paraguay and Uruguay (6) in these places.
The two rounds will also be in preparation for the Copa America for this month, which will now host Brazil after Argentina dropped out due to the spread of COVID-19 in that country, although analysts expect a new wave of the virus to hit Brazil by late June.
BRAZIL v. ECUADOR
This will be the only match of the fifth round on Friday.
Brazil coach Tito said at a press conference in mid-May that the suspension in the South American qualifiers will affect all South American teams, both in the short and long term.
“It’s a reality we prefer not to live. But we will have to be able to move other tools in order to keep our competitiveness high, “he said before the clash with Argentina’s pragmatic team from Argentina, Gustavo Alfaro.
Titus initially led veterans’ defenders Danny Alves and Thiago Silva to the qualifiers, but neither is expected to play due to injury.
Brazil has also doubted who its target will be, watching the Copa America and beyond. Titus’ options include Gabriel Jesus, who did not score as a starting striker at the last World Cup, Roberto Firmino, who is a creator rather than a scorer, and former Inter Milan flop Gabriel Barbosa, now a local hero at Flamengo.
ARGENTINA v CHILE
After dropping out of the Copa America due to the pandemic, Argentina will try to lift their spirits at home against Chile (4 points), now under the leadership of Uruguayan coach Martin Lasarte.
Striker Sergio Aguero, recently signed in Barcelona, will return to the squad after several absences due to injury. However, coach Lionel Scaloni has shown that he prefers Lautaro Martinez in front with captain Lionel Messi.
Chile lost midfielder Arturo Vidal of COVID-19 just two days before the clash against their opponent. The same reason forced Lasarte to leave defender Paulo Diaz outside.
Ben Breretton, a 22-year-old striker, will be the new element in the Chilean team. His father is English and his mother is Chilean.
PERU v. COLOMBIA
Both teams reached the World Cup in 2018 and both teams must win to follow the leaders.
Colombia, with four points, will count on the return of coach Reynaldo Rueda after a disappointing spell in Chile. Rueda had a lot to explain from the start after leaving midfielder James Rodriguez out of the squad due to an alleged poor physical condition.
James said in a statement that he was disappointed with the coach.
Peru will once again rely on veteran striker Paolo Guerrero, the greatest goal scorer in history, after recovering from a knee injury.
The other matches of the fifth round of qualifications for the World Cup in South America are Bolivia against Venezuela and Uruguay against Paraguay. Bolivia has one point and Venezuela has three. Uruguay has six points, but pursues Paraguay, also with six, with a goal difference.