Ecuador inches in direction of World Cup berth as Colombia flounder

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Going into the twenty first century, Ecuador had by no means been to a World Cup. They’ve now performed in three, and a 1-1 draw away to Peru on Tuesday takes them very near a fourth.

It’s simply attainable to discover a manner that they are often overtaken by two of Uruguay, Peru and Chile, however it is extremely troublesome — not least as a result of Uruguay and Peru meet one another subsequent month within the penultimate spherical, and Uruguay play Chile within the spherical after that. And Ecuador would additionally need to lose an enormous benefit in objective distinction — over 10 objectives higher than all of their rivals. It isn’t 100% confirmed by the arithmetic, however it appears all however sure that Ecuador will be part of Brazil and Argentina as South America’s representatives in Qatar.

It may — and maybe ought to — have been sown up on Tuesday evening in Lima. The sport at all times appeared arrange for the Ecuador counter-attack, which struck as early because the second minute. Centre-back Felix Torres performed a protracted move over his reverse quantity Alexander Callens, and Michael Estrada nipped in to manage the ball and rating with a neat flick.

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An Ecuadorian victory would have sealed their World Cup berth, they usually had the possibilities on the break to kill off the sport. However because the second half wore on, they grew to become too unfavourable, overly involved with working down the clock. Peru have been with out striker Gianluca Lapadula and important inventive pressure Christian Cueva, however the present Peru facet could be assured to dig deep. Coach Ricardo Gareca ran via his attacking choices, and was rewarded when the penalty space presence of substitute Alex Valera created sufficient confusion for Luis Advincula to dink in a intelligent cross, which Edison Flores, hero of final Friday’s extraordinary win over Colombia, headed house.

The draw implies that Peru slip all the way down to fifth place, the playoff spot. They’re overtaken by Uruguay — their subsequent opponents in what stands out as the important thing match of the penultimate spherical.

Below new coach Diego Alonso, Uruguay continued their revival. Venezuela turned up in Montevideo filled with attacking intentions, however Uruguay refused to allow them to settle, tearing into them from the primary whistle. New Tottenham Hotspur signing Rodrigo Bentancur fired Uruguay forward from the sting of the world — his first worldwide objective within the first minute of the match. Alonso had gambled on Manchester United signing Facundo Pellistri, at present on mortgage at Alaves, and the suitable sided midfielder shone on his second look for his nation. One pleasant dribble arrange a objective for Giorgian De Arrascaeta. One other resulted in a penalty, transformed by Luis Suarez. In between, Edinson Cavani justified his recall with a intelligent overhead kick. Subsequent month might be tense however Uruguay have moved the percentages of their favour, with two wins in the previous few days carrying them from seventh within the desk to fourth.

Sixth-placed Chile have additionally given themselves an opportunity with an epic 3-2 win away to Bolivia.

Even a draw would have been a catastrophe, and chasing the sport on the excessive altitude of La Paz is a troublesome process. True, Chile had hung out at a midway home — their house match final Thursday was at altitude — although Calama is properly beneath the Bolivian mountain fortress. With Bolivia additionally determined for a win, it was going to take one thing particular to tip issues Chile’s manner, and it was Alexis Sanchez who supplied it.

He opened the scoring with a swerving free kick, and clinched the factors with a usually intricate solo strike. The second Chile objective was most likely probably the most pleasing, although, as a result of it contained a mix of the outdated and the brand new. Identical to outdated occasions, Sanchez hit a protracted diagonal ball for the peerlessly timed run of rampaging proper again Mauricio Isla. He squared for Marcelino Nunez, the perfect of the brand new crop of Chilean gamers, to show previous the keeper.

There was extra of the brand new to have a good time from the efficiency of keeper Brayan Cortes, standing in for the injured Claudio Bravo. Cortes performed the sport of his life, preserving the Bolivians at bay after they appeared to be taking command.

The wins for Chile and Uruguay and Peru’s draw are unhealthy information certainly for Colombia, who’ve sufficient unhealthy information of their very own after finishing a barely credible seven video games with no objective after a 1-0 defeat away to Argentina. Colombia’s final two video games look comparatively simple however their destiny is now not in their very own palms, and the incompetence of others might be wanted if they’re to seize the play off spot.

There ought to have been a glint of hope for Colombia within the Argentina line-up, lacking not solely Lionel Messi but additionally each first alternative centre-backs and two key midfielders. Argentina coach Lionel Scaloni, then, ought to be delighted with the way in which that his patched up facet bossed the sport with managed possession, barely giving the Colombians a sniff at glory.

The one objective was a triumph for Scaloni’s techniques. Marcos Acuna was given license to assault from left-back, with winger Lucas Ocampos able to push inside. Acuna crossed, the presence of Ocampos drew the defence and the ball fell for a cute left footed end from Lautaro Martinez. Argentina have a dedication to an thought of play, and a a lot improved defence, working in entrance of a keeper who exudes confidence. When Luis Diaz carved out an opportunity for Miguel Borja, goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez was out like a greyhound to dam the shot, and when Diaz picked up the rebound, Gonzalo Pezzella was on the road to clear. With only one objective conceded within the final eight video games, the 2022 Argentina facet look a really totally different act from the shambles of Russia 2018.

Brazil have solely conceded 5 objectives all marketing campaign, and have been by no means threatened in a 4-0 thrashing of Paraguay. True, the opposition have been dismal, bereft not solely of concepts but additionally of conventional Paraguayan combating spirit. Even so, there was lots for Brazil to have a good time. The objectives emerged from affected person passing, pulling the opposition round till area had been created — with the primary two arrange by great passes out of defence by Marquinhos. New faces are settling in properly: Leeds United‘s Raphinha, who scored the opener, is already properly established. On the finish, substitutes Antony and Rodrygo opened their Selecao accounts, and in between Philippe Coutinho got here up with a morale boosting cracker. The formation with two attacking midfielders — Coutinho and Lucas Paqueta — labored properly and Matheus Cunha seems to have solved the issue at centre-forward.

Brazil — like Argentina — are entitled to the assumption that glory is inside their grasp in Qatar. The identical does not likely apply to Ecuador, for whom glory is available in smaller doses. Step one is ensuring of their presence within the World Cup — and barring a mathematical fluke — it might appear to be a case of mission completed.

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