Entering the latest round of World Cup Qualifying in the South American Confederation (CONMEBOL), there are and will a number of games where winning and taking all three points can mean the difference between being in second place or being in sixth and just missing out on a potential playoff spot. With four games being played this upcoming Friday, the game to be played between Colombia and Ecuador stands out above all the rest.
The game to be played under humid conditions on Friday afternoon at the Estadio Metropolitano in Barranquilla, Colombia pits the team currently in second place with 26 points, which is Colombia, and the team in third place with 21 points in Ecuador. With four games left in World Cup Qualifying, winning will help each respective team get closer to 27 points, the point total which in the past has guaranteed teams an automatic qualification to the World Cup from the CONMEBOL region.
For Colombia, winning the game would leave them a point away from the desired 27 points with games against Uruguay and Chile coming up in the next two games in qualification. A win on Friday will make approaching the following games a much easier task. For Ecuador, a win would leave them three points from the desired 27 point mark and with a bye in the next round of CONMEBOL World Cup Qualifying. But games against Uruguay and Chile to close out qualifying, a win would allow Ecuador to approach those games with less pressure.
Entering Friday’s game, both teams have questions with regards to their forwards and who will start in those positions. For Colombia, their star and goalscorer Radamel Falcao who plays for AS Monaco is a doubt to play because of a sprained ankle he suffered on Sunday. While he did make the trip over, it is highly unlikely he will play given that swelling on his sprained ankle has not gone down. With Falcao not playing, the likely player to take over for him in the starting eleven is FC Porto striker Jackson Martinez. While Martinez might not have the name recognition that Falcao has, he can be just as effective and will give Ecuador’s defense some issues with his physical presence in the penalty area.
For Ecuador, the question will be who will play upfront along Felipe Caicedo as his usual partner at striker during qualification, Christian Benitez, is no longer with us in the physical world. These two were automatic starters in the starting eleven for Ecuador coach Reinaldo Rueda and have served as reliable goalscorers having scored a combined nine goals between them. In the place of the deceased Benitez is likely to be Narciso Mina who plays for Mexican club America and has been playing well for the team so far this Liga MX Apertura 2013 season.
While the Colombia-Ecuador game certainly is the highlight of Matchday 15, two other games are worth a watch given that they also have major implications to who could earn automatic qualification and who finishes fifth and plays in the playoff or misses out on the World Cup altogether. In Santiago, Chile host Venezuela in a game where a win for Chile would solidify their hold on fourth and maybe even move them up to third while for Venezuela, a win would keep them within a chance of at least fifth spot while a loss would leave them close to kissing away a chance at the World Cup.
The other game of note on Friday in CONMEBOL World Cup Qualifying is Peru hosting Uruguay in Lima. Peru come into the game seventh with 14 points while Uruguay currently are fifth 16 points. A win for Peru could mean jumping into the fifth spot depending on other game results and also maintaining their chance of qualifying for the World Cup for the first time since 1982. A win for Uruguay would mean that they remain in the driver’s seat for the fifth spot. With games against Colombia, Ecuador, and Argentina to close out World Cup Qualifying, a win for Uruguay would be very valuable.