The big match
Colombia-Argentina, Estadio Metropolitano Roberto Melendez (Barranquilla)
Buoyed by a comprehensive win in Peru, sixth-placed Colombia will not be lacking in confidence when they take on unbeaten Argentina, who lie second. Victory here will move the Colombians right into contention.
Though the goals have dried up for their strikers, Reinaldo Rueda’s men have been making the most of their aerial threat, which will come in useful against a side that has conceded just three goals in five games.
After last week’s disappointing 1-1 home draw with Chile, in which he handed debuts to four players, Argentina coach Lionel Scaloni will be hoping his side can show more of their undoubted attacking ability.
Argentina have gone five World Cup qualifying matches unbeaten against Colombia, registering two draws and three wins in that sequence. Two of those triumphs came away from home: 1-0 in 2015 and 2-1 in 2011. Los Cafeteros’ last home win against the Argentinians was a 1-0 victory in 2009.
Following a hard-fought defeat of Ecuador, leaders Brazil travel to fourth-placed Paraguay in the only match of the day that features teams in the direct qualification places, both of whom also happen to be unbeaten. Asuncion is not a happy hunting ground for the Brazilians, who have not won there since 1985, registering two draws and two defeats since then. The hosts will have to work hard to break down the visiting defence, however. Tite’s side have kept four clean sheets in their five matches to date.
Currently third in the table, Ecuador will hope to get back on track against winless Peru, who lie bottom of the table on just one point. La Tri have been in unstoppable form in their Quito fortress, scoring ten goals in winning their first two home matches. Yet there is one stat that will give La Blanquirroja hope: they have won their last three World Cup qualifying matches against the Ecuadorians, including a 2-1 away win in 2017.
Inconsistent to date, fifth-placed Uruguay visit Venezuela, who lie one place off the bottom and need points. La Celeste will still be without the suspended Edinson Cavani, the scorer of the goal that gave them their last victory on Venezuelan soil: a 1-0 win in 2013. The Uruguayans are unbeaten in seven World Cup qualifiers (two wins and five draws) against La Vinotinto, who need to start scoring soon, having failed to do so in their four defeats in the campaign so far.
Without a win in their last two matches, seventh-placed Chile aim to break that run against Bolivia, who lie one place below them in eighth. Chile have won six of the seven World Cup qualifying encounters between the two in Santiago, the other match ending in a draw. La Roja picked up a morale-boosting point in Argentina but need to back it up with three more at home, while the Bolivians will leapfrog their hosts if they come away from the Chilean capital with three points.
Player to watch
Andre Carrillo (Peru)
The 29-year-old forward is Peru’s leading scorer in the competition with three goals. Like the rest of his team-mates, however, he has gone the last three matches without finding the back of the net. “The bad times can’t last forever,” said the man they call La Culebra (“The Snake”) after the defeat to Colombia. His partnership with Paolo Guerrero will be more important than ever for La Blanquirroja in their bid to move up the table.
Did you know?
Colombia’s meeting with Argentina has an interesting subplot, with Cristian Romero, who made his Albiceleste debut against Chile, having to mark his Atalanta team-mates Duvan Zapata and Luis Muriel. The trio have all shone in Italy. The Argentinian has just been named the best defender in Serie A for the 2020/21 season, a campaign in which the two Colombians scored 37 goals between them (15 and 22 respectively).