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South America World Cup Qualifiers: Big week for Bielsa while Argentina can remain on top

Lionel Messi Argentina

Stern tests for Uruguay

Marcelo Bielsa's new-look Uruguay side impressed against Chile in his first South America World Cup Qualifier in charge. In the final third, Liverpool's Darwin Nunez and River Plate's Nicolas de la Cruz showed early signs of a promising relationship.

Nunez has been quick to show his appreciation for Bielsa in recent weeks for his improvement in the early stages of the 2023/24 campaign.

Real Madrid's Federico Valverde continued to show why he plays an instrumental role within the midfield, finding himself on the scoresheet in the pleasing 3-1 victory.

Next up, a trip to Quito is always tricky due to the high altitude. Despite taking the lead in the first half thanks to Agustin Canobbio, Ecuador came back from behind to win 2-1.

Uruguay left the match furious after seemingly missing out on a clear penalty. Hernan Galindez clattered into a Facundo Torres in the final minute of the match but somehow nothing was given - VAR didn't even check it.

This was a bitter pill for Bielsa to swallow - and Uruguay finished round two on three points.

It doesn't get any easier with a trip to Barranquilla to face Colombia takes place on Thursday 12th October.

Estadio Metropolitano Roberto Melendez is based at the northern tip of Colombia. Right next to the Caribbean sea, Uruguay will have to deal with the extreme heat.

However, although Colombia are on four points and haven't conceded, they are yet to find their stride. A 1-0 victory in Barranquilla against Venezuela offers Uruguay hope, but no doubt the conditions will play a significant role.

Afterwards, Uruguay fly from one side of the continent to the other to host Fernando Diniz's Brazil in what looks set to be a cracker. These two matches won't define Uruguay's campaign, but they won't want to be chasing the pack after the first four rounds.

Bolivia's reduced advantage

Bolivia's head coach Gustavo Costa has failed to win a match since defeating Saudi Arabia in a friendly back in March.

Four defeats and a draw have followed, and the Argentine could be on the brink of losing his job if he doesn't start putting vital points on the board.

Playing their home matches in La Paz puts them at a unique advantage. The capital sits at over 13,000ft above sea level, making opponents breathless, feel dizzy and struggle to cope with 50% less oxygen.

However, Ecuador play their home matches in Quito, which is over 9,000ft above sea level.

With their own altitude advantage, this fixture is more of a level playing field than most who travel to Bolivia.

Ecuador's 2-1 victory over Uruguay puts them back on zero points after being hit with -3 due to administrative issues in the previous campaign. However, their comeback against Uruguay was impressive, and with Costa's old school methods being scrutinised, Ecuador are capable of adding their "first" three points to their tally.

Bolivia travel to Paraguay next week in a crucial fixture they must not lose, while Ecuador host Colombia in what appears to be another tight clash.

Chile must show some spice

Both Chile and Peru have yet to taste victory after the opening two rounds, and three points here will start to create a small gap between 7th and 10th place.

However, both nations have lacked any real attacking threat to date, and Chile were rather disappointed with their 0-0 home draw with Colombia.

If either side are to qualify for the 2028 World Cup, these are the games which must be won. However, a lack of an attacking edge is what is costing them at present.

Chile's 34-year-old Alexis Sanchez is still being trusted to lead the line, while 39-year-old Paolo Guerrero is still Peru's first choice.

Without new talent coming through, both are in real danger of missing out on 7th spot or higher.

Peru host World Cup winners Argentina next week, while Chile head to Venezuela.

Argentina & Brazil's fight for supremacy

Argentina and Brazil have made the perfect start to life in the qualifiers - and it's more a case of who can flex their muscles the most and come out on top by the end.

Argentina should have little to no issues against a Paraguayan side in Buenos Aires who have recently changed their manager. Daniel Garnero has had little to no time with his new squad, who will likely be penned in by Messi and co at Estadio El Monumental.

Paraguay will have one eye on round four next week, where they'll be hosting Bolivia in what looks to be a very winnable game on paper.

Argentina will head to Lima to face Peru, and the way in which they've started the campaign, should have no issues collecting all three points.

Brazil will be looking to keep up with the holders - and despite a rollover victory against Venezuela in Rio is expected, a trip to Montevideo to face Bielsa's Uruguay is a mouthwatering tie.

Two great technicians of the game going head to head is what football is all about, and this fixture looks to serve up plenty of goalmouth action.

Diniz struggled to get his players moving with any fluidity in Lima, and relied on PSG's Marquinhos to bail them out in the dying moments from a Neymar corner.

A more open game against Uruguay could play into their hands, but it may be one of their toughest trips of the campaign - especially with Bielsa in the dugout.


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