Teamwork makes the dream work

South America’s race to the 2026 World Cup can be tight

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Argentina‘s lengthy, sizzling summer season of World Cup victory celebrations got here to an finish with one other exuberant social gathering on Tuesday evening.

Final Friday, amid exhibits by bands and DJs, Lionel Messi and firm beat Panama 2-0 in Buenos Aires. On Tuesday the festivities had been taken to Santiago del Estero, within the north of the nation, with Curacao the sacrificial victims. Coach Lionel Scaloni gave run outs to a few of the World Cup squad members who didn’t get an opportunity towards Panama — similar to reserve right-back Gonzalo Montiel, whose penalty clinched the trophy within the shootout towards France, and who now popped up late within the sport with the purpose that accomplished the 7-0 drubbing. There was additionally comfort for 2 gamers compelled to drag out of Qatar via harm — winger Nico Gonzalez, who helped himself to a purpose, and midfielder Giovane Lo Celso, whose uncanny relationship with Messi was the spotlight of the evening. Messi scored a primary half hat trick, and Lo Celso was concerned in all of them.

For the way lengthy Messi and Angel Di Maria can be concerned is an unknown. What appears extra sure is that the following set of South American World Cup qualifiers, lower than six months away, can be fiercely aggressive.

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That may appear a nonsense, on condition that six of the continent’s 10 nations will qualify robotically, and the crew ending seventh will go right into a playoff. Solely three will miss out. However nobody desires to be a part of that trio, and outcomes over the previous couple of days within the extra severe friendlies give a sign of how aggressive the competition can be.

One nation, in fact, managed to beat world champions Argentina in Qatar. That was Saudi Arabia, and the Saudis had been seeking to have fun that achievement in entrance of their very own followers. However they misplaced 2-1 to each Venezuela and Bolivia — very spectacular outcomes for the visiting sides.

The South American pair additionally went to Uzbekistan, who beat Bolivia 1-0 earlier than saving themselves from defeat towards Venezuela with a late equaliser after the guests had suffered a crimson card. This, then, was a heartwarming few days for 2 groups who did not make the minimize on the street to Qatar.

Venezuela’s final qualification marketing campaign was a protracted nightmare. The worst half was that huge centre-forward Salomon Rondon, so essential to the trigger, was enjoying his membership soccer in both China or England and unable to get dwelling due to COVID-19 restrictions. He confirmed his worth main the road, particularly towards the Saudis, when he scored one purpose and arrange the opposite. New coach Fernando Batista can plan for the longer term in some confidence.

And one other new Argentine coach, Bolivia’s Gustavo Costas, can be delighted together with his crew’s win towards the Saudis. Away wins are a uncommon occasion for Bolivia and away targets even rarer. This victory, then, is nice information certainly.

And there was extra excellent news for South America from one other pair of groups who went to Asia. Uruguay and Colombia got here again from video games towards Japan and South Korea with a draw and a win apiece. Uruguay, beneath stand-in coach Marcelo Broli, confirmed that there’s life with out the likes of Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani — and an entire host of different injured gamers — with a 1-1 draw towards Japan adopted by a 2-1 win over South Korea. A characteristic of the aspect was the liberty given to Actual Madrid‘s Federico Valverde. With two holding midfielders behind him, Valverde was free to roam, and this might be Uruguay’s template for the longer term.

Colombia‘s lately appointed coach Nestor Lorenzo — one other Argentine — had an excellent few days within the Far East. Two targets down at half-time to South Korea, his positional changes helped the crew bounce again to attract 2-2. After which Colombia went an early purpose right down to Japan however went on to win, with a debut worldwide strike from Jhon Duran and a powerful overhead kick from Rafael Santos Borre. Lacking out on Qatar was a trauma, which Lorenzo trusts could be overcome by Colombia’s new technology.

Of their first video games beneath new Spanish coach Felix Sanchez, Ecuador had been additionally up towards opposition from the Asian federation, with two video games towards Australia. Final Friday in Sydney they went down 3-1, and had been unlucky with offside selections going towards them. On Tuesday in Melbourne, Sanchez had a have a look at one other system, switching to 3 centre-backs, and Ecuador totally deserved their 2-1 triumph.

All of because of this after a mixed complete of 10 video games, all of them performed away from dwelling, the South People got here again from Asia with the general rating 5-2 of their favour.

There have been no wins and no targets for Peru, although, after their tour of Europe. Experimenting with a 3 centre-back system they went right down to a timid 2-0 defeat towards Germany. In Spain for the assembly with Morocco, coach Juan Reynoso returned to the 4-2-3-1 a lot liked by predecessor Ricardo Gareca, and secured a 0-0 draw which is each encouraging — the opponents reached the World Cup semifinals and simply beat Brazil — and worrying: the place are the targets going to come back from?

Chile had failed to attain in six of their earlier seven video games, and Paraguay had gone three matches and not using a purpose. Their assembly on Monday evening threatened to be a decent affair. However within the occasion Chile got here from behind to win 3-2, the winner a weird stoppage-time own-goal when Paraguay keeper Antony Silva contrived to deflect a nook into his personal internet. Fairly now, in fact, than within the qualifiers. Even with so many slots in 2026 somebody goes to overlook out, and the margins might be very slender.

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