Three fighting for one as WCQ goes down to the wire

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A marathon South American World Cup qualifying campaign comes to a dramatic conclusion on Wednesday, with three teams fighting for one qualifying play-off spot, across five simultaneous games. 

Whoever gets that fifth spot is set for a winner-takes-all play-off against an AFC nation - possibly the Socceroos - in Doha this May. Here we look at the three contenders and what needs to happen for them to keep their Qatar dream alive.

Peru: 5th, 21 points

In a campaign marked by wild inconsistency, a run of three straight wins from November-January was enough to put Peru within one win of an automatic qualifying spot ahead of a tough February-March swing against Ecuador and Uruguay respectively. Peru won neither of those matches, drawing against Ecuador and losing to Uruguay in a result that secured a dramatic automatic spot for Diego Alonso's men.

What it must do

With a one-point lead over sixth-placed Colombia, Peru simply needs to beat Paraguay to put all this to bed. With a poorer goals tally and points differential than Colombia, a loss or draw takes the equation out of Peru's hands.  

What happened last time

Peru faced Paraguay in the very first match of 2022 World Cup qualifying, the sides playing out an entertaining 2-2 draw in a free-flowing affair that saw a combined 22 shots rifled off.

And what about the Socceroos?

Peru won the only clash between the two sides - 2-0 at the 2018 FIFA World Cup group stage - notching its first Cup win in 40 years and knocking Australia out of the tournament in the process. Peru's incisive counter-attacks were effective where Australia struggled to create chances. 

Colombia: 6th, 20 points

Despite enduring a dismal seven-game run without a goal, sixth-placed Colombia still has a better for and against than fifth-placed Peru, one point ahead on the table. This may prove crucial if Peru slips up against Paraguay and Colombia can build on its impressive 3-0 win over Bolivia against Venezuela in the final round. 

What it must do

If Peru draws or loses, a win will see Colombia finish fifth. If Colombia can only draw, it will be relying on Paraguay to upset Peru and Chile - a point further back in seventh - to lose or draw with Uruguay, to ensure progression on goal differential. As it stands Colombia (0) has a healthy five-goal lead over Peru (-5) on goal difference. Colombia also has a superior goals-for tally.

What happened last time

Colombia toppled Venezuela 3-0 on the opening matchday - a performance that would prove something of a false dawn, with Los Cafeteros stuttering from one underwhelming result to the next over the course of the campaign. 

And what about the Socceroos?

Colombia has never lost to the Socceroos, winning two and drawing two in their four match-ups. The most recent clash, in 2018, ended 0-0. The Colombia manager that day, Jose Pekerman, will be in the dugout for Venezuela tomorrow, plotting his former team's downfall.                        

Chile: 7th, 19 points

Chile's golden generation teeters on the brink as the ageing warriors that delivered two Copa America titles and a famous 2014 FIFA World Cup win over Spain, struggle to recapture the old magic.

What it must do

Two points adrift of Peru and with a -5 goal differential, Chile simply has to win to have any hope of leap-frogging Colombia and Peru into an unlikely play-off position. Unfortunately Martin Lasarte's men have by far the hardest task of the three sides, with a visit from fourth-placed Uruguay. Aside from jagging a win against Peru on matchday 3, Chile has failed to beat any of the teams above it on the ladder.  

What happened last time

Chile and Uruguay faced off in the opening round, the home side dominating in all facets of the game but needing a stoppage time winner to take out the match 2-1. Like most of the teams outside the top three, Uruguay's campaign has been marred by inconsistency, but the Celeste do come into this one on a three-game winning streak that secured a spot on the plane to Qatar.

And what about the Socceroos?

Like Peru, Chile enjoys some juicy recent history with Australia, having been drawn in the group stage with the Socceroos at the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil and again at the 2017 Confederations Cup. Australia lost 3-1 in Brazil, but faired better three years later, drawing 1-1. Unlike Peru and Colombia, Australia has recorded one win over Chile, albeit in 1987.                 

How to watch the games: 

  • Peru v Paraguay, 10.30am beIN 2
  • Chile v Uruguay, 10.30am beIN 3
  • Venezuela v Colombia, 10.30am beIN SPORTS CONNECT
  • Ecuador v Argentina, 10.30am beIN SPORTS CONNECT
  • Bolivia v Brazil, 10.30am beIN SPORTS CONNECT