Thursday, in the third round of South America’s World Cup 2018 Qualifiers, Chile and visiting Colombia drew 1-1, Bolivia defeated Venezuela 4-2 in La Paz, Uruguay lost 1-2 to hosts Ecuador, in Quito, and the highly anticipated match between Argentina and Brazil was postponed due to a day-long torrential downpour that left River Plate’s Monumental Stadium waterlogged. The archrivals will play tonight at 7 PM EST at which time the temperature in Buenos Aires will be in the upper sixties, with cloudy skies but no precipitation.
Chile, playing in Santiago, took the lead in their match when Arturo Vidal headed in a cross at the 45th minute. But Colombia were not intimidated by the best team in CONMEBOL and James Rodriguez made it two goals in two games after returning from injury to Real Madrid last weekend and to the Colombian team on Wednesday. He scooped up a deflection in the box, at about the penalty spot, and facing away from goal, he whirled to his right and placed a right-footed shot that saw the ball nestle into the lower right side of the net at the 68th minute.
Alexis Sanchez’s side are still playing like the most polished in the region and they played well most of their match, dictating play as Colombia defended and countered. The Cafeteros (the Coffee Growers, Colombia’s nickname) showed they had been in sore need of Rodriguez’s contribution as they produced a much more spirited if still disorganized performance. Their play was affected by the absence of defender Juan Zuniga, suspended winger Juan Cuadrado, and surprise bench warmer Freddy Guarin, all key players on the roster. The team will need all of their weapons, and to up their game further, as their next match will be against Argentina.
Chile coach, Jorge Sampaoli, commenting on Sanchez’s form at Arsenal and his pre-match hopes for the star’s role in the game against Colombia, said: “Alexis is in great form and that could translate into better things for us in the next couple of matches. If he plays that way we will be a better side.”
At the post-match conference Sampaoli was less enthused but nevertheless upbeat about the striker’s role if not about the team’s result: “We played well in stretches and Alexis did his part, he was unlucky in a couple of plays. We will all have to improve for our next match, though.” Then Sampaoli made a comment that went viral confusing his substitutions he referred to Guarin as having come into the match—he did not.
In La Paz, Rodrigo Ramallo, who had missed Bolivia’s first two qualifiers due to an injury, made up for lost time by scoring a brace and being instrumental in both of his teams other goals in a 4-2 rout of Venezuela. La Verde (the Green, Bolivia’s national team nickname) needed the win to get on the plus side of the standings at three points. Venezuela remains at zero points with a -5 goal differential.
In Quito, Ecuador made the altitude and their tough play count as they delivered Uruguay’s first defeat. Though Edinson Cavani put the visitors on the score sheet, it was Felipe Caicedo and Fidel Martinez who had the last words with their goals. The Charruas were playing without Luis Suarez whose recent appeal to FIFA, of his long international game ban, was denied. He will also miss Uruguay’s next match before returning to action in 2016.
With Argentina, Brazil, Peru, and Paraguay still to play their third games tonight the order on the standings table is: Ecuador on top with 9 points, Chile second with 7, then Uruguay 6, Paraguay 4 (a win tonight could tie them with Chile), Colombia 4, Brazil 3, Bolivia 3, Argentina 1, Peru 0 (a win would tie them with Bolivia), and Venezuela 0.