Sports, Football

South American stars sweating on WC qualification


By AFP
Published : 26 Jan 2022 08:52 PM

Three of South American football's biggest stars -- Luis Suarez, Edinson Cavani and Alexis Sanchez – risk missing out on the World Cup in Qatar as South American qualifying enters its final straight.

With Brazil and Argentina already qualified, seven nations are battling it out for the final two automatic qualifying spots with just four matches remaining.

Right now Suarez and Cavani's Uruguay and Sanchez's Chile are both sitting a point outside the crucial fourth spot held by Colombia.

"Many times in the qualifiers we've had to get out the calculators," said Cavani when he arrived in Uruguay on Sunday after his crucial assist in Manchester United's 1-0 win over West Ham a day earlier.

"Other times it's been a bit calmer but that's the way it is: difficult. We can't afford to drop points and need to get as many as possible."

Uruguay are currently seventh and have changed coaches since the last round of matches in November.

After a record-breaking 15 years at the helm, iconic veteran coach Oscar Tabarez was fired following a disastrous fourth straight qualifying defeat in which Uruguay conceded 11 goals and scored just one. Diego Alonso will take charge of the team for the first time in a bid to negotiate the tricky path towards Qatar.

Twice former winners, Uruguay have not failed to qualify for the World Cup since 2006.

Uruguay travel to Paraguay on Thursday before hosting Venezuela -- the only team in the single 10-nation qualifying group with no realistic hope of reaching Qatar -- on February 1. But they are not the only ones sweating.

Third-place Ecuador are well set to join the continent's two heavyweights, sitting six points ahead of the chasing pack. The next five teams are separated by just two points. Chile will travel to Bolivia -- a point behind them -- on February 1.

Ecuador could secure their place in Qatar by this time next week if results go their way. They host Brazil, who are without the injured Neymar, on Thursday before a trip to Peru five days later.