Shallow headlines aside, seriously, there's going to be one big party tomorrow night in Bogotá, and at the end of it, I might be a grandfather.
Los Cafeteros are this close to Brazil. So close they don't even have to win. They just need Ecuador and Uruguay not to draw. But if they do draw, the qualification scenarios in South America make a level 5 sudoku puzzle look like a game of War (er, the card game).
Argentina is already in. Peru, Paraguay, and Bolivia are out. The five other CONMEBOL teams are fighting for the three remaining automatic qualification spots and one intercontinental playoff against Jordan. Here's how we look before Friday's crucial qualifiers:
Colombia v Chile , Baranquilla, 5pm EST
Either team wins, and olá Brasil. A draw puts Colombia in the World Cup for the first time in 16 years. For Chile, a loss or draw puts them in a bit of chicharrón (see: complicated situation). They'd face Ecuador on Tuesday in a huge final fixture showdown. Depending on the Ecuador v Uruguay result tomorrow, avoiding 5th place could come down to goal difference (GD) for Chile.
Ecuador v Uruguay, Quito, 5pm EST
OK. If Ecuador wins, they are basically in and the ‘angel in the final third’ that is the late Christian Benitez can relax until next June. To spoil that, on Tuesday Ecuador would need to lose to Chile AND Uruguay would have to beat Argentina like 8-0 to jump them into 4th. If Uruguay wins, then just a draw vs Argentina on Tuesday books their ticket. Sorry Cavani & Co, if you weren’t so crappy at the beginning of WCQs, you wouldn’t be losing so much hair right now. Good thing you have lots of that. A loss for Uruguay pretty much means Argentina is prep for Jordan in November…unless miracles happen to Venezuelans. But they don’t.
Now IF they draw, the world definitely explodes. Tied on 23 points, they’d both at least clinch the 5th spot. If Chile lose to Colombia tomorrow and both Ecuador and Uruguay win their final matches, they steal the automatic births, and Chile flies Emirates. If Colombia loses both of their final matches (by a lot), and Ecuador and Uruguay win theirs, they could potentially grab 3rd and 4th, leaving Colombia to play Jordan. Yes, unlikely, but my notebook looks like a Einstein’s chalkboard okay, so I’m giving you all the damn scenarios. More likely is the 5th spot being decided on GD between Ecuador (+4) and Uruguay (+0). Simple instructions for Uruguay: put ball in net, muchas veces.
*Fun fact – Ecuador is winless in their last six matches and their past nine against Uruguay. Suerte.
Venezuela v Paraguay, San Cristobal, 530pm EST
The team with the coolest nickname but the worst country has very little hope. On 19pts with one match remaining and a -6 goal difference, let’s map out the most concievable way for the Vinotinto to play Jordan:
Venezuela beat Paraguay 3-0 , leaving them on 22pts with -3 GD. Ecuador win 2-0 vs Uruguay, who are then stuck on 22pts with a -2 GD. Then, Argentina beat Uruguay 2-0, bumping their GD to -4. Then, Caracas loses its sh*t and bus driver-turned- President Nicolas Maduro puts on a track suit and says the ghost of Hugo Chavez caused this. I almost want this to happen.
Argentina v Peru, Buenos Aires, 9pm EST
Nada que ver. Although, an Argentina loss makes first place a real dream for the Colombians. Vamos Peru!