SAO PAULO (AP) — Brazil has won all nine matches in World Cup qualifying so far and could well make it 10 on Sunday at Colombia. The Brazilians lead the 10-team South American round-robin competition by eight points.
But one year before kickoff in Qatar, there are some longtime fans of the Seleção who aren’t happy with the team after Thursday’s lackluster 3-1 win at Venezuela. And their concerns will be on coach Tite’s mind in Sunday’s match.
Argentina, which has recently struggled to get close to a qualifying spot along with Brazil, is comfortably in second place, eyeing even better days ahead due to renewed confidence since winning the latest Copa America title.
A home win against rival Uruguay could put Lionel Messi’s team even closer to qualifying directly for Qatar.
Brazil leads with 27 points and Argentina has 19 in nine matches — their clash in September was suspended after seven minutes due to COVID-19 protocols.
Ecuador and Uruguay have 16 points after 10 matches, but the Ecuadorians have more wins and hold third place. Colombia is fifth with 14 points.
The top four teams secure a spot at next year’s World Cup in Qatar. The fifth-place team will enter a playoff against a team from another confederation.
COLOMBIA vs. BRAZIL
Neymar returns to Brazil after a suspension and he’s the only good news for the team after a below-par performance at Venezuela, which led the match until the 71st minute.
Tite experimented at several positions against Venezuela, and most proved disappointing against a weak opposition. Left-back Guilherme Arana and midfielders Fabinho and Gerson did not play well and that gave analysts, former players and supporters the impression that Brazil lacks depth in its squad.
Brazil has not named its side for Colombia, but if the match against Venezuela is any indication, there is a chance for winger Raphinha, who came in as a substitute and provided two assists to save the Seleção from humiliation. Venezuela has only four points in qualifiers.
Colombia’s Juan Guillermo Cuadrado will miss the match in Barranquilla due to suspension after a yellow card against Uruguay. His likely replacement is Juan Fernando Quintero.
The latest duel between the teams took place in the group stage of this year’s Copa America. Brazil won 2-1 at home in a strongly contested match, which ended with a winning goal by Casemiro in added time and Colombians complaining about refereeing decisions.
ARGENTINA vs. URUGUAY
Argentina takes an unbeaten run of 23 matches against Uruguay into a venue that will have 50% capacity at Monumental Stadium in Buenos Aires.
Argentina will see the return of striker Lautaro Martínez, who was out in the goalless draw at Paraguay due to a muscle injury.
“I think we have a good feeling (about the performances) and that makes us calmer,” Argentina coach Lionel Scaloni said.
Uruguay players were upset after the 0-0 draw with Colombia in Montevideo. A Luis Suárez goal was ruled out due to the tiniest of margins detected by video review, which added to the team’s failure in scoring in several other opportunities throughout the game.
The Celeste has lost three players for the match in Buenos Aires; midfielder Rodrigo Bentancur was suspended after a second yellow against Colombia. Uruguay also lost defender José María Giménez and attacking midfielder Giorgian De Arrascaeta to injuries.
The main question in the mind of Uruguay coach Oscar Tabárez is whether he will field the veteran duo of Suárez and Edinson Cavani at the same time. The two have not played together since the latest Copa America.
The last time Uruguay won at Argentina was in the 1987 Copa America.
Also on Sunday, Ecuador will play at last-place Venezuela. Eighth-place Chile hosts sixth-place Paraguay and ninth-place Bolivia takes on seventh-place Peru.
Associated Press writer Debora Rey contributed to this report from Buenos Aires.
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