Our writer previews the 2018 CONMEBOL World Cup qualifier contested between Chile and Uruguay.
The grueling South American qualifying section continues with another mouth-watering game this week. The Brazil-Argentina match grabbed all the headlines last week, but most avid football enthusiasts would have known that an equally epic tie awaited this week.
Chile’s sensational resurrection as an international unit has undergone a slight reality check as the vagaries of the South American qualifying has left them with some work to do. Uruguay sit pretty behind Brazil in the log, with influential goal machine Luis Suarez clearly the focal point of their attack. This promises to be a major encounter for two sides vying to join Brazil and Argentina in the pantheon of great South American sides.
2018 World Cup qualifier | Wednesday 16 November | Santiago, Chile | 01:30
To Win (90 Mins)
Chile 5/4 | Draw 22/10 | Uruguay 22/10
Juan Antonio Pizzi has struggled to find consistency in the wake of a glorious Copa America victory over Argentina. More often than not, the star players have been slightly lost in the qualifying fixtures, perhaps overworked by club and country.
Alexis Sanchez will likely miss out due to an injury that has Arsene Wenger sweating properly. Elsewhere, Claudio Bravo is expected to recover from an injury sustained in that draw with Colombia while Charles Aranguiz should recover as well. Chile lost the reverse fixture to Uruguay 3-0 and need some of their star players to step up to the plate.
Vargas will look to threaten with his pace and pick up the creative mantle so brilliantly harnessed by Sanchez. Pizzi will likely opt for Esteban Paredes to lead the line against a bruising Uruguayan defense that features Diego Godin. The young Nicolas Castillo may have been an option, but I don’t think he will be risked.
Bayern Munich’s Arturo Vidal will likely be tasked with attempting to neutralize Suarez’s influence on the edge of the box. The pugnacious tackler will need to get through a lot of work should Chile hope to obtain a positive result.
Uruguay are positioned well in the group with 23 points, six ahead of La Roja. The threat of Luis Suarez provides them with not only a world class player and focal point but a point of distraction whereby their other lesser known players can find space.
Players such as Diego Rolan and Matias Vecino benefit enormously from the incandescent presence of Suarez. They have a powerful central defensive pairing of Godin and former Liverpool player Sebastian Coates. Maxi Pereira and Gaston Silva will provide the width in full back positions while Egidio Arevalo Ríosand Sanchez will be locked in an enormous battle against the likes of Juan Manuel Díaz and Aranguiz.
They were without the services of influential presence Edinson Cavani for the game against Ecuador. He will likely return to the side and replace Stauni in the starting eleven. He just gives the side that extra dimension and adds a dynamism to their attack.
One wonders if some of their higher profile players may not approach this game with quite the same intensity considering their status in the group. They may travel to Chile with the attitude that a point will be enough and this could spell danger for Pizzi's side.
Verdict: Chile Win
I expect Chile to win despite the likely absence of Sanchez. They have an exciting, dynamic side that have a good recent home record against Uruguay in qualifying. They have only lost one of their previous six against Uruguay here and will be hoping that Uruguay take their collective foot off the gas with their position in the group looking so secure. I’m expecting a hard fought one-nil or two-one victory for Chile.
Written by Damien Kayat @Hollywoodbets