Did you know that the 2014 World Cup qualifying rounds have already started? With ‘only’ just under a thousand days until the big kick-off in Brazil, we take a look at one of the most hotly-contested qualifying groups: South America. This report has a transcript below and explanations of key vocabulary (in bold) can be found at the foot of the post, while other key phrases (in blue) also have meanings explained.
The Big Kick-off
It is only two months since Uruguay triumphantly lifted their record-breaking 15th Copa América title but this weekend sees the start of the World Cup qualifying matches in the CONMEBOL or South American region. With the 2014 hosts Brazil already qualified the remaining nine clubs are battling it out to claim one of the top four spots in the group which will allow them direct access to the finals in Brazil. Indeed, the fifth-placed side will also have a chance as this team will be involved in a play-off with the fifth-best side in Asia. Let’s take a look at the favourites, the dark horses and the outsiders from the region.
Most people would tip Chile to be in with a shout of making it to the finals, especially with players of the calibre of Alexis Sánchez in their team. However, former manager Bielsa has now moved to Bilbao in Spain and it will be interesting to see if his replacement, Claudio Borghi, continues with the attacking style of his predecessor. With a large urban population and a strong footballing infrastructure it is a surprise that Colombia have not made more of an impression at World Cup finals but they have only appeared on four occasions with the last one being in 1998. Lead by former player Leonel Álvarez – he won over 100 caps for his country – there is hope that the current side can make it through though a serious injury to their star striker Rodallega could prove problematical for Los Cafeteros. Now if Chile and Colombia have a World Cup pedigree then Venezuela have none at all – in fact they are the only side on the continent that have never qualified for a World Cup. For the longest time they were the laughing stock of the region but have made great strides in recent years including beating Brazil in 2008 in a friendly and reaching the semi-final of the 2011 Copa América where they only lost to Paraguay on penalties. A real dark horse.
That leaves three sides with very little chance of qualifying: Peru, who have been in disarray for many years, Ecuador who have recently produced some fine individual players and indeed have qualified for the finals on two occasions and Bolivia who will yet again be hoping that their home advantage of playing at altitude will aid their chances. Unfortunately this pundit does not think so.
battling it out: fighting for
La Celeste: The nickname of Uruguay (The Sky Blues)
Albiceleste: The nickname of Argentina
fancy their chances: They will think they have a good chance
tip: To predict
to be in with a shout of: To have a chance
Los Cafeteros: The nickname of Colombia (The Coffee makers)
of the calibre of: The level of
predecessor: The person before
pedigree: The level, the tradition
the laughing stock: The weakest team, the joke side
have made great strides: Have improved dramatically
been in disarray: Been in chaos
at altitude: Played at a high level above sea level