We’re 1/3 of the way through CONMEBOL’s World Cup Qualifying phase. While things have shuffled since the beginning, our overall prognosis hasn’t changed much. Things got off to a rocky start with the heavy hitters missing their top players. The Barcelona trio all missed the start last October, and the impact was certainly felt.
But overall, things look similar. Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Chile, and Uruguay were all significantly strong to finish top 5. That has not changed, but Ecuador has now joined the party. Without Messi, they recorded a win in Argentina and put themselves right in the mix. One of these 6 teams has to miss out, and right now Chile and Colombia appear to be on the edge. Argentina has since righted the ship, but no other team has more than a 75% chance to qualify directly.
Here’s how things stand through 6 matchdays:
Paraguay has certainly held their own thus far. And Brazil finds themselves fighting an uphill battle as they have been for most of the campaign. We give Brazil a 70% chance to qualify directly, but that number is awful low compared to years past.
The Big Boys
Argentina stands on their own. Despite having just 2 points through 3 matches, they’ve reeled off 3 straight wins to move to favorites yet again. They’ve yet to play any of the bottom 3, which means there are plenty of points available for the taking. It will be interesting to see how they respond after a heartbreaking Copa America defeat.
The Next Two
Uruguay and Brazil each have over a 70% chance to qualify directly. Each has a critical road match on Thursday: Brazil at Ecuador, and Uruguay at Argentina. If either emerges with points, they could easily be enough to tip the scale even more in their favor. Uruguay at Argentina is certainly the premier fixture in the September window with Messi and Suarez going head to head finally. It looks like both of these teams will finish on the right side of the cut line.
Three on the Fence
Of Ecuador, Colombia, and Chile, it looks like one will miss out. We did not initially expect Ecuador to be in this position, but they’ve responded well after a poor 2014. So well, in fact, that we give them the edge over both Chile and Colombia at the moment. If they can bag 3 points at Peru, they’ll prove they are for real. Colombia and Chile need to start putting it together a bit more. At Paraguay and home v Bolivia is the perfect opportunity for Chile to make their mark. Colombia feels like the team in most danger.
Four No More
Before qualifying began, we gave Paraguay, Peru, Venezuela, and Bolivia a 15% chance COMBINED to qualify for the World Cup directly. It appears that was generous. Through 6 matches, they now have just a 5% chance COMBINED. No team has more than a 3% chance. Venezuela and Bolivia haven’t gotten off 0 since the beginning and that seems unlikely to change. We’re projecting them to finish 18 and 19 points out of the playoff spot respectively. While Paraguay does have 9 points, they’ve already played the other 3 in this category, which does not bode well. It would be an unbelievable surprise to see one of these teams get through.