Through seven rounds of play in CONMEBOL World Cup qualifying, a couple of distinct tiers appear to be emerging. Venezuela or Paraguay could still turn things around and begin to challenge South America's elite for a spot in the World Cup, but the window is shrinking for either to do anything. At this point, there appears to be a clear top-5, with the real fight taking place between those teams to avoid the playoff spot, not between teams lower in the table to get up to a playoff spot.
Coincidentally, Paraguay and Venezuela are playing each other on Tuesday. It's too early in the tournament to declare any game a must-win for anyone, but both teams are starting to approach that territory. Since Paraguay already have four losses and they're at home on Tuesday, this is almost a must-win. They're going to be at least three points behind a playoff spot, if not more, if they grab a win against Venezuela.
The best viewing should be found in Santiago, when Chile host Colombia in the early game. Chile have won their last two games in qualifying -- two of them on the road -- after a rough start. They sat out last round and have the advantage of rest, as well as home field. Colombia are hot, however, as they're coming off of a stunning 4-0 win over Uruguay.
Everyone is expecting the Uruguayans to bounce back at home on Tuesday, when they host Ecuador. Things are looking up for Ecuador after two straight wins, but those matches both came at home. They have been fantastic in Quito, but poor on the road in qualifying. The same can be said for Uruguay, so expect a bounce-back win for them.
In the final game of the round, Argentina goes away to Peru, who have just six points thus far. They're struggling on the road and playing well at home, however, much like most of the teams in the tournament. It wouldn't be shocking at all to see them take a draw off Argentina, and fans of the Albiceleste should be understanding if their team isn't at their best on Tuesday.
Schedule (all times ET)
Chile vs. Colombia - 3:30 p.m.
Uruguay vs. Ecuador - 5:30 p.m.
Paraguay vs. Venezuela - 7:25 p.m.
Peru vs. Argentina - 9:25 p.m.