Eight teams are in action in South American qualifying for World Cup 2014 on Tuesday. Bolivia vs. Colombia starts the round, while Venezuela vs. Argentina is the night cap.
The first Matchday of South America's marathon qualifying tournament for the 2014 World Cup got off to an entertaining, but generally surprise-free start in Matchday 1. On Friday, Colombia were the only team not in action as all four home sides recorded victories. Uruguay, Ecuador and Argentina recorded expected wins, but Peru's 2-0 victory over Paraguay was a slight surprise.
Tuesday's four fixtures make up the second matchday of an 18 round tournament that will run between this international break and October of 2013. Brazil are not participating in the tournament, due to their automatic entry into World Cup 2014 as hosts. Ecuador are the team who sit out Matchday 2, and they will be in action against the United States in an international friendly.
Bolivia vs. Colombia
Time: 4:00 pm ET
By a comparison of rosters and recent results, Colombia should be heavy favorites against Bolivia. However, matches at altitude in La Paz are always extremely difficult for opponents and Bolivia are rarely pushovers at home. Famously, they defeated Argentina 6-1 at home in World Cup 2010 qualifying.
Colombia's squad is a strong one with no key players missing due to injury. Radamel Falcao is in form and expected to start, along with FC Porto playmaker Fredy Guarin. Colombia's defense is a very talented and experienced one, and they'll be aided by the return of their first choice goalkeeper, Nice No. 1 David Ospina.
Bolivia will lean heavily on Shakhtar Donetsk man Marcelo Martins, who netted in a losing effort away to Uruguay on Friday. They should make it tough on Colombia at home, but the visitors should have the quality to seal three points.
Pick: Bolivia 1-2 Colombia
Chile vs. Peru
Time: 6:45 pm ET
After their impressive Copa America run and their victory against Paraguay on Friday, Peru are looking like a team capable of climbing out of South America's basement. Jefferson Farfan and Claudio Pizarro are healthy, but it was Paolo Guerrero who netted twice on Friday. Guerrero is still very much out of form for Hamburg SV in the Bundesliga, but his form for his country has been absolutely stellar.
Chile were extremely disappointing on Friday as Lionel Messi and Gonzalo Higuain tore them to pieces in a 4-1 Argentina victory, but they should be a different team at home against Peru. Matias Fernandez scored against Argentina and they have plenty of quality coming from the likes of Humberto Suazo, Mauricio Isla and Arturo Vidal, but Chile still appears to be struggling with the loss of Alexis Sanchez to injury. Mauricio Pinilla and Jean Beausejour both started against Argentina, and both were disappointing. Replacing Sanchez like for like isn't going to be possible, but one of those players or La U star Eduardo Vargas will have to raise their games.
While Chile have more talent than Peru and home field advantage, Peru could create a significant tactical matchup advantage if they play a 4-3-3 with Guerrero and Farfan on either side of Pizarro. While Claudio Borghi prefers to play with three at the back, he's shown a willingness to play with a back four, so this could be a very interesting chess match.
Pick: Chile 3-2 Peru
Paraguay vs. Uruguay
Time: 6:45 pm ET
Paraguay were unable to score against Peru on Matchday 1 and made it to the Copa America final without winning a single match. Uruguay scored four goals on Matchday 1 and boast a lethal front three of Edinson Cavani, Luis Suarez and Diego Forlan. Their wide players, whether they play as true fullbacks or very attacking wingbacks, are fantastic athletes who are great at getting forward and aiding those front three. Surely you know what's coming.
Expect a heavy dose of rigid, counter-attacking football from Paraguay. Their depth at striker is likely to lead to them fielding a 4-4-2 formation, but expect those strikers to be similar kinds of players - big guys who are solid in the air and with their back to goal. Nine behind the ball and long balls to the front two, all day long.
If Uruguay doesn't score early, this game is likely to be 0-0 for a very long time. Uruguay have the talent to break the deadlock, but Paraguay's rock solid center of midfield and talented defense won't make it easy, while their physical strikers will put the Uruguay back line under pressure.
Pick: Paraguay 0-1 Uruguay
Venezuela vs. Argentina
Time: 8:50 pm ET
Venezuela didn't look good against Ecuador on Friday, but they played a weakened side. Manager Cesar Farias called in a massive squad of players and will be dropping the vast majority of them for the match against Argentina. Among the big guns that sat who are expected to play against Argentina are Fernando Amorebieta of Athletic Bilbao, Roberto Rosales of FC Twente, Tomas Rincon of Hamburg SV, Juan Arango of Borussia Mönchengladbach, Nicolas Fedor of Getafe and Jose Solomon Rondon of Malaga.
Those last two, the strikers, should give Argentina's defense a lot to think about. Rondon is a spectacular young talent, while Fedor is in good goal-scoring form in La Liga. After seeing what Alejandro Sabella's new-look Albeceleste are capable of against Chile, it's understandable that Farias wanted to rest his stars and prepare them for what will be an extremely difficult test.
Lionel Messi finally put to bed the rumors that he's poor for Argentina on Friday playing off of the equally brilliant Gonzalo Higuain, while veteran holding midfielder Rodrigo Braña looked solid in a surprise start. Javier Mascherano was suspended, and will likely come into Braña's spot alongside Ever Banega in the center of midfield. Though Braña certainly had a good game against Chile, that upgrade will likely be a huge boost for Argentina, giving them an even bigger edge over their opponents.
Pick: Venezuela 1-3 Argentina