CONMEBOL World Cup Qualifying has gone more or less as expected to this point. Argentina and Uruguay are clearly the two best teams, while Chile and Colombia look World Cup worthy. Venezuela has been a slight surprise but, with an even goal differential, they're hardly overachieving at this point. There is, however, one surprise in the field.
Copa America 2011 runners-up and World Cup 2010 participants Paraguay are off to a very poor start. Manager Gerardo Martino departed at the end of Copa to take the vacant post at Newell's Old Boys, where he's doing excellent work, and Paraguay haven't dealt with his departure well. They've been beaten by Peru and Chile, and could only manage a draw at home against Uruguay.
Because of how good Venezuela and Colombia have played relative to their previous World Cup qualifying campaign, Paraguay are going to have to start winning now to avoid getting into a hole too deep to play their way out of. They play the first game of this slate of fixtures, going away to Bolivia. Playing at altitude in La Paz is always difficult for everyone, but Bolivia have failed to win a game so far in qualifying. Anything less than three points would be a major disappointment.
In what could be a massive match to help decide who takes the final automatic qualifying spot for the World Cup, Chile go away to Venezuela in Saturday's second match. Venezuela have not lost since the first round, and grabbed an impressive road draw against Uruguay during the last set of fixtures. They have yet to allow a goal at home, with Oswaldo Vizcarrondo and Fernando Amorebieta anchoring their solid defense.
Uruguay should be able to grab all three points in a home match against Peru on Sunday. They dropped points at home in their last match, and should be motivated to step up their games this time around. In the final match of qualifying, Colombia go away to Ecuador, who are desperate for a win after they got pasted by Argentina in Buenos Aires last week.
Schedule (all times ET)
Bolivia vs. Paraguay - Saturday, 4 p.m.
Venezuela vs. Chile - Saturday, 6:30 p.m.
Uruguay vs. Peru - Sunday, 2:30 p.m.
Ecuador vs. Colombia - Sunday, 5 p.m.