WORLD CUP qualifying continues in South America this week and Mark O’Haire’s (@MarkOHaire) taken a look at the odds.
Ecuador v Uruguay | Thursday 21.00
Only three sides boast 100% records after two rounds of World Cup qualifying in CONMEBOL and two of those nations meet on Thursday night.
Ecuador stunned the planet by turning Argentina over 2-0 in Buenos Aires before beating Bolivia by the same scoreline on home soil with two late goals. It’s been a fantastic start for a side looking to book their place at a fourth World Cup in five.
And punters shouldn’t desert Los Amarillos this midweek with Uruguay arriving in Quito. The killer altitude has long been Ecuador’s best friend when hosting continental foes in qualifiers and La Tri’s exceptional record at Estadio Olímpico Atahualpa just cannot be ignored.
William Hill are offering the hosts at 21/20. Not bad when you consider Ecuador are unbeaten at home since 2009 and have W8-D1-L0 in their most recent nine Quito dates. Since 2001, La Tri have lost just twice in 28 games with all the major South American sides falling to defeat.
Gustavo Quinteros will be without Enner Valencia and Antonio Valencia but they’ll be far from fearful of a Uruguay side that’s without Luis Suarez and Jose Gimenez. La Celeste managed only four victories in their last 15 away qualifiers and were far from convincing when visiting the altitude of La Paz when winning in Bolivia last month.
A 3-0 dispatch of Colombia was impressive but even so, I’m unwilling to oppose teams who play in these sorts of environments and so an odds-against play on Ecuador looks the best option.
Chile v Colombia | Thursday 23.30
Any thought that Chile may rest on the laurels having secured a first ever Copa America triumph in the summer has been squashed by Jorge Sampaoli’s side taking a maximum six points from their first two qualifying fixtures.
La Roja were impressive performers when putting down Brazil 2-0 in Santiago before following it up with an enthralling 4-3 success against old rivals Peru in Lima and there’s even a suggestion that this Chile side are getting better.
Alexis Sanchez and Eduardo Vargas have shared the six goals between them butt here’s a support cast of hugely experienced and talented personnel across the roster. Having played in the same style with largely the same group of players since before the 2010 World Cup, every player knows their responsibilities and there’s a collective confidence in the La Roja camp.
Chile have now gone 10 matches without defeat and haven’t lost a qualifier in Santiago for over three years so there’ll fancy their chances in toppling a Colombian side that’s lost its spark since the summer. Jose Pekerman’s side routinely overcame Peru at home 2-0 but were outclassed and outfought in a 3-0 loss at Uruguay.
Los Cafeteros do tend to produce their best in the searing heat of their Barranquilla home and may struggle to make an impact in one of their toughest away days. James Rodriguez is in the squad after recovering from a thigh strain but with just 28 minutes of action since the end of August under his belt, is unlikely to as his mercurial best.
The last time these two met was just over two years ago in Barranquilla. Chile ran into a 3-0 advantage after 20 minutes, only for Colombia to salvage a 3-3 draw.
Another ding-dong battle could ensue here but the 4/5 from Bwin on a home win looks well worth a poke, as does the sumptuous 21/20 (Boylesports) that La Roja score Over 1.5 Goals – Sampaoli’s side have delivered this bet in all bar two of their last 11 on home soil.
Argentina v Brazil | Friday 00.00
Well this should be fierce. Neither South American powerhouse has begun World Cup qualifying in great shape and now the bitter rivals must go head-to-head with defeat almost unthinkable in the race to qualify for 2018.
Argentina coach Gerardo Martino’s been hit by injuries to his three top attacking talents. Lionel Messi, Sergio Aguero and Carlos Tevez are unavailable for La Albiceleste but their embarrassment of attacking riches means the hosts are still able to call upon the likes of Gonzalo Higuain, Angel Di Maria, Angel Correa, Paulo Dybala, Ezequiel Lavezzi, Javier Pastore, Nicolas Gaitan and Erik Lamela – not a bad support act, eh?
Losing players of those quality would hurt any side but the drift on Argentina has gone too far considering the back-up available to Martino. Sure, they were ponderous, dull and ugly when losing at home to Ecuador and achieving just a goalless draw in Paraguay, but you’d hope they’d release the beast on Thursday night.
On the other hand, Brazil take on their fiercest continental rivals with their talismanic captain Neymar back from suspension and in the form of his life. The Barcelona star has scored 10 goals in his last seven games and has even come into the Ballon d’Or reckoning.
And boy, do the Selecao need him. Convincingly beaten in Chile in their opener, Dunga’s team bounced back with a win against Venezuela despite the negative defensive tactics employed by the head coach. Brazil’s safety-first approach has failed to reap rewards and the visitors have failed to record a shutout in four on the road.
Argentina beat Brazil 3-1 in their most recent World Cup qualifier from Buenos Aires and the big derby nature and high-stakes fixture could lead to a tight clash. However, I do favour the hosts and with the drift on the Albiceleste going too far, we can invest in Argentina off a 0 start on the Asian Handicap line at 33/40 with Bet365.
The 0 Asian Handicap works in exactly the same way as a Draw No Bet market, only at a better price. We’ll get our cash back if the game ends all square and win should Argentina prove too good for their neighbours.
Ecuador v Uruguay – Ecuador to win (21/20 William Hill)
Chile v Colombia – Chile to win (4/5 Bwin)
Chile v Colombia – Chile to score Over 1.5 Goals (21/20 Boylesports)
Argentina v Brazil – Argentina 0 Asian Handicap (33/40 Bet365)
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