BUENOS AIRES - Uruguay will try to halt Marcelo Bielsa's impressive revival of Chile when the two sides meet in the South American World Cup qualifiers on Wednesday. Diego Maradona's Argentina visit Bolivia at 3,600 metres above sea level and Brazil need a convincing win at home to table-propping Peru. Ecuador, looking increasingly unlikely to reach a third successive World Cup, have a last throw of the dice against leaders Paraguay. With seven rounds of matches left in the 18-match campaign, Paraguay lead with 23 points followed by Argentina and Chile on 19 and Brazil 18. The top four qualify for the 2010 finals in South Africa. Uruguay are fifth with 16 points, which would earn them a playoff against the fourth side from CONCACAF if they finish in that position. Ecuador (14) and Colombia (13) are struggling to stay in contention and Venezuela (10) may have to wait at least another four years for their first finals appearance. Enigmatic former Argentina coach Bielsa has revolutionised the Chile team since his appointment in 2007, bringing a new mentality to a side previously famous for indiscipline. Just as Argentina did under Bielsa's leadership, Chile pressure the opposition in their own half of the field and rarely give them time to breathe. They have already beaten Argentina and on Sunday chalked up their first away win over arch-rivals Peru since 1985, winning 3-1 in Lima. Uruguay coach Oscar Washington Tabarez, whose side impressively beat Paraguay 2-0 on Saturday, promised his team would also attack at Santiago's National Stadium. "We are not a lesser team than Chile. It's a game in which we can attack them," he said. "There's no point in playing for a point." POINTS DROPPED Ecuador, who qualified for the last two World Cups on the back of a strong home record in Quito, have already dropped seven points at their Atahualpa stronghold and cannot afford to lose any more. Their big problem has been poor finishing and on Sunday they created enough chances to finish off Brazil comfortably but had to settle for a 1-1 draw. Paraguay, already missing striker Roque Santa Cruz through injury, will be without defender Julio Cesar Caceres and midfielder Jonathan Santana for the same reason and suspended midfielder Edgar Barreto. Their lead was cut from six to four points after losing to Uruguay in Montevideo. Colombia, who have mustered only six goals in 11 games, visit Venezuela in Puerto Ordaz on Tuesday when they are also likely to be playing their last card. Maradona, who celebrated his competitive debut with a 4-0 win over Venezuela in Buenos Aires on Saturday, is likely to be less adventurous for the difficult trip to La Paz and switch his 3-4-3 formation to 4-4-2. Having dropped to fourth place and dangerously close to a playoff position, Brazil will be relieved to have a home game with bottom team Peru in Porto Alegre. With six draws in 11 games, they are hoping Kaka will be fit after missing the match in Ecuador.
31 March 2009
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