South American qualifying preview

Chile aim to top table

June 8, 2012

Chile will try to take the outright lead of the South American World Cup qualifiers when they visit Venezuela in Puerto La Cruz in the sixth round of fixtures.

After last week's 2-0 victory over Bolivia in La Paz, Claudio Borghi's reached nine points, one behind leaders Argentina who will not be playing.

There was some controversy when Borghi dropped Sevilla midfielder Gary Medel and Napoli striker Eduardo Vargas from the squad after they were spotted by Chilean TV leaving a nightclub at 4am last Wednesday.

"I want to make it clear that both players were on a day off. But I had a spoken agreement. It annoys me to have to face the cameras for non-footballing occurrences. I'm a little tired of this'', Borghi said.

The only doubt for Borghi is Sporting Lisbon's Matias Fernandez who is suffering a pain in his knee and a decision will be made at the last minute.

Venezuela, the only South American nation never to play in a World Cup finals, are a surprising third following their 1-1 draw at Copa America champions Uruguay last time out.

Midfielder Juan Arango insisted the team must maintain their focus, saying: "''We will play at home, it's true, but we can't relax. This game will be as difficult the match against Uruguay was.

"Chile play good football and we have to be clever. Maybe, one point is not a bad option''.

Coach Cesar Farias will include Deportivo Anzoategui's Giacomo Di Giorgi in midfield in place of Juan Guerra.

Paraguay will return to action when they face rock-bottom Bolivia at Hernando Siles stadium of La Paz.

Gustavo Quinteros' Bolivia side have only one point from five games and the coach admitted: "''We have to add points as soon as possible. If we not win our chances are minimal."

To top it all, Ronald Raldes, Miguel Loayza and Juan Carlos Arce are injured while Gabriel Valverde and Jose Barba are suspended. The good news for the hosts is the return of Gremio striker Marcelo Martins Moreno who will partner local star Pablo Daniel Escobar.

Paraguay enjoyed 20 days of acclimatisation in La Paz and coach Francisco 'Chiqui' Arce is confident as they seek a vital victory with just four points.

"We are very strong in the air. That will be our main weapon'', he said.

On Sunday, Uruguay will host Peru. Oscar Washington Tabarez's are also in third place with eight points but will suffer a key absence with captain Diego Lugan injured and he will be replaced by Liverpool's Sebastian Coates.

"We have to improve our level. Peru will put a lot of players in defence and we have to be patient. If we play as usual did, we will obtain the victory'', Coates said.

Coach Sergio Markarian is under pressure in Peru with his team eighth with just three points.

Peru have suffered many injuries and have lost the likes of Schalke 04's Jefferson Farfan, Bayern Munich's Claudio Pizarro, Fiorentina's Juan Vargas, Saint Pauli's Carlos Zambrano, Sporting Lisbon's Alberto Rodriguez and Almeria's Santiago Acasiete.

Finally, in Quito, Ecuador will try to recover from the defeat suffered against Argentina when they host Colombia in a clash between two middle-table teams.

Coach Reinaldo Rueda will make several changes in the formation as Juan Carlos Paredes, Frickson Erazo, Segundo Castillo and Joao Rojas all have chances to be in the starting line-up.

This round Argentina will be off, but will play a friendly against 2014 World Cup hosts Brazil in New Jersey.

In the South American qualifiers the top four teams will automatically qualify for Brazil 2014, while the fifth-placed team will face a play-off against the third-placed team from the AFC's World Cup qualifying tournament.