By Louis Smith.
After months of drama and postponements, the South American World Cup qualifiers finally get underway this week. Originally they were due to start in March but Covid-19 put everything on hold.
Preparations for the matches has been non-existent in terms of game time, with the continent’s teams not playing any fixtures since November of last year — a curious state of affairs that may only add to the drama.
Unfortunately, due to health concerns relating to the pandemic, there will be no fans in the stadiums. It’s a shame they can’t attend, especially in South America where the majority of people live and breathe the beautiful game, but that doesn’t mean they won’t try to find a way to get themselves involved in cheering on their respective nations.
Despite this lack of atmosphere, players know the importance of these qualifiers and they will be ready to hit the ground running to give themselves the best possible chance of being in Qatar in 2022.
Please note: all the squads below are regularly being updated as players are forced to withdraw and others are called up.
During the qualification stage for Russia 2018, Argentina experienced a stressful time and only scraped into the World Cup on the final matchday.
This time they begin by hosting Ecuador in Buenos Aires — a game in which they will be confident of picking up a win. However, back at the beginning of the last qualifying campaign in 2015, Argentina actually suffered a shock 2-0 loss in the same fixture, so will be hoping to avoid any similar early hiccups. It’s worth noting that in a friendly in October 2019, Argentina destroyed a youthful Ecuador side 6-1.
The second game sees them travel to Bolivia, a daunting trip for any team due to the high altitude levels — and another place where La Albiceleste dropped points last time around in a 2-0 reversal.
In the six games they played towards the end of 2019 after the Copa América, Lionel Scaloni’s boys showed signs of a team that was beginning to grow in confidence, going unbeaten and scoring 15 goals in the process.
Goalkeeper Emiliano Martínez could be in contention for his first cap with Argentina after his impressive performances for Arsenal and, more recently, Aston Villa.
Facundo Medina, Nehuén Pérez and last-minute arrival Jeremías Ledesma are the other uncapped players called up.
Lautaro Martínez will be hoping to continue his fine form at international level: he has nine goals in 17 matches, and with no Sergio Agüero in the side, it will be important for him to step up to the plate.
Argentina have suffered several withdrawals owing to injuries, whereas Grêmio’s Walter Kannemann has been ruled out after testing positive for Covid-19.
Goalkeepers: Franco Armani, Esteban Andrada, Jeremías Ledesma, Emiliano Martínez
Defenders: Nicolás Otamendi, Nicolás Tagliafico, Juan Foyth, Lucas Martínez Quarta, Gonzalo Montiel, Facundo Medina, Nehuén Pérez
Midfielders: Marcos Acuña, Leandro Paredes, Eduardo Salvio, Rodrigo De Paul, Guido Rodríguez, Nicolás Domínguez, Exequiel Palacios, Alexis Mac Allister
Forwards: Lionel Messi, Paulo Dybala, Lautaro Martínez, Lucas Alario, Giovanni Simeone, Alejandro Gómez, Lucas Ocampos, Joaquín Correa
Bolivia haven’t qualified for the World Cup since 1994 and are certainly not expected to do so this time around. Instead, their main focus will be making sure they use the altitude advantage they have at home to pick up as many points as possible.
They begin their campaign in the hardest possible way, embarking on a trip to Brazil followed by hosting Argentina in La Paz.
Regarding the squad selection, disputes between various domestic clubs and the Bolivian federation have complicated matters for coach César Farías. Nevertheless, overall the Venezuelan will have 32 players to call upon over the two games, 23 of whom travelled to Brazil, whereas a further nine — including overseas-based talents Alejandro Chumacero, Marcelo Martins, Boris Céspedes and Jaume Cuéllar — will be solely available for the subsequent home clash with Argentina.
Goalkeepers: Carlos Lampe, Rúben Cordano, Jimmy Roca
Defenders: Jesús Sagredo, José Sagredo, José Carrasco, Saúl Torres, Harry Céspedes, Eduardo Demiquel, Guimer Justiniano, Leonardo Zabala, Alex Arano, Gabriel Valverde, Walter Antelo
Midfielders: Diego Wayar, Boris Céspedes, Junior Sánchez, Carlos Añez, Raúl Castro, Rudy Cardozo, Antonio Bustamante, Franz González, Fernando Saldías, Jhasmani Campos, Alejandro Chumacero, Cristian Árabe
Forwards: Bruno Miranda, Nelson Orozco, César Menacho, Jaume Cuéllar, Carlos Saucedo, Marcelo Martins
After a sluggish start to their 2018 World Cup qualification campaign and early exit at 2016’s Copa América Centenario, coach Tite came in and rejuvenated the side, ultimately guiding them to top of the Conmebol group.
The five-time world champions may have fallen short in Russia, but they’ll be looking to make amends. They start off this preliminary stage against Bolivia in São Paulo, a match they will be expecting to win. Their first away trip sees them travel to Lima to take on Peru, which could be a difficult encounter.
After winning last year’s Copa América, the Seleção played six fixtures and won only one, causing some to question if Tite is still the right man for the job. A bad start in the qualifiers could further increase the pressure on the manager.
Gabriel Menino comes into the side and will be in contention for a first cap. The 20-year-old has been very impressive for Palmeiras in the Brasileirão and the Copa Libertadores.
Midfielder Bruno Guimarães, who helped Lyon reach the semifinal of the Champions League, could also make his first appearance.
Another potential debutant is Matheus Cunha. The forward has enjoyed a fantastic run of form this year in the Bundesliga with Hertha Berlin.
After originally being left out of Tite’s 23-man squad, Manchester City goalkeeper Ederson has been called up to replace the injured Alisson.
Ederson’s club teammate Gabriel Jesus was originally in the squad but has since withdrawn because of an injury.
Goalkeepers: Ederson, Weverton, Santos
Defenders: Thiago Silva, Marquinhos, Danilo, Rodrigo Caio, Renan Lodi, Alex Telles, Felipe, Gabriel Menino
Midfielders: Philippe Coutinho, Casemiro, Fabinho, Éverton Ribeiro, Douglas Luiz, Bruno Guimarães
Forwards: Neymar, Roberto Firmino, Richarlison, Everton, Rodrygo, Matheus Cunha
Chile will be hoping to overcome the disappointment of failing to qualify for the last World Cup, when they instead finished 6th and thus narrowly missed out on the intercontinental playoff spot.
Reinaldo Rueda’s men start their campaign with a challenging trip to Uruguay, then five days later they host Colombia in Santiago.
Last October, La Roja faced Colombia in a friendly in Spain, which saw both sides playing out a 0-0 stalemate.
Five players are in contention to potentially earn their first cap: Omar Carabalí, Nicolás Díaz, Rodrigo Echeverría, Juan Carlos Gaete and Yonathan Andía.
Veteran goalkeeper Claudio Bravo is injured, meaning Gabriel Arias, Brayan Cortés and Omar Carabalí will instead battle it out for the number one spot.
The Inter Milan pair of Alexis Sánchez and Arturo Vidal have both been selected in the squad. However, captain Gary Medel, another vastly experienced player who currently plies his trade in Serie A, is a late withdrawal owing to injury.
Flamengo right-back Mauricio Isla earns his first call-up since transferring to the Brazilian club from Fenerbahçe. Having tested positive for Covid-19, he has been ruled out of his nation’s opening clash, but a subsequent negative test means he will join up with his teammates on Friday and hopefully be available for the the following game against Colombia.
Goalkeepers: Gabriel Arias, Brayan Cortés, Omar Carabalí
Defenders: Mauricio Isla, Enzo Roco, Paulo Díaz, Sebastián Vegas, Francisco Sierralta, Nicolás Díaz, Rodrigo Echeverría, Yonathan Andía
Midfielders: Arturo Vidal, Charles Aránguiz, José Pedro Fuenzalida, Diego Valdés, Lorenzo Reyes, César Pinares, Claudio Baeza, Tomás Alarcón
Forwards: Alexis Sánchez, Eduardo Vargas, Jean Meneses, Víctor Dávila, Juan Carlos Gaete
Colombia will be looking to qualify for their third World Cup in a row for only the second time in their history, thus mimicking the sides of the 1990s (1990, 1994 and 1998).
They begin their quest against Venezuela in Barranquilla and then face a trip to Santiago to take on Chile.
Everton duo Yerry Mina and James Rodríguez have had an electrifying start this season in England and will be hoping to carry over their club form to international level. The pair have played key roles in the Merseyside club winning their opening four league matches as well as earning a place in the League Cup quarterfinals.
Steven Alzate’s impressive performances for Brighton have also earned him a spot in the side.
Rangers forward Alfredo Morelos has made the cut along with the Atlanta trio of Johan Mojica, Luis Muriel and Duván Zapata.
Left-back Gabriel Fuentes and goalkeepers Aldair Quintana, Álvaro Montero and Edér Chaux are the only home-based players called up to the squad.
The latter trio, along with Mexico-based Camilo Vargas, will all have their eyes on staking a claim for the role between the sticks, as Napoli’s David Ospina has been unable to join up with the squad owing to a Covid-related quarantine.
Goalkeepers: Aldair Quintana, Álvaro Montero, Camilo Vargas, Edér Chaux
Defenders: Frank Fabra, Jhon Lucumí, Yerry Mina, Davinson Sánchez, Santiago Arias, Johan Mojica, Stefan Medina, Jeison Murillo, Gabriel Fuentes
Midfielders: Jorman Campuzano, Jefferson Lerma, Steven Alzate, James Rodríguez, Juan Cuadrado, Víctor Cantillo, Wílmar Barrios
Forwards: Luis Muriel, Duván Zapata, Jhon Córdoba, Alfredo Morelos, Radamel Falcao
Having finished 8th, Ecuador missed out on qualification for the last World Cup, and preparation for 2022 hasn’t exactly gone the way they would have hoped either.
Jordi Cruyff was hired in January as the manager but left in July without taking a single training session, let alone overseeing a game.
Gustavo Alfaro is the new head coach of La Tri and there are some good young players coming through whom he will be hoping he can rely on.
30 players have been called up to his first squad as his side face a tough start, first taking on Argentina in Buenos Aires and then hosting Uruguay.
11 domestic-based players have been summoned, including 18-year-old Moisés Caicedo. The midfielder is certainly one to watch, having recently spearheaded Independiente del Valle to a 5-0 victory over 2019 Copa Libertadores winners Flamengo.
Caicedo is one of seven uncapped players in the squad, along with Pedro Perlaza, Franklin Guerra, José Carabalí, Erick Ferigra, Jordy Alcívar and Hernán Galíndez.
Goalkeepers: Pedro Ortíz, Hernán Galíndez, Alexander Domínguez
Defenders: Pedro Perlaza, Franklin Guerra, Erick Ferigra, Ángelo Preciado, Félix Torres, Diego Palacios, Xavier Arreaga, Pervis Estupiñán, Mario Pineida, Robert Arboleda
Midfielders: José Carabalí, Jordy Alcívar, Moisés Caicedo, Jhojan Julio, José Cifuentes, Gonzalo Plata, Alan Franco, Junior Sornoza, Jhegson Méndez, Romario Ibarra, Ángel Mena, Carlos Gruezo, Renato Ibarra, Christian Noboa
Forwards: Leonardo Campana, Michael Estrada, Enner Valencia
After qualifying for four straight World Cups between 1998 and 2010, La Albirroja have since failed to do so and will be desperate to ensure they don’t follow up that feat with three fruitless campaigns in a row.
They begin this time around by hosting Peru in Asunción and then making the journey to Venezuela.
Since he was recruited as manager, Eduardo Berizzo has brought in a more attack-minded style of play, but he also knows how to manage a game situation and play on the counter-attack when needed, where his side can exploit the pace of Miguel Almirón and Alejandro Romero (otherwise known as Kaku). One thing Paraguay lacked in preparation last year was finishing off chances created — they will be hoping this isn’t the case in qualification.
Four domestic-based players are in the current squad: three from newly crowned Apertura champions Cerro Porteño (Alberto Espínola, Mathías Villasanti and Ángel Cardozo) and one from Guaraní (Raúl Bobadilla).
Newcastle’s Miguel Almirón has been called up alongside fellow Premier League player, Fabián Balbuena.
Captain Gustavo Gómez is currently having a great season with Palmeiras and will be hoping to continue this form for his nation.
Goalkeepers: Antony Silva, Roberto Fernández, Gerardo Ortíz
Defenders: Gustavo Gómez, Júnior Alonso, Fabián Balbuena, Blás Riveros, Juan Escobar, Robert Rojas, Juan Gabriel Patiño, Omar Alderete, Alberto Espínola
Midfielders: Óscar Romero, Miguel Almirón, Celso Ortiz, Richard Sánchez, Mathías Villasanti, Ángel Cardozo, Andrés Cubas, Gastón Giménez
Forwards: Hernán Pérez, Ángel Romero, Antonio Sanabria, Darío Lezcano, Raúl Bobadilla, Alejandro Romero, Braian Samudio, Adam Bareiro
Last time out Peru qualified for their first World Cup since 1982. Despite not making it through the group stage in Russia, they played without fear and put in some wonderful performances — the results certainly didn’t tell the full story.
This time Ricardo Gareca’s men begin with a tricky trip to Asunción to face Paraguay, which could be a very exciting matchup. They then take on Brazil in Lima, where Los Incas will be seeking revenge after losing 3-1 in last year’s Copa América final.
Eight domestic league players have been called up: José Carvallo, Aldo Corzo, Christian Ramos, Christofer Gonzáles, Carlos Cáceda, David Dioses, Matías Succar and Álex Valera.
Dioses, Succar and Valera, along with América de Cali’s Aldair Rodríguez, could be in line for a first cap.
Unfortunately, Peru will be without all-time top scorer Paolo Guerrero, who is experiencing a lengthy spell on the sidelines.
Goalkeepers: Carlos Cáceda, José Carvallo, Pedro Gallese
Defenders: Anderson Santamaría, Miguel Araujo, Luis Abram, Miguel Trauco, Aldo Corzo, Carlos Zambrano, Christian Ramos, Luis Advíncula, Marcos López
Midfielders: David Dioses, Wilder Cartagena, Sergio Peña, Christofer Gonzáles, Pedro Aquino, Renato Tapia, Christian Cueva, Yoshimar Yotún
Forwards: Matías Succar, Álex Valera, Aldair Rodríguez, Andy Polo, Raúl Ruidíaz, André Carrillo, Jefferson Farfán
The two-time champions of the world will be aiming to participate in their fourth World Cup in a row. In Russia La Celeste reached the quarterfinals, where they were knocked out by eventual winners France.
They begin by hosting Chile in Montevideo, followed by a trip to Ecuador.
Luis Suárez earns his first call-up since moving to Atlético Madrid and is one of seven La Liga players convened.
Nacional’s Agustín Oliveros is the only domestic player in the squad. The uncapped 22-year-old defender is one of seven potential Uruguay debutants, with the others being Rodrigo Muñoz, Ronald Araújo, Damián Suárez, Mauro Arambarri, Nicolás De La Cruz and Diego Rossi.
Goalkeepers: Rodrigo Muñoz, Martín Campaña, Martín Silva
Defenders: Ronald Araújo, Agustín Oliveros, Damián Suárez, Matías Viña, Sebastián Coates, Martín Cáceres, Diego Godín
Midfielders: Nicolás De La Cruz, Mauro Arambarri, Brian Rodríguez, Federico Valverde, Lucas Torreira, Giorgian De Arrascaeta, Rodrigo Bentancur, Nahitan Nández
Forwards: Darwin Núñez, Maxi Gómez, Jonathan Rodríguez, Diego Rossi, Luis Suárez
La Vinotinto are the only South American side to never reach the World Cup, but many people believe that their best chance is now. Their most recent fixture — the last with coach Rafael Dudamel — saw them destroy Japan 4-1 away from home, giving fans hope that Qatar 2022 could be their time.
They begin with a tough trip to Colombia followed by a tasty looking game against Paraguay in Mérida. If they are going to qualify it’s important they give themselves the best chance by picking up wins at home.
The squad of new boss José Peseiro doesn’t feature any domestic-based talent. It does, however, include four MLS players: Rolf Feltscher and the uncapped trio of Cristian Cásseres, José Andrés Martínez and Miguel Navarro.
Yangel Herrera will be hoping to carry into the international arena the form he’s been demonstrating at Granada, whom he recently helped qualify for the Europa League group stage.
Yeferson Soteldo has been in fine form for Santos, playing the majority of the Brazilian club’s games this season. He provides a great deal of pace and loves to dance past defenders with a trick or two.
Like Peru, Venezuela will be without their record marksman as Salomón Rondón has been prevented by his club from joining up. With the injured Josef Martínez also not in the squad, the team will certainly have to look elsewhere for goals.
Goalkeepers: Wuilker Faríñez, Alain Baroja, Joel Graterol
Defenders: Roberto Rosales, Alexander González, Mikel Villanueva, Wilker Ángel, Rolf Feltscher, Jhon Chancellor, Ronald Hernández, Luis Mago, Miguel Navarro
Midfielders: Tomás Rincón, Rómulo Otero, Jhon Murillo, Darwin Machís, Juan Pablo Añor, Yangel Herrera, Yeferson Soteldo, Jefferson Savarino, Bernaldo Manzano, Eduard Bello, Cristian Cásseres, Arquímedes Figuera, José Andrés Martínez
Forwards: Fernando Aristeguieta, Sergio Córdova, Andrés Ponce, Eric Ramírez
Round One Fixtures
Paraguay vs Peru | Kick-off — 23:30 (GMT) 08/10/2020
Uruguay vs Chile | Kick-off — 23:45 (GMT) 08/10/2020
Argentina vs Ecuador | Kick-off — 01:30 (GMT) 09/10/2020
Colombia vs Venezuela | Kick-off — 00:30 (GMT) 10/10/2020
Brazil vs Bolivia | Kick-off — 01:30 (GMT) 10/10/2020
Round Two Fixtures
Bolivia vs Argentina | Kick-off — 21:00 (GMT) 13/10/2020
Ecuador vs Uruguay | Kick-off — 22:00 (GMT) 13/10/2020
Venezuela vs Paraguay | Kick-off — 23:00 (GMT) 13/10/2020
Peru vs Brazil | Kick-off — 01:00 (GMT) 14/10/2020
Chile vs Colombia | Kick-off — 01:30 (GMT) 14/10/2020