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Argentina, Lionel Messi must end Ecuador woes to seal World Cup spot

Argentina's hopes of reaching the World Cup will take them to one of their more challenging environments when they visit Ecuador in the final CONMEBOL qualifier on Tuesday.

La Albiceleste, captained by Barcelona star Lionel Messi, have won just two of six World Cup qualifiers held in Ecuador and once since the current format began in 1996.

By winning at the Estadio Olimpico Atahualpa in Quito at an altitude of 2,782 metres above sea level, Argentina would secure fifth place and advance to a playoff...

 By Tim Vickery

Ecuador, Uruguay are reeling at the wrong time in World Cup qualifying

Uruguay's Oscar Washington Tabarez is looking for an improved defensive effort in Thursday's key match vs. Argentina.

South America's World Cup qualification campaign is a marathon. With a total of 18 rounds played over more than two years, stretching over three club seasons, it is all but impossible to maintain consistency from the first kickoff to the final whistle.

The early pacesetters of the current campaign know this all too well. Ecuador were out of the blocks at a blistering pace, winning their first four games. The only rivals at the top of the table were Uruguay. After six rounds, a third of the way through,...

 By Tim Vickery

Ecuador vs. Colombia puts CONMEBOL qualifying sides' deficiencies on display

With five rounds of the 18 to go, there are now four separate competitions taking place in CONMEBOL's World Cup qualifying campaign.

Brazil are in a category of their own. Seven consecutive victories have given them a seven-point lead at the top of the table. They are all but mathematically qualified for Russia 2018 and can use the rest of competition to try to ensure that they have not peaked too soon.

At the other end of the scale are Venezuela and Bolivia, down at the foot of the table with no...

 By Tim Vickery

The state of play in South America's World Cup qualifiers

There are no real prizes for coming first. Or second for that matter. World Cup qualification in South America is all about crossing the line and making it through to Russia.

The first four teams qualify automatically for next year's tournament, with the side finishing fifth having to play off against opponents from Oceania. And as the competition moves into the final third, only Brazil are really sitting pretty.

Those six consecutive wins under new coach Tite have carried Brazil to 27 points. In...

 By Tim Vickery

48-team World Cup could negatively affect South American qualifying

Gab Marcotti joins Outside the Lines to discuss the reasons behind moving the World Cup from 32 to 48 teams in 2026.

On the website of CONMEBOL, the South American Confederation, there is an article entitled: "From 13 teams in Uruguay 1930 to 48 in the 2026 World Cup."

It is a neat way of reminding everyone of one of the great trump cards of the South American game: its fabulous tradition. This is the continent where the World Cup began and which has won nine versions of the tournament, divided between Brazil (five wins) and Uruguay and Argentina (two apiece).

The big three has provided Barcelona with the "MSN"...

 By Tim Vickery

Antonio Valencia continues to set the standard for Ecuadorians abroad

Antonio Valencia in action for Manchester United against Arsenal at Old Trafford.
At Manchester United since 2009, Antonio Valencia continues to set the standard for Ecuadorian players abroad.

Born in Argentina, goalkeeper Esteban Dreer spent a couple of years in Lithuania before moving to Ecuador in 2009. So well has he adapted that he has taken out citizenship and become Ecuador's first-choice goalkeeper, featuring in five games of the current World Cup qualification campaign, including all of the past four

Dreer, then, is well placed to put his adopted country into perspective. He says: "The Ecuadorian player is at a top level in South American football. They have technique, speed...