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Hello fans! El Bolso here with a quick update on the World Cup qualifiers. I didn’t get to watch any of the game yesterday because kid school stuff got in the way, so I won’t go into too much detail about it. But I can sure tell you where I think the Celeste stands now that we’ve reached the big long break. Let’s get to it!

 

Disappointing, but Not Unexpected

 

Let's give Alexis Sánchez some love, shall we? Yooge game for him. (The Guardian)
Let’s give Alexis Sánchez some love, shall we? Yooge game for him. (The Guardian)

 

Look, I don’t need to tell you that this Chilean team is scary good. Maybe not Best Team in the World good, despite what convicted drunk driver Arturo Vidal says, but they are the two-time defending Copa América champions. So getting points out of a visit to Santiago is not an easy proposition. Uruguay gave it its best shot but ultimately fell short, falling 3-1, thanks to some defensive miscues and a strong performance by Arsenal forward Alexis Sánchez, who scored twice in the second half to break a 1-1 tie. Such is life. Congratulations to Chile, who got 3 sorely needed points. They were shaky in the early going, but recovered and were clearly the better team after halftime.

 

For Uruguay, there’s a lot of coulda/woulda/shoulda to discuss. They went up on Edinson Cavani‘s tournament-leading 8th goal, a great finish off an assist by THE BEST GOD DAMN PLAYER IN THE WHOLE WORLD (Luis Suárez to the haters), but could easily have gone up by 2 or 3 goals in the first half hour, as TBGDPITWW kept setting up Cavani with clear shots on goal. There was also a blatant penalty on Cavani by keeper Claudio Bravo that the referee ignored (despite the fact that Bravo tackled the Uruguayan forward after Cavani had slipped the ball past him and was setting up for an open goal strike). Add to that the fact that Chile scored the tying goal 2 minutes into added time, and you can see why that 1-1 halftime score felt like a big win for La Roja.

 

After halftime the Chileans upped their game, Uruguay’s defenders lost track of Sánchez, and that was that. TBGDPITWW had a chance to pull a goal back late on a penalty kick, but his shot was smothered brilliantly by Bravo. What are you gonna do. El Bolso was hoping for a tie as a best case scenario, and you can argue that it easily could have happened, but the breaks went the other way, and that’s that. Like we say in Uruguay, “a llorar al cuartito.” Find a little room to go cry in.

 

By the way, let’s take a second to congratulate Edinson Cavani, who scored his 37th career national team goal in this game. That gives him sole possession of second place on the Celeste all-time scoring table, between Diego Forlán (36 goals) and, of course, TBGDPITWW (47). Lord knows Jobu’s Uruguayan posse (sorry LeBron) has ragged on Edi enough over his career, but El Bolso thinks he’s really turned a corner in the last 6 months. Let’s hope the goals keep on coming!

 

FIFA Scheduling is the Worst

 

Ladies and gentlemen, the second leading scorer in the history of La Celeste: Edinson Cavani. (Scoopnest)
Ladies and gentlemen, the second leading scorer in the history of La Celeste: Edinson Cavani. (Scoopnest)

 

So now what? Well, now we sit on our hands for 4 months, then there are 2 rounds in late March of next year, then another long break before the deciding games are played in October and November. FIFA fixtures, everybody.

 

As for Uruguay’s chances, this has pretty much become a 6 team race for 5 spots. Let’s take a quick look at the standings:

  1. Brazil: 27 points, +19 goal difference
  2. Uruguay: 23 P, +13 GD
  3. Ecuador: 20 P, +6 GD
  4. Chile: 20 P, +4 GD
  5. Argentina: 19 P, +2 GD
  6. Colombia: 18 P, 0 GD

 

Paraguay and Peru are within striking distance, (15 and 14 points, respectively) but I don’t think they have what it takes to outpace Argentina down the home stretch. So this is still pretty good, right? Uruguay has a 4 point lead on the playoff spot (Argentina) and 5 points on the suddenly out of luck Colombians, not to mention a huge goal differential advantage that could also come into play (goal differential is how the Celeste made it into the 2002 WC playoff, leaving Colombia out in the cold). Given what I’ve seen from the latter lately, I’m feeling pretty confident about finishing in the top 5. Direct qualification, however, is looking a little shakier. Argentina seems to have found something this week, Chile and Ecuador are both strong teams that seem to pick up points when they need them, and the schedule is not the friendliest.

 

We’ll see what happens in March (sigh); a home game against Brazil will be up first, with both TBGDPITWW and starting keeper Fernando Muslera out because of yellow cards. I don’t think a win is mandatory (though it would be nice to keep the home streak going), but the team needs to get at least a tie out of that. They will then travel to Peru, where a point would be most welcome, although again, 3 would be best (and not entirely out of the question). Here’s the thing: Uruguay needs to avoid losses over the next 5 rounds and then pick up a win at home against Bolivia. Anything better than that would be great, but I think that’s what the team should work towards. If they do that, they will most likely be in the top 4.

 

And that’s all for today, fans. Sorry about the rushed post; right now I’m spending most of my time posting bigoted BS to Facebook and Twitter to see if I can get named ambassador to Russia sometime in the next 18 months. But don’t worry, I’ll be here in March to tell you about the next round of games. See you then!

El Bolso

About El Bolso

El Bolso is Uruguay’s foremost soccer-fan-in-exile, a true authority on the Celeste and its favored son, the Club Nacional de Football. He believes in precision passing, tireless marking, and strong finishing, and is not above the occasional slide tackle from behind when the situation calls for it.

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