Preview - Colombia close to ending 16-year World Cup wait

By Rex Gowar

BUENOS AIRES (Reuters) - Colombia will end a 16-year wait for a place in the World Cup finals if they get a point when they host Chile at the Metropolitano in Barranquilla on Friday.

Chile need a win in the hot and humid Caribbean port city to secure a ticket to their second finals in succession with one qualifier to spare.

Colombia could also qualify for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil even if they lose to Chile if the match between Ecuador and Uruguay, taking place at the same time (2100 GMT), ends in anything but a draw.

Up in the Andes at the Atahualpa in Quito, 2010 semi-finalists Uruguay visit Ecuador in a clash of teams separated only by goal difference.

Argentina, at home to Peru in Buenos Aires (2300), have already qualified, while Venezuela host Paraguay at Puerto La Cruz (2030) hoping a win will keep alive their slim hopes of reaching the finals for the first time.

The top four in the South American group go through to the next year's World Cup with the fifth-placed team after the final round on Tuesday qualifying for a playoff against Jordan.

With two rounds to go, second-placed Colombia have 26 points, two ahead of Chile and four in front of Ecuador and Uruguay, with sixth-placed Venezuela three points further back and having played one match more.

The climate in Barranquilla could be a handicap for the Chileans used to cooler temperatures but coach Jorge Sampaoli said his main worry was opponents on a run of five successive home wins.

"Our opponents, with the arrival of their present trainer, have marked a difference with the rest of the national teams." Sampaoli said, referring to fellow Argentine Jose Pekerman.

"They've scored a lot of goals at home (14), had none scored against them and won all their matches (at home since the new coach took over)," he told reporters.

Pekerman, who steered Argentina to the 2006 quarter-finals in Germany, took charge after Colombia lost 2-1 to Argentina in Barranquilla two years ago.

ECUADOR-URUGUAY SHOWDOWN

Uruguay, on a run of three wins after beating Colombia 2-0 in Montevideo last month, want to avoid having to try qualifying via the playoff for the third World Cup in row.

"With a point we can secure the playoff (at least) which for us three matches ago would have been a miracle," said striker Luis Suarez, looking back on a mid-series slump when they took only two points from six matches.

"Now we know we have good chances of qualifying directly which is what we want, to avoid more suffering," added Suarez, who with 10 goals is the group's joint top scorer with Argentina's Lionel Messi.

Uruguay have featured in playoffs for the last three World Cups, beating Australia to reach the 2002 finals, losing to the same opponents for the 2006 tournament and overcoming Costa Rica to get to South Africa in 2010.

"There is one more match after this one in Quito, but the importance of that match against Argentina will depend on the result we bring home from Ecuador," Suarez said in Montevideo.

Ecuador, who rely mainly on Felipe Caicedo for their goals after fellow striker Cristian Benitez died suddenly of heart failure in July, are looking to return to the finals after missing out on South Africa.

(Additional reporting by Felipe Llambias in Montevideo and Felipe Iturrieta in Santiago; Editing by Sonia Oxley)

Matches

MORE TOP STORIES TODAY

Pietersen to miss Delhi's first game

Pietersen to miss Delhi's first game

The former England batsman will have to lead the franchise as he is out of the match against Bangalore with a finger injury. More »

Kallis, Narine star in Knight Riders’ crushing win

Kallis, Narine star in Knight Riders’ crushing win

An all-round display saw Knight Riders thump Mumbai Indians by 41 runs in the IPL-7 opener. More »

Gavaskar wants a clean IPL

Gavaskar wants a clean IPL

"Integrity is non-negotiable..." says the BCCI's interim chief ahead of Season 7 of the tainted league. More »

'Yak' Kallis still on top of his game

'Yak' Kallis still on top of his game

The 38-year-old South African veteran turned it on for Kolkata Knight RIders in the opening match of IPL-7. More »

Srinivasan named in fixing report: SC

Srinivasan named in fixing report: SC

The court emphasised that the tainted administrator can no longer work for the BCCI. More »

'If you do the wrong thing it will be found out'

'If you do the wrong thing it will be found out'

'Everyone knows what is right and what is wrong and if you do the wrong thing it will be found out' More »

Why I'm not looking forward to the IPL

Why I'm not looking forward to the IPL

Welcome to another season of a league that many watch but few trust. More »

Johnson may quit T20s for Tests

Johnson may quit T20s for Tests

Australia's Mitchell Johnson may quit limited-overs cricket to prolong his test career with an eye on the 2015 Ashes series in England, the fast bowler… More »

There's a lot going on: Fleming

There's a lot going on: Fleming

He experienced anxious moments in the lead-up to the tournament as the courts decided on whether to suspend the franchise, he said, but stressed that the… More »

Nepal players call off boycott

Nepal players call off boycott

Thaw in relations after formation of an advisory committee that would work in tandem with the Cricket Association of Nepal. More »

Latif couldn’t work with tainted players

Latif couldn’t work with tainted players

Former Pakistan cricket captain Rashid Latif said Tuesday he turned down the job of national chief selector because he could not work with ex-players tainted… More »

We are not over-confident: Bailey

We are not over-confident: Bailey

Indian Premier League — George Bailey-led Kings XI Punjab will face Chennai Super Kings on Friday. More »

Big runs expected, with bat and ball

Big runs expected, with bat and ball

Royal Challengers Bangalore: Their main concern, once again, is the fast bowling More »

Taxing issue — BCCI hits roadblock

Taxing issue — BCCI hits roadblock

MoU between BCCI & its units to avoid double taxation delayed after a few decline to share details. More »

Black Caps pick rookie duo for West Indies

Black Caps pick rookie duo for West Indies

New Zealand selectors included two new caps in a 15-man Test squad named Tuesday to tour the West Indies, with injury-hit spinner Dan Vettori's future… More »

The stage is set for IPL-7 to start

The stage is set for IPL-7 to start

The Preview — Defending champions Mumbai Indians take on Kolkata Knight Riders More »

Srinivasan appeals to court to allow BCCI comeback

Srinivasan appeals to court to allow BCCI comeback

He was aggrieved by the allegations against him during the hearing. More »

India: cricket's Brazil

India: cricket's Brazil

They are tough to beat with a big talent base exposed to good facilities. (CYCSPL) More »

Delhi Daredevils say no to gifts

Delhi Daredevils say no to gifts

Franchises are doing their bit to refurbish the image of the tainted league. More »

Klinger on his exit from South Australia

Klinger on his exit from South Australia

Michael Klinger has revealed he felt compelled to leave South Australia after being told he would be only a fringe part of the Redbacks' plans for next season, and disputed the suggestion that he left… More »

India-Pakistan Test series likely in 2015

India-Pakistan Test series likely in 2015

The revival of Indo-Pak Test ties could take place in UAE. More »

Kohli hopes to end RCB trophy drought

Kohli hopes to end RCB trophy drought

'This time around we will hope to go few more steps ahead and actually get that trophy' More »

Gavaskar can help IPL regain glory

Gavaskar can help IPL regain glory

Apart from the foreign players a lot of behind-the-scene activity has taken place in selecting the Indian domestic players. More »

Tendulkar, Ganguly to promote soccer

Tendulkar, Ganguly to promote soccer

Leading Spanish club Atletico Madrid and former cricketers Sachin Tendulkar and Sourav Ganguly are among the owners of eight franchises of a new Indian… More »