The International break is a rather annoying and dull period for most football fans who are craving to see their club play in the weekend. However, this doesn’t apply to South American football. CONMEBOL qualifiers are one of the most passionate and tense matches in the world with 22 players giving it their all. Measurements are taken to the next level and cutting out any access to water pre-game isn’t something strange. Here are 5 crazy things that happened during the CONMEBOL qualifiers.
Paraguay was still in with a chance to qualify for the World Cup coming into their last game against Venezuela. They had to pick up all three points against The Vinotinto, who sat last in the qualifying table. However, Paraguay took their own measures to give them the best chance of winning. Venezuela’s coach, Rafael Dudamel, accused Paraguay in his post-game press conference of sending girls to their hotel to distract them from the upcoming match. A pretty ridiculous measure to say the least. This measurement didn’t prove to be worth repeating though as Yangel Herrera’s late goal eliminated Paraguay.
Playing in La Paz is always tough. It’s the highest Capital in the world with its elevation laying around roughly 3,650 m / ( 11,975 ft ) above sea level. The air is really thin and players usually struggle to see out the full 90 minutes. Brazilian star Neymar recently called the circumstances inhuman after most Brazil players had to use oxygen to cope with this height of La Paz. Argentina knew they would struggle in La Paz and took a rather unusual precaution to help their players cope with the altitude. Ever thought of Viagra? Well, neither did I.
Apparently, it relaxes your blood vessels, allowing more blood to flow freely through it. It’s supposed to block the effects of high altitude on your lungs, allowing your lungs to get oxygen continuously. Viagra also isn’t listed on FIFA’s Anti-Doping list and can, therefore, be used in any football match. That must have been a little weird in the dressing room…
These precautions didn’t seem to work, by the way. Argentina lost 2-0 in La Paz and eventually barely made it to the World Cup after a Messi hattrick against Ecuador.
South American champions Chile were unlucky not to qualify after finishing in 6th position. They just missed on qualification as Peru had a slightly better goal difference (+2). You will feel even more for them after this next bit.
Chile and Peru both played against Bolivia in the qualifiers. On both occasions, Bolivia fielded an ineligible player. Paraguayan defender Nelson Cabrera didn’t have the 5 years of continuous residence to be eligible for Bolivia. Crazy, right? They basically fielded a foreigner in two WC qualifiers. Bolivian administration is a mess! Anyway, back to Chile.Peru lost 2-0 to Bolivia while Chile managed to draw 0-0. Both teams appealed afterwords (Due to the ineligible player) and should have been awarded a 3-0 win, according to FIFA’s disciplinary rules.
However, Argentina, Peru, Colombia, Uruguay and Ecuador all appealed against this decision to The Court of Arbitration (CAS). The (CAS) took these appeals into account and noted that both Peru and Chile didn’t appeal within their 24-hour margin after the match. The CAS applied a mixed sentence as a consequence. Bolivia would still be fined and lost their earned point against Chile but both Chile and Peru wouldn’t earn their 3-0 wins. This meant that Peru came out with 0 points and Chile with 1, just like all of this never happened. The sad part is, as I stated above, that Chile went out on goal difference. These two points would have seen them qualify for the World Cup in Russia. CONMEBOL, ladies and gentlemen…
It gets even worse for Chile…
It all went down the wire in the CONMEBOL qualifiers. Both Peru and Colombia were still in with a chance to qualify but it was extremely likely that at least one of these sides would leave the pitch in tears. Chile needed Colombia to win and would still qualify for Russia if they lost to Brazil themselves.
75th minute… Chile were 3-0 down in Brazil and needed Colombia to pick up a win in Peru. It looked like Chile would qualify as Colombia were still in the lead after James had put them in front earlier on. Peru were awarded an indirect free-kick which was taken by Flamengo forward Paolo Guerrero. He decided to shoot it straight at goal despite it being an indirect free-kick. David Ospina got his hands to it but palmed it into his own net which meant the goal was legal! He simply could have stood still and let the ball fly in and it would have been ruled out. He (literally) single-handedly eliminated Chile. Surely Alexis Sanchéz will give him some stick during Arsenal’s next training!
Paulo Guerrero just made it 1-1 for Peru and Peru were still pushing forward, looking for a winner. However, results in Brazil and Paraguay meant that both teams would qualify if the game stayed at the same scoreline. Monaco striker Radamel Falcao was aware of the other scorelines and informed the Peruvian players about the circumstances. Result? Peru playing it around the back for 7 minutes straight without Colombia pressing with the final score being 1-1. Both teams walked off the pitch filled with joy. A rather unusual sight to say the least. Peru will still need to play a final qualification game against New-Zealand but are favourites coming into this game.