Argentina on cusp of World Cup berth

Rio de Janeiro, June 4 (IANS) Argentina’s home clash with Colombia Friday headlines a tantalising week of South American zone qualifiers that could decide the destiny of the region’s 2014 FIFA World Cup aspirants.

Argentina lead the Conmebol standings with 24 points from 11 matches and need just four points from the fixture against Colombia and the trip to Ecuador four days later to book their ticket to Brazil, reports Xinhua.

‘La Albiceleste’, as they are sometimes called, coach Alejandro Sabella has promised to wait “until the last moment” to decide the fitness of four-time Ballon d’Or winner Lionel Messi, who has not played since May 12 due to a thigh injury.

The Barcelona star is expected to join Argentina’s squad for training in Buenos Aires Tuesday after spending time with his family in the city of Rosario, 300 km northwest of the capital.

Sabella is also awaiting news on midfielder Fernando Gago, on loan to Velez Sarsfield from Valencia, who faces a fitness test after being sidelined for two weeks with a knee injury.

On the other side of the Rio de la Plata, Uruguay face a similarly tension-filled week. But for Oscar Tabarez’s team it is mere survival on their minds.

The reigning 2011 Copa America champions and 2010 World Cup semifinalists are in real danger of missing qualification.

They have slipped to sixth in the standings – two places below an automatic qualification berth – following six matches without a victory.

Uruguay have a bye Friday and will make the tricky trip to Venezuela knowing that defeat in Puerto Ordaz June 11 will leave their World Cup hopes hanging by a thread.

The top four sides from the region will automatically qualify for the World Cup. The fifth best team will play-off for a berth against the fifth-ranked nation from Asia.

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