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 By Tim Vickery

Colombia finally impress amid mixed fortunes for South American teams

In 2006, Ecuador enjoyed their best-ever World Cup. Four years later, it was the turn of Paraguay and then, in 2014, Colombia. Meanwhile, the last two tournaments were also the best in the history of Chile, with the exception of 1962, which they hosted.

So while South America might not have taken home the prize since Brazil's fifth win in 2002, the continent has shown admirable strength in depth in recent times. Indeed, only one CONMEBOL team -- Ecuador in 2014, somewhat unluckily -- failed to make...


Trending: Argentina, Portugal qualify for World Cup; U.S. miss out

Max Bretos and Herculez Gomez evaluate Lionel Messi's impact on Argentina's qualification for the World Cup.

Wednesday's latest stories from the world of football in ESPN FC's What's Trending ...

SOUTH AMERICA QUALIFYING: Argentina conceded after just 37 seconds in their must-win game against Ecuador -- but Lionel Messi came to the rescue as his side booked their place at next summer's World Cup.

- Lionel Messi became the all-time leading scorer in CONMEBOL World Cup qualifiers on Tuesday, though he was quickly joined by Luis Suarez.

- Lionel Messi said "it would have been crazy a World Cup...


Trending: Argentina have to step up, follow Lionel Messi example - Jorge Sampaoli

Tuesday's latest stories from the world of football in ESPN FC's What's Trending ...

SOUTH AMERICA QUALIFYING: Jorge Sampaoli has challenged his Argentina squad to match the quality of Lionel Messi as La Albiceleste prepares for their do-or-die clash with Ecuador on Tuesday.

- Argentina and Lionel Messi are on the brink of missing the World Cup, but they are not receiving any sympathy from Brazil coach Tite.

- Bayern Munich midfielder Arturo Vidal has said he is "gutted" to miss Chile's...

Welcome to CONMEBOL, World Cup qualifying's most difficult region

"The most difficult way of reaching the World Cup finals is via the South American group," says Ecuador captain Antonio Valencia. "You can play in Barranquilla in the north of Colombia by the Caribbean Sea, where it's 40 degrees and humid. In La Paz in Bolivia, it's close to 4,000 metres altitude. It takes two or three days to prepare for a game there and then two or three days for your body to recover. It's really difficult and that's from an Ecuadorian who is used to playing at nearly 3,000 metres...

 By Tim Vickery

Is Jorge Sampaoli's high-risk style right for Argentina? World Cup hopes rely on it

Assuming that Argentina qualify for the 2018 World Cup, Jorge Sampaoli should prove to be an inspired choice for their coach.

With a proven track record in charge of Chile and clubs on both sides of the Atlantic, Universidad de Chile and Sevilla, Sampaoli is one of the most fascinating figures in the game. With his tendency to throw men forward in a relentless commitment to attack, Sampaoli's teams are required viewing.

With time to prepare, it will be intriguing to see how Sampaoli can get the...