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 By Tim Vickery

The state of play in South America's World Cup qualifiers

Gab Marcotti explains why FIFA's decision to expand the World Cup to 48 teams has its benefits, but not everyone agrees.
Gary Medel v Argentina
Argentina hosts Chile on Thursday in what could be one of the more decisive ties in this World Cup qualifying campaign.

There are no real prizes for coming first. Or second for that matter. World Cup qualification in South America is all about crossing the line and making it through to Russia.

The first four teams qualify automatically for next year's tournament, with the side finishing fifth having to play off against opponents from Oceania. And as the competition moves into the final third, only Brazil are really sitting pretty.

Those six consecutive wins under new coach Tite have carried Brazil to 27 points. In...

 By Tim Vickery

48-team World Cup could negatively affect South American qualifying

Gab Marcotti and Shaka Hislop join Outside the Lines and have their say at FIFA expanding the World Cup to 48 teams.
Gab Marcotti joins Outside the Lines to discuss the reasons behind moving the World Cup from 32 to 48 teams in 2026.
Shaka Hislop expresses his disapproval at FIFA's decision to expand the World Cup to 48 teams.

On the website of CONMEBOL, the South American Confederation, there is an article entitled: "From 13 teams in Uruguay 1930 to 48 in the 2026 World Cup."

It is a neat way of reminding everyone of one of the great trump cards of the South American game: its fabulous tradition. This is the continent where the World Cup began and which has won nine versions of the tournament, divided between Brazil (five wins) and Uruguay and Argentina (two apiece).

The big three has provided Barcelona with the "MSN"...

 By Tim Vickery

Antonio Valencia continues to set the standard for Ecuadorians abroad

Antonio Valencia in action for Manchester United against Arsenal at Old Trafford.
At Manchester United since 2009, Antonio Valencia continues to set the standard for Ecuadorian players abroad.

Born in Argentina, goalkeeper Esteban Dreer spent a couple of years in Lithuania before moving to Ecuador in 2009. So well has he adapted that he has taken out citizenship and become Ecuador's first-choice goalkeeper, featuring in five games of the current World Cup qualification campaign, including all of the past four

Dreer, then, is well placed to put his adopted country into perspective. He says: "The Ecuadorian player is at a top level in South American football. They have technique, speed...

James Rodriguez should not underestimate Ecuador - Quinteros

Colombia star James Rodriguez has said that Ecuador will be beatable next March in South American qualifying.

Ecuador's coach, Gustavo Quinteros, however, has warned the Real Madrid winger to remain humble after Colombia's 3-0 loss to Argentina in a 2018 World Cup qualifier this week.

The Colombia captain, who started on Tuesday, said that his team's next two qualifiers -- at home to Bolivia on March 23, 2017 and away to Ecuador five days later -- "are winnable."

Quinteros took offence and told...

 By Tim Vickery

Appetising matchups aplenty in round 11 of CONMEBOL qualifying

ESPN FC's Gab Marcotti explains how Bolivia's forfeits for fielding an ineligible player have affected CONMEBOL standings.

Brazil versus Argentina tends to overshadow everything. But there are some other interesting attractions in Thursday's 11th round of South America's World Cup qualification campaign.

This is a round in which the top six teams meet each other -- and where all but Brazil and Uruguay could be overtaken by seventh place Paraguay, strong favourites to say a winning farewell to all-time top scorer Roque Santa Cruz when they host Peru.

The round gets off to an appetising start with the match between fourth...