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Friday 12 October 2012

World Cup qualifying: Argentina-Uruguay tops South American bill

Transatlantic 2014 FIFA World Cup qualfiers featuring Barclays Premier League players previewed

  • Lionel Messi and Man City's Sergio Aguero plot Uruguay's downfall in training

  • Luis Suarez (right) hopes Uruguay can rediscover their form against Argentina

  • Clint Dempsey is likely to lead the line for USA against Antigua and Barbuda

  • Oscar aims to continue his fine Barclays Premier League form in two Brazil friendlies

Luis Suarez meets Sergio Aguero as Argentina v Uruguay headlines South America's 2014 FIFA World Cup qualifying campaign this weekend, while there are numerous other Barclays Premier League players in CONCACAF action.

South American classic

Eight nations are in action in South American qualifying for the 2014 FIFA World Cup with Argentina's home encounter against Uruguay on Friday the standout tie of the round.

"We realise we cannot make mistakes at the back because they will not show us mercy"
Luis Suarez

The football rivalry between the two nations dates back to 1889 with key encounters between the two including the first FIFA World Cup final,  won by Uruguay in Montevideo in 1930, and the 1986 World Cup round-of-16 match, won by Diego Maradona's eventual champions.

Freshest in the mind is Uruguay's Copa America victory over their neighbours, a 5-4 penalty shootout success 15 months ago.

The encounter has an added Barclays Premier League edge with two Manchester City players lining up against a Liverpool duo. Aguero and Pablo Zabaleta are in the Albiceleste camp, while Suarez and Sebastian Coates line up for the visitors.

Argentina, unbeaten at home this campaign, lead the qualifying section but Uruguay would leapfrog them with a win in a group so tight that the top six are separated by three points after seven matches.

Uruguay are struggling to recapture the form that took them to the 2010 World Cup semi-finals and Copa America success last year. "We're not going through a great period at present, and Argentina have improved a lot since we faced them," said Suarez.

"We must use their defensive weaknesses. We realise that we cannot make mistakes at the back because they will not show us mercy. But we have the potential up front to hurt them."

Meanwhile a Chile side including West Bromwich Albion's Gonzalo Jara Reyes and Wigan Athletic's Jean Beausejour travel to Ecuador in Quito, in a match almost 3,000 metres above sea level. The third-placed hosts will be hoping Manchester United full-back Antonio Valencia can help them keep hitting the heights.

North, Central American and Caribbean intrigue

Eleven Barclays Premier League players are in action in CONCACAF qualifying, five of whom have been called up by Jurgen Klinsmann for the United States' trip to Antigua and Barbuda.

Although on paper a straightforward assignment against a team with just one Group A point, USA have drawn with group leaders Guatamala and lost to Jamaica this campaign.

Tottenham's Clint Dempsey, Stoke City duo Maurice Edu and Geoff Cameron as well as Everton and Aston Villa goalkeepers Tim Howard and Brad Guzan will know they can ill-afford to take this match lightly. Reading's Mikele Leigertwood is unable to play for Antigua and Barbuda through injury.

It is a competitive section and a draw for the Americans would open the door to Jamaica, who, like the top two, have accumulated seven points. The Reggae Boyz, including Reading defender Adrian Mariappa, can go top if they repeat their June feat in Kingston with a win in Guatamala City.

Elsewhere, Manchester United striker Javier Hernandez will spearhead Group B leaders Mexico's attack against Guyana, while Fulham and Everton's Bryan Ruiz and Bryan Oviedo attempt to take Costa Rica above second-placed El Salvador, who held them to a 2-2 draw in June.

In Group C, Honduras duo Wilson Palacios, of Stoke, and Wigan's Maynor Figueroa will look to avenge top dogs Panama, who inflicted a 2-0 home defeat on them in San Pedro Sula in June. An away win will take them top of the group, while a Canada side featuring Norwich City's Simeon Jackson, can achieve the same outcome by overcoming Cuba, who have yet to register a point, in Toronto.

Brazilian globetrotters

Exempt from South American qualifying, 2014 World Cup finals hosts Brazil were in action on Thursday beating Iraq 6-0 in Malmo, with Chelsea trio Oscar, David Luiz and Ramires all starting and the former scoring twice in the rout. The Selecao then face Japan in Wroclaw, Poland on Tuesday.

Shinji Kagawa of Man Utd, Southampton's Maya Yoshida and Arsenal winger Ryo Myaichi – who is on loan at Wigan – will hope to feature in the Polish encounter, after having taken on France in a friendly in Paris on Friday night.

Oceania absences

New Zealand manager Ricki Herbert will have to reshuffle his defence for the forthcoming qualifier against Tahiti after captain Ryan Nelsen, of Queens Park Rangers, and West Ham United's Winston Reid remained in London for treatment on respective knee and back injuries.

Thursday 9 October

Brazil 6-0 Iraq

Friday 12 October

North, Central America and Caribbean
Antigua and Barbuda v USA        
El Salvador v Costa Rica 
Canada v Cuba 
Guatemala v Jamaica     
Guyana v Mexico            
Panama v Honduras       

South America
Colombia v Paraguay     
Ecuador v Chile
Bolivia v Peru    
Argentina v Uruguay     

Solomon Islands v New Caledonia          
Tahiti v New Zealand     

France v Japan

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Key Points

  • FIFA 2014 World Cup qualifiers taking place in North, Central and South America this weekend
  • A raft of Barclays Premier League players are involved
  • Argentina host Uruguay in standout encounter