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Russia 2018: Brazil could qualify today

Brazil will qualify for the FIFA World Cup holding next year in Russia if it beats Paraguay in Sao Paulo. To advance, the South American group leader needs a victory and a few other results to fall its way. But win or lose, Brazil is heading for the World Cup in Russia with five rounds of qualifying remaining.

Second-placed Uruguay faces a winnable match at Peru, and fourth-placed Colombia has a real test at fifth-placed Ecuador. Sixth-placed Chile welcomes last-placed Venezuela in Santiago, hoping to climb back into qualifying position. With five rounds to go, Brazil has 30 points  more than enough to secure a spot in previous World Cups. Uruguay has 23 and Argentina 22.

With Brazil almost sure to advance and Venezuela, Bolivia and Peru struggling at the bottom that leaves six teams fighting for the three remaining automatic spots for Russia. Another South American team could also advance in a playoff. After the impressive thrashing of Uruguay 4-1 in Montevideo, Brazil is so close to the World Cup spot that many players are already looking for new challenges as Brazil chases it sixth World Cup title.

For the spot to be assured, Brazil needs to beat Paraguay and see Venezuela overcome Chile in Santiago. Also, Colombia needs to get its first win at Ecuador in 20 years. Even if the “official” qualification doesn’t come, there will surely be a party at Arena Corinthians in Sao Paulo. Coach Tite, who has won seven straight games in qualifiers since he took over in September, had his best days at Corinthians.

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He won two Brazilian championships, one Copa Libertadores, and the 2012 FIFA Club World Cup title after a 1-0 victory over England’s Chelsea in Japan. Defender Fagner, also a Corinthians player, will replace suspended Dani Alves. “I feel no pressure, I want to enjoy every moment of this,” Fagner told reporters. If he doesn’t do well, Tite has already brought Sevilla’s Mariano for a test.

 

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