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International football is back on the schedule, but this time it’s just the Americans that have games.
Sergiño Dest and the USA
USA v El Salvador
Thursday 27 January at 7.30 pm (local) / 1.00 am Friday CET
Lower.com Field, Columbus
Canada v USA
Sunday 30 January at 3.05 pm (local) / 9.05 pm CET
Tim Hortons Field, Hamilton
USA v Honduras
Wednesday 2 February at 6.30 pm (local) / 1.30 am Thursday CET
Allianz Field, Saint Paul
With six games to go in the 8-team final round of Concacaf qualification, the situation at present is as follows:
United States 15
Costa Rica 9
El Salvador 6
The top three teams qualify directly for Qatar 2022 and the fourth placed team goes into the intercontinental playoff, so things are looking reasonably good so far for the USMNT.
At least on paper, they should be able to collect all six points at home to El Salvador and Honduras, although the former did hold them to a 0-0 draw earlier in the campaign.
The juiciest of the three games is the trip north to Canada, who have only ever played at the World Cup once (at Mexico 1986), but are currently riding high at the top of the table. With temperatures well below zero in all three venues right now, it’s going to be a very chilly week indeed for Sergiño Dest and the boys.
Ronald Araujo and Uruguay
Paraguay v Uruguay
Thursday 27 January at 4.00 pm (local) / 12.00 am Friday CET
Estadio General Pablo Rojas, Asunción
Uruguay v Venezuela
Tuesday 1 February at 8.00 pm (local) / 12.00 am Wednesday CET
Estadio Centenario, Montevideo
Meanwhile, with just four games to go in the 10-team final round of Conmebol qualification, the situation is as follows:
Brazil 35 (Q)
Argentina 29 (Q)
The top four teams qualify directly for the finals and the fifth placed team goes into an intercontinental playoff. As things stand, Uruguay would miss out on the World Cup for the first time since 2006, but things are extremely tight in the middle of the table.
This week, Uruguay face the two bottom teams in the group, Paraguay and Venezuela, which in theory presents them with a fine opportunity to collect points and move up the table, as the some of the teams directly above them are sure to drop points in their own fixtures.
They’re doing so under a new manager after Diego Alonso replaced Óscar Tabárez in November. At Barça we know how much Araujo deserves a regular place in the Uruguay starting XI, and we’ll find out this week whether the new coach agrees.
Dani Alves and Brazil
Ecuador v Brazil
Thursday 27 January at 4.00 pm (local) / 10.00 pm CET
Estadio Rodrigo Paz Delgado, Quito
Brazil v Paraguay
Tuesday 1 February at 8.00 pm (local) / 1.30 am Wednesday CET
Mineirão, Belo Horizonte
The pressure is off for Brazil, who are already assured of continuing their record as the only country to have played at every single World Cup.
This week they travel to the altitude of Quito to take on an Ecuador side that is within touching distance of qualifying themselves, and then host Paraguay, who desperately need all the points they can get to keep their own fading hopes alive.
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