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ESPN FC  By Dale Johnson

South American World Cup qualifying - how each nation can still make Russia

The final round of qualifying for the 2018 World Cup takes place on Oct. 10, with only one of the 4.5 available places currently confirmed after Brazil secured safe passage and the top spot in the group some time ago.

Already qualified: Brazil
Places to be decided: 3 automatic, 1 intercontinental playoff

Here, we take a look at which nations can still make it to Russia, and how they can get there. Brazil are through, and Uruguay are all-but qualified. However, the rest of the places are wide open.

The top four teams qualify directly, with the nation that finishes in fifth facing a two-leg playoff against New Zealand for a place in the finals.

1. Brazil, 38 points (h-Chile) 
Brazil qualified as runaway leaders some six months ago, but they could have a major say who joins them when they entertain Chile on the final day.
SPI chance to qualify: N/A

2. Uruguay, 28 (a-Bolivia)
Uruguay still have a healthy three-point advantage over Peru and Argentina in fifth and sixth after failing to win at rock-bottom Venezuela.
Win or draw: Guaranteed to qualify
Lose: Their goal difference of +10 means they are essentially at the finals, as Peru and Argentina are both on +1 and won't be able to overhaul them. Uruguay entertain Bolivia on the final day, who do not travel well.
SPI chance to qualify: 99.9 percent

3. Chile, 26 (a-Brazil)
Alexis Sanchez's late winner against Ecuador saw Chile shoot up from sixth to third, and leaves their fate in their own hands. They just have the small matter of an away game against Brazil to negotiate.
Win: Guaranteed to qualify. Chile are the only team to beat Brazil in the whole qualifying campaign, but completing the double in Sao Paulo is a tough ask.
Draw: Would go through if Peru and Colombia draw, or if Argentina fail to win; Paraguay have inferior goal difference so won't overtake them. They would almost certainly be assured of at least a playoff.
Lose: Would definitely be overtaken by Peru or Colombia, so they are out if Argentina and Paraguay both win. Could make the playoffs if Argentina draw/lose and Paraguay win (as long as they do not lose by two goals if Argentina draw); or if Argentina win and Paraguay do not. Would also qualify with a defeat if Argentina draw/lose and Paraguay fail to win (as long as they do not lose by two goals if Argentina draw)
SPI chance to qualify: 52 percent

4. Colombia, 26 (a-Peru) 
In the 89th minute of their home game against Paraguay, a place in the finals was assured. But two late, late goals gave the away side a shock win and now their place in Russia is anything but secure. 
Win: Secures qualification.
Draw: Colombia will be overtaken by a win for Argentina and would be almost certain of the playoffs. They could only miss out if Paraguay won by at least seven goals.
Lose: They could actually still finish in the top four if Chile lose more heavily to Brazil, Argentina lose/draw (as long as Colombia lose by one goal if Argentina draw) and Paraguay fail to win. If only two of those three happen then they would be in the playoffs. Only one, or none, and they are out.
SPI chance to qualify: 65 percent

5. Peru, 25 (h-Colombia) 
Peru would probably have taken the draw away to Argentina before the game, leaving qualification in their own hands.
Win: Sends them to their first World Cup since 1982.
Draw: Peru could still make it directly if Chile lose by more than one goal (if the teams finish with identical records then Chile win the head to-head), Argentina draw/lose and Paraguay fail to win by at least six goals, more likely seven. They will be in the playoffs with a draw if Argentina draw/lose OR Paraguay fail to win by that big margin.
Lose: They would need an Argentina defeat by the same margin or greater, and Paraguay fail to win to make the playoffs. 
SPI chance to qualify: 56 percent

Lionel Messi
Lionel Messi and Argentina are in very real danger of missing out on the World Cup finals.

6. Argentina, 25 (a-Ecuador)
The goalless draw at home to Peru saw Argentina fall out of the qualification places completely, but despite being sixth they are still in a fairly strong position. Being realistic, it's win or bust. One more thing, they have won only once in Ecuador since 1960... and that was in 2001.
Win: Guaranteed at least a playoff, and will go through automatically if Chile fail to beat Brazil or if Peru-Colombia is a draw.
Draw: Even a draw at already-eliminated Ecuador could send them straight to the finals if there is a winner in Peru vs. Colombia (though Colombia would have to lose by two goals), Chile lose by two goals and Paraguay fail to win.
Lose: Miraculously they could still make the playoffs if they lose to Ecuador, but only if Peru are beaten by a greater margin and Paraguay fail to win. 
SPI chance to qualify: 47 percent

7. Paraguay, 24 (h-Venezuela)
That dramatic win in Colombia gives them a real chance of still being in contention come Wednesday, and with Venezuela at home on the final day they will be confident of taking the three points.
Win: They can only realistically stay in contention with a victory. If they do take three points, they will be guaranteed to go direct to the World Cup if Chile lose to Brazil and Argentina fail to win in Ecuador (they would be guaranteed to climb above Peru or Colombia). If only one of those happens, they will be in the playoffs. But if Chile get at least a point in Brazil, and Argentina win too, then Paraguay's efforts will be meaningless due to their goal difference.
Draw: Mathematically they can still make the playoffs, but Argentina and Peru would need to both lose by at least six goals.
SPI chance to qualify: 60 percent

EcuadorBolivia and Venezuela have already been eliminated.

Dale Johnson has been an editor and journalist at ESPN for 18 years. You can follow him on Twitter @dalejohnsonESPN.


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