Colombia close to ending 16-year World Cup wait

BUENOS AIRES,  (Reuters) – Colombia will end a 16-year wait for a place in the World Cup finals if they get a point when they host Chile at the Metropolitano in Barranquilla on Friday.

Chile need a win in the hot and humid Caribbean port city to secure a ticket to their second finals in succession with one qualifier to spare.

Colombia could also qualify for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil even if they lose to Chile if the match between Ecuador and Uruguay, taking place at the same time (2100 GMT), ends in anything but a draw. Up in the Andes at the Atahualpa in Quito, 2010 semi-finalists Uruguay visit Ecuador in a clash of teams separated only by goal difference.

Argentina, at home to Peru in Buenos Aires (2300), have already qualified, while Venezuela host Paraguay at Puerto La Cruz (2030) hoping a win will keep alive their slim hopes of reaching the finals for the first time.

The top four in the South American group go through to the next year’s World Cup with the fifth-placed team after the final round on Tuesday qualifying for a playoff against Jordan.

With two rounds to go, second-placed Colombia have 26 points, two ahead of Chile and four in front of Ecuador and Uruguay, with sixth-placed Venezuela three points further back and having played one match more.

The climate in Barranquilla could be a handicap for the Chileans used to cooler temperatures but coach Jorge Sampaoli said his main worry was opponents on a run of five successive home wins.

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