|By PAUL GOUGH
It is another huge round of World Cup qualifying in South America on Saturday [Australian time], as Paraguay face the daunting prospect of travelling to Argentina knowing another defeat could well result in them being onlookers come Brazil in 2014.
Paraguay have qualified for the past four World Cups, having last missed out in 1994, and with Brazil not involved in qualifying this time around [the hosts qualify automatically] appeared to have an easier task qualifying for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil than in past tournaments.
The top four teams at the end of the gruelling 16-match campaign [with all nine teams facing their eight rivals both home and away] qualify directly for the World Cup, with the fifth-placed team to then face a home and away play-off against the fifth-placed AFC for the final place in the tournament
But heading into the seventh round of matches this weekend, Paraguay find themselves in second last place with just four points from five matches, above only perennial strugglers Peru.
Already they find themselves four points behind fifth-placed Venezuela, which have played a game more, and well behind early pacesetters Chile on 12 points, Uruguay on 11, Argentina on 10 and Ecuador on nine.
With just one win, one draw and three losses from five games, another loss here could well prove the beginning of the end of Paraguay's campaign.
And the bookies are not giving Paraguay much chance of finally kick-starting their campaign, with the star-studded Argentines - led by Barcelona superstar Lionel Messi and Manchester City's EPL title-winning hero from last season Sergio Aguero - $1.32 favourites at Luxbet with Paraguay at $8.50.
But with their backs against the wall, Paraguay are a chance of holding out for a draw, which is good value at $4.50, considering they drew in Argentina in their past two World Cup qualifying campaigns.
|Ecuador to win v Bolivia at $1.34 at Luxbet
||Venezuela to win v Peru at $3.40 at Luxbet|
With leaders Chile not in action, the other leading contenders get the chance to make up vital ground on the pacesetters.
However, second-placed Uruguay face a tough trip to Colombia, where in-form Atletico Madrid striker Radamel Falcao looms as a major threat for the home side.
Meanwhile, fourth-placed Ecuador should consolidate their place in the automatic qualifying positions at home against struggling Bolivia, with the former favourites at $1.34 at Luxbet compared to $8.25 for the visitors.