World Cup Qualifying in Infographics: The Best of South America
With Uruguay's storming win over Jordan, the five qualifiers from South America have been confirmed. Argentina, Ecuador, Chile, Colombia and the Celeste will join Brazil at the 2014 World Cup.
The CONMEBOL tournament was a two-year marathon, full of twists and turns. Some teams started strongly before fading at the end, while others were reborn during the competition, grabbing a place with little time to spare.
The following are graphical representations of all the action we witnessed over the past 24 months, detailing the good, the bad and the ugly from around the South American continent.
With Brazil automatic qualifiers due to their status as hosts, nine teams from South America were left to fight for only four spaces in the World Cup—plus one more via a play-off. Compared to the same competition four years ago, there were certain changes.
The collapse of Paraguay, quarter-finalists in South America, left the stage open for another nation to compete. The result was a revival for teams from the Pacific Coast. Ecuador and Colombia both secured a return to the World Cup, while Peru and Venezuela also pushed hard.
Luis Suarez, meanwhile, took the top scorer award—his 11 goals constituting 44 percent of all Uruguay's strikes prior to the play-off against Jordan.
Chile's Race to Brazil
Watching Chile throughout the qualifying campaign was a wild ride indeed. The Roja eventually secured third place in the competition despite conceding 10 goals in their first three games, while their 16 fixtures included an incredible 54 strikes for an average of three every 90 minutes.
Hanging on to a play-off spot with just six games to go, the turning point was the appointment of Jorge Sampaoli. The former Universidad de Chile coach lost his first clash with Peru, but went on to win five of the last six games to blast the Roja into Brazil.
The Bad Boys
South American football is an uncompromising stage, full of hard players ready to prove a point. The chart above is the CONMEBOL wall of shame for the men who talked most often to referees.
With four yellow cards and one red, Bolivia's Leo Gutierrez and Tomas Rincon of Venezuela head the disciplinary standings. Special mention must go to Uruguay and Colombia's veteran bruisers, Diego Lugano and Mario Yepes, who picked up an incredible seven bookings each.
Lugano was awarded a yellow in more than half of the games he played, while Yepes reached the milestone having participated in just 12 matches.
The 2014 qualifying campaign ended in heartbreak for Venezuela, the only South American side never to qualify for a World Cup finals. This year, however, they did better than ever before.
From a paltry 6 percent of points harvested in 1998, the Vinotinto picked up over 40 percent in the most recent qualifying campaign. Cesar Farias' men picked up just four of the last 12 points to fall away at the end, but they will have plenty to build on for another tilt at glory in 2018.
Argentina's Terrible Trio
The attacking trident that became the figurehead of Argentina's successful campaign emerged through accident. One goal down in Barranquilla to Colombia, Alejandro Sabella threw on Sergio Aguero to accompany Gonzalo Higuain and Lionel Messi in attack.
A sterling second-half display saw the Albiceleste claim three points, and the rest is history.
The trio scored 24 of the nation's 35 goals, a total of 69 percent of all their strikes. In games where only Aguero, Messi and/or Higuain found the net, Argentina picked up 18 of their 32 points, showing the importance of these three superstars.