After a bright start to their 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™ Qualifying campaign, previously high-flying Ecuador have slipped into the intercontinental playoff spot after defeat to Paraguay on match day 13.
Los Amarillos started the Elimatorias with 13 points from a possible 15 to lead the standings but have claimed just seven points in the eight games since then with Thursday’s 2-1 home defeat contributing to their slide down the ladder.
They currently cling to fifth spot which would bring a home and away playoff against the OFC Stage 3 winner later this year but will probably need to rediscover at least some of that early form to avoid slipping out of the top five with five matches left to play.
Paraguay’s win, set up by goals to Bruno Valdez and Junior Alonso, sees them close the gap to fifth spot to just two points although they still sit seventh in a very congested table.
In Barranquilla, James Rodriguez saw his 83rd minute penalty saved but put away the rebound to send Colombia back into the automatic qualification place with a vital 1-0 win over Bolivia.
The three points catapulted Chile above both Ecuador and Chile who slipped to sixth on goal difference following their 1-0 loss to Argentina in Buenos Aires.
Lionel Messi’s 58th goal for his country set up that win as La Albiceleste hauled themselves out of the playoff spot and up to third.
Meanwhile Brazil moved further clear at the top of the Elimatorias table as a Paulinho hat-trick fired the five-time World Champions to a 4-1 win over second-placed Uruguay in Montevideo.
Peru and Venezuela, both realistically out of the qualification, picture drew 2-2 in Lima.
Brazil now have 30 points followed by Uruguay (23), Argentina (22), Colombia (21). Ecuador and Chile both have 20 points with Paraguay are hanging in the race with 18. Peru (15), Bolivia (7) and Venezuela (6) round out the standings.
FIFA World Cup qualifying resumes in South America on March 28 as does OFC Stage 3 with New Zealand hosting Fiji in Wellington and Tahiti welcoming Papua New Guinea to Papeete.