In turn, just four games now stand between Brazil and the accolade of becoming the first side to go unbeaten in a CONMEBOL-zone WCQ cycle under the 18-game format.
Five-time world champions Brazil were lucky to keep their unbeaten FIFA World Cup Qualifying record intact after an action-packed 1-1 draw in Ecuador, which saw both sides have a man sent off and then a 97th-minute penalty against Brazil overturned by VAR. In turn, just four games now stand between Brazil and the accolade of becoming the first side to go unbeaten in a CONMEBOL-zone WCQ cycle under the 18-game format. Brazil now return home, where they boast a perfect record. Key to their success here has been an almost watertight backline, with the ‘Seleção’ conceding just once on home soil in this WCQ cycle while winning four of their six games by a 2 goal margin.
The all-but eliminated Paraguay look like nothing more than cannon fodder, especially as no side in this qualifying group has scored fewer than Paraguay’s two away goals. Unless ‘Los Guaraníes’ can win all of their remaining games, while also benefiting from unlikely results elsewhere, it looks like they will not be featuring at their first World Cup finals since 2010. Paraguay have played 584 minutes of WCQ football since last scoring – which they did way back in September 2021 against bottom-placed Venezuela, who are the only team Paraguay have beaten so far. As a small consolation, that run includes goalless draws against both Colombia and Argentina, and five of their last six matches have stood level at half-time.
Phillipe Coutinho had a dream debut by scoring for Aston Villa in January. He also scored the opener in Brazil’s last WCQ home H2H with Paraguay, who themselves may see Antonio Sanabria as the likeliest candidate to end their current drought, as four of his five Serie A strikes for Torino this season have been match openers. Paraguay have seen a WCQ-high 11 of their 15 games produce under 2.5 goals.