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Uruguay resigned to play-off return

The top four teams in the South American qualifying section gain automatic passage to Brazil while the fifth-place finishers, currently Uruguay, go into a play-off against minnows Jordan.

Luis Suarez
Uruguay striker Luis Suarez

It is a scenario that is far from unfamiliar to Uruguay, who have found themselves in this position in each of the previous three World Cup qualifying campaigns as well.

For the 2002 finals in Japan and South Korea, Uruguay overcame a 1-0 first leg loss to defeat Australia 3-1 on aggregate to reach the finals. Four years later, though, and they faced the same opponents, only to lose 4-2 on penalties after both sides won their home leg 1-0.

Four years ago, they squeezed past Costa Rica 2-1 on aggregate but there can be no denying that in Jordan, they would face their least challenging opponents yet in such a play-off.

Avoiding that possibility seems highly unlikely as Uruguay trail both Ecuador and Chile, in third and fourth in the group, by three points, while those two face each other in Lima.

A draw between them would ensure both progress and while no-one is yet screaming about a stitch-up, there is the acceptance that a play-off spot, which is the least Uruguay will end qualifying with, is a near certainty.

Even Uruguay coach Oscar Tabarez has been talking up the value of qualifying through that route, dismissing the possibility that his side could lose to Jordan, ranked 73rd in the world compared to Uruguay’s seventh. 

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