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Ecuador, Uruguay set the early pace

Thursday, December 31, 2015 8:57:00 AM America/Los_Angeles

In October 2015, the long road towards the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™ began for South American sides, a qualifying competition that welcomed heavy hitters Brazil back into the mix. After the opening four rounds of action, Ecuador have sprung a surprise by storming into top spot with a 100 per cent record, while the key men of closest pursuers Uruguay have ensured La Celeste coped in the absence of star striker Luis Suarez.

Brazil and Argentina, for their part, both stumbled early on, but the pair appear to have steadied their respective ships and will no doubt be firm challengers in the race for CONMEBOL's four direct qualifying berths. Likewise Chile, who have kept faith with the now customary bold approach that helped secure Copa America 2015 glory, though La Roja have picked up just one point in their last two games.

Paraguay, who failed to qualify for Brazil 2014, are in fourth and have been showing signs of a resurgence under Ramon Diaz. Colombia, Peru and Bolivia, in contrast, are in need of greater stability to build on the positives of their performances thus far. Venezuela, the only side yet to put points on the board, will need a major upturn in fortunes to keep their hopes alive.

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