EUROPEAN QUALIFYING GROUPS

The nine group winners and the best runner-up qualify. The eight other runners-up will be drawn in pairs, the four winners also qualifying for the finals. France
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Group One

Denmark, Greece, Croatia, Slovenia, Bosnia-Herzegovina

The Balkan conflict is transferred to the football field in this qualifying group. Not much travelling lies in store for any team except group seeds Denmark, who should soon become familiar with the flight path they take this weekend to Slovenia.

The Danes, now coached by a Swede, Bo Johansson, have missed out on the last two World Cup finals. The only team familiar to them here is Croatia, who in effect ended their European Championship title defence with a 3- 0 win at Hillsborough in June. The rematch between Peter Schmeichel and Davor Suker should be especially engaging. Presumably, the Manchester United goalkeeper will be harnessed to his goalpost the next time they meet.

The two Euro 96 finalists will expect to fill the top two places, although Greece, qualifiers for USA 94, could be in the reckoning again. They have already made a promising start, beating Slovenia 2-0 in April. And in Denis, Nikolaidis, Tsartas and Gullit-lookalike Batista they have a potent forward quartet.

There is little World Cup experience in this group. Croatia, Slovenia and Bosnia-Herzegovina are competing under an independent flag for the first time, while Denmark and Greece have both reached the finals just once before.

Forecast: 1 Croatia, 2 Denmark

Fixtures

24 April 1996 Greece v Slovenia 2-0

1 September Greece v Bosnia-Herzegovina

1 September Slovenia v Denmark

9 October Denmark v Greece

9 October Bosnia-Herzegovina v Croatia

9/10 November Slovenia v Bosnia-Herzegovina

10 November Croatia v Greece

29 March 1997 Croatia v Denmark

2 April Croatia v Slovenia

2 April Bosnia-Herzegovina v Greece

30 April Denmark v Slovenia

30 April Greece v Croatia

8 June Denmark v Bosnia-Herzegovina

20 August Bosnia-Herzegovina v Denmark

6 September Croatia v Bosnia-Herzegovina

6/7 September Slovenia v Greece

10 September Denmark v Croatia

10 September Bosnia-Herzegovina v Slovenia

11 October Greece v Denmark

11 October Slovenia v Croatia

Group Two

Italy, England, Poland, Georgia, Moldova

A baptism of fire for Glenn Hoddle. It is unlikely England could have been drawn in a tougher group. Having gone almost three years without journeying abroad for a competitive match they must now travel three times to intimidating Eastern European venues - Tbilisi, Georgia being the scariest of the lot - before ending their jaunt with a trip to Italy.

Maximum points at Wembley - and three in Moldova on Sunday - would appear to be a must if England are to snatch the one automatic qualifying place from the Italians.

Even though Italy departed Euro 96 in the early stages, they were one of the more attractive exhibits on show. Coach Arrigo Sacchi has successfully dodged all the knives hurled at him by the Italian media and remains in place. He managed a wry smile at the draw ceremony in Paris when the Italians were paired with England. But it doubtless disguised a secret fear.

Italy have not been absent from the finals of a World Cup for 40 years. If Hoddle's England can maintain their Euro 96 momentum, the Azzurri are in serious danger of missing out. Somehow, though, you just can't quite see that happening...

Forecast: 1 Italy, 2 England

Fixtures

1 September 1996 Moldova v England

5 October Moldova v Italy

9 October England v Poland

9 October Italy v Georgia

9 November Georgia v England

10 November Poland v Moldova

12 February 1997 England v Italy

29 March Italy v Moldova

2 April Poland v Italy

30 April England v Georgia

30 April Italy v Poland

31 May Poland v England

7 June Georgia v Moldova

14 June Poland v Georgia

10 September England v Moldova

10 September Georgia v Italy

24 September Moldova v Georgia

7 October Moldova v Poland

11 October Italy v England

11 October Georgia v Poland

Group Three

Norway, Switzerland, Finland, Hungary, Azerbaijan

All five teams must be happy with their lot. Azerbaijan apart, they will all entertain a fighting chance of qualifying from what is a distinctly mediocre group.

Norway and Switzerland both made it to the 1994 finals but are fading forces now. The Norwegians petered out dramatically in the Euro 96 qualifiers. but long-ball guru Egil "Drillo' Olsen, the coach who put Norwegian football on the map, remains fireproof to criticism.

The Swiss have changed their coach once again, bringing Rolf Fringer back from German club VfB Stuttgart to take over from the miscast Artur Jorge. Whether Fringer can direct a flashback to the halcyon Hodgson days remains open to doubt. USA 94 star Alain Sutter, a national martyr after being overlooked for the Euro 96 squad, last week rejected Fringer's plea to return to the team. Not a good sign.

Hungary, last seen sinking in the rain at Wembley in May, are still firmly stranded in their long, dark tunnel. The Under-21 team's qualification for the Olympics was a brief shaft of light, but coach Janos Csank still has an enormous task in front of him. Ditto Richard Moller-Nielsen, the man who took the Danes to European glory in 1992 and now boss of Finland, the paupers of Scandinavian football in recent years.

Forecast: 1 Norway, 2 Switzerland

Fixtures

2 June 1996 Norway v Azerbaijan 5-0

31 August Azerbaijan v Switzerland

1 September Hungary v Finland

6 October Finland v Switzerland

9 October Norway v Hungary

10 November Switzerland v Norway

10 November Azerbaijan v Hungary

2 April 1997 Azerbaijan v Finland

30 April Norway v Finland

30 April Switzerland v Hungary

8 June Finland v Azerbaijan

8 June Hungary v Norway

20 August Finland v Norway

20 August Hungary v Switzerland

6 September Switzerland v Finland

6 September Azerbaijan v Norway

10 September Hungary v Azerbaijan

10 September Norway v Switzerland

11 October Finland v Hungary

11 October Switzerland v Azerbaijan

Group Four

Sweden, Scotland, Austria, Latvia, Belarus, Estonia

Another fair-to-middling group. Scotland, on a high after some encouraging club performances in Europe, must be confident of making it to the finals as they did on five successive occasions from 1974-1990.

Craig Brown's men face one of their most difficult fixtures this Saturday, when Austria, similarly buoyant on the European club front, entertain them in Vienna. The Austrians helped to bring a premature end to Jack Charlton's Republic of Ireland reign in the Euro 96 qualifiers, beating the Irish 3-1 at home and in Dublin. Austrian players are now sought all over Europe and Herbert Prohaska's team have won their last three friendlies.

Sweden were humiliated in the European qualifiers, winning just two of their eight matches. But they were good enough to finish third in the 1994 World Cup, and with the same coach (Tommy Svensson) and most of the same players (Martin Dahlin, Stefan Schwarz, Kennet Andersson etc) they must be favoured to win the group. Their 5-1 thrashing of Belarus in June offered plenty of early encouragement, but a 1-0 home defeat by Denmark a fortnight ago was not the result they wanted in preparation for Sunday's hazardous trip to Latvia.

Forecast: 1 Sweden, 2 Scotland

Fixtures

1 June 1996 Sweden v Belarus 5-1

31 August Austria v Scotland

31 August Belarus v Estonia

1 September Latvia v Sweden

5 October Estonia v Belarus

5 October Latvia v Scotland

9 October Sweden v Austria

9 October Estonia v Scotland

9 October Belarus v Latvia

9 November Austria v Latvia

10 November Scotland v Sweden

29 March 1997 Scotland v Estonia

2 April Scotland v Austria

30 April Austria v Estonia

30 April Sweden v Scotland

30 April Latvia v Belarus

18 May Estonia v Latvia

8 June Estonia v Sweden

8 June Latvia v Austria

8 June Belarus v Scotland

20 August Estonia v Austria

20 August Belarus v Sweden

6 September Austria v Sweden

6 September Scotland v Belarus

6 September Latvia v Estonia

10 September Sweden v Latvia

10 September Belarus v Austria

11 October Austria v Belarus

11 October Scotland v Latvia

11 October Sweden v Estonia

Group Five

Russia, Bulgaria, Israel, Cyprus, Luxembourg

The two heavyweights of Group Five, Russia and Bulgaria, do not come face to face for another year. That should allow their respective new coaches - Boris Ignatiev and Hristo Bonev - a gentle and uncomplicated introduction to World Cup combat. For there is little to worry either side in this section.

Israel, the strongest of the three potential also-rans, have staked everything on beating Bulgaria and Russia at home in their first two matches. If that ploy fails, the two Eastern Europeans should have the group to themselves. Cyprus and Luxembourg have both made forward strides in recent years, but they will do little more than pick up a few points here and there.

Bulgaria were World Cup semi-finalists in the United States and almost reached the latter stages of Euro 96. But the Stoichkov generation is now beginning to look grey and creaky. Adequately replacing the old guard will not be easy for new coach Bonev.

Russia have a wider pool of quality players to choose from. The team let themselves down at Euro 96, playing well only in fits and starts and failing to win any of their three games. They are seasoned qualifiers, however, and with top calibre players such as Kanchelskis, Tsymbalar and Karpin on board, Russia should make it to France.

Forecast: 1 Russia, 2 Bulgaria

Fixtures

1 September 1996 Israel v Bulgaria

1 September Russia v Cyprus

8 October Luxembourg v Bulgaria

9 October Israel v Russia

10 November Cyprus v Israel

10 November Luxembourg v Russia

14 December Cyprus v Bulgaria

15 December Israel v Luxembourg

29 March 1997 Cyprus v Russia

30 March Luxembourg v Israel

2 April Bulgaria v Cyprus

3 April Israel v Cyprus

30 April Russia v Luxembourg

8 June Bulgaria v Luxembourg

8 June Russia v Israel

20 August Bulgaria v Israel

7 September Luxembourg v Cyprus

10 September Bulgaria v Russia

11 October Cyprus v Luxembourg

11 October Russia v Bulgaria

Group Six

Spain, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Yugoslavia, Malta, Faeroe Islands

What earns it the "Group of Death" tag is the inclusion of Yugoslavia. Banned from the qualifying stages of both USA 94 and Euro 96, Yugoslavia slid down Uefa's ranking list and were placed in the fourth layer of the draw. On footballing quality alone they should have been ranked at least two grades higher. With the likes of Savicevic (Milan), Mijatovic (Real Madrid) and Jugovic (Juventus) to call upon, Yugoslavia will be daunting opposition for anyone. They already have six points and nine goals in the bag to prove their case.

Spain have not lost a competitive match in 90 minutes since March 1993 (a 1-0 defeat away to Denmark). Javier Clemente's team proved their mettle at Euro 96 where only a French referee and an English goalkeeper denied them progress beyond the quarter-finals.

The Czechs, of course, reached the Euro 96 final and even came close to winning it. Poborsky, Nedved et al surprised everybody with their skilful and spirited performances. But that was then. Now coach Dusan Uhrin must rally his troops once more. Spain, Yugoslavia and especially Slovakia will be eager to bring the Czechs back down to earth with a bump.

Forecast: 1 Spain, 2 Yugoslavia

Fixtures

24 April 1996 Yugoslavia v Faeroes 3-1

2 June Yugoslavia v Malta 6-0

31 August Faeroes v Slovakia

4 September Faeroes v Spain

18 September Czech Republic v Malta

22 September Slovakia v Malta

6 October Faeroes v Yugoslavia

9 October Czech Republic v Spain

23 October Slovakia v Faeroes

10 November Yugoslavia v Czech Rep

13 November Spain v Slovakia

14 December Spain v Yugoslavia

18 December Malta v Spain

12 February 1997 Spain v Malta

31 March Malta v Slovakia

2 April Czech Rep v Yugoslavia

30 April Yugoslavia v Spain

30 April Malta v Faeroes

21 May Slovakia v Czech Republic

8 June Yugoslavia v Slovakia

8 June Faeroes v Malta

8 June Spain v Czech Republic

20 August Czech Republic v Faeroes

6 September Faeroes v Czech Republic

10 September Slovakia v Yugoslavia

24 September Malta v Czech Republic

24 September Slovakia v Spain

11 October Malta v Yugoslavia

11 October Czech Republic v Slovakia

11 October Spain v Faeroes

Group Seven

Holland, Belgium, Turkey, Wales, San Marino

Can Bobby Gould's team boldly go where no Welsh side has gone since 1958? Eight months ago, most Wales supporters groaned with familiar discontent when they saw their team grouped alongside two Euro 96 qualifiers, the Netherlands and Turkey, and World Cup regulars Belgium. But now, with their opponents all undergoing transition, the future looks brighter.

It certainly doesn't look too orange at the moment. Holland are still trying to come to terms with their 4-1 mauling by England at Euro 96. Coach Guus Hiddink is probably lucky still to have his job. But nobody can envy him the task of building a new team out of 11 shattered egos. The international retirement last week of captain Danny Blind was certainly not music to Hiddink's ears.

Belgium and Turkey also have problems to solve. The Belgians have been ever-present at the World Cup since 1982, but a massive improvement is required under new coach Wilfiried van Moer if they are to make it five tournaments out of five.

The Turks must pick themselves up again after their Euro 96 whitewash. Theirs is a fragile temperament, and the knowledge that they were out of their depth in England could be a wound that takes time to heal.

Forecast: 1 The Netherlands, 2 Belgium

Fixtures

2 June 1996 San Marino v Wales 0-5

31 August Belgium v Turkey

31 August Wales v San Marino

5 October Wales v Netherlands

9 October San Marino v Belgium

9 November Netherlands v Wales

10 November Turkey v San Marino

14 December Belgium v Netherlands

14/15 December Wales v Turkey

20 March 1997 Netherlands v San Marino

29 March Wales v Belgium

2 April Turkey v Netherlands

30 April Turkey v Belgium

30 April San Marino v Netherlands

7 June Belgium v San Marino

20 August Turkey v Wales

6 September Netherlands v Belgium

10 September San Marino v Turkey

11 October Belgium v Wales

11 October Netherlands v Turkey

EUROPEAN QUALIFYING

qualify as hosts, Brazil as champions

Group Eight

Romania, Republic of Ireland, Lithuania, Iceland, Macedonia, Liechtenstein

Mick McCarthy's revamped Republic of Ireland could not have hoped for a softer group. A third successive World Cup qualification is there for the taking. Only an ageing Romanian team, bruised by European Championship failure, realistically stand in Ireland's way.

With Lithuania, Macedonia, Iceland and Liechtenstein making up the numbers, it seems inconceivable that even a modest Ireland side can fail to make the top two. The continuing support from the Irish fans will be important. Four unglamorous fixtures are scheduled at Lansdowne Road before the arrival of Romania for the final qualifier in October next year. Will the old rugby ground be filled to the rafters, as it was in the Charlton years? Or has the fascination gone?

Romania, too, can count their lucky stars that the draw has been so kind. Beaten in all three matches at Euro 96, they were a pale shadow of the exciting USA 94 team. And yet most of the players were the same. It's just that they were two years longer in the tooth. Gheorghe Hagi, now with 100 caps to his name, might squeeze in one more major tournament, but he desperately needs younger support around him.

Forecast: 1 Romania, 2 Republic of Ireland

Fixtures

24 April 1996 Macedonia v Liechtenstein 3-0

1 June Iceland v Macedonia 1-1

31 August Liechtenstein v Rep of Ireland

31 August Romania v Lithuania

5 October Lithuania v Iceland

9 October Iceland v Romania

9 October Rep of Ireland v Macedonia

9 October Lithuania v Liechtenstein

9 November Liechtenstein v Macedonia

10 November Republic of Ireland v Iceland

14 December Macedonia v Romania

29 March 1997 Romania v Liechtenstein

2 April Lithuania v Romania

2 April Macedonia v Rep of Ireland

30 April Liechtenstein v Lithuania

30 April Romania v Republic of Ireland

7 June Rep of Ireland v Liechtenstein

7 June Macedonia v Iceland

11 June Iceland v Lithuania

19 August Liechtenstein v Iceland

20 August Republic of Ireland v Lithuania

20 August Romania v Macedonia

6 September Iceland v Republic of Ireland

6 September Liechtenstein v Romania

6 September Lithuania v Macedonia

10 September Romania v Iceland

10 September Lithuania v Republic of Ireland

11 October Iceland v Liechtenstein

11 October Republic of Ireland v Romania

11 October Macedonia v Lithuania

Group Nine

Germany, Portugal, Northern Ireland, Ukraine, Albania, Armenia

The most efficient team at Euro 96 take on the most seductive. Germany are the eternal favourites, and with Berti Vogts continuing to place his absolute trust in the men who served him so dutifully in England, the European champions will surely not fail to reach the World Cup finals in France. But Portugal, awash with gifted individuals, are the sort of team who could make the Germans edgy and uncomfortable, especially if new coach Artur Jorge can unearth a decent goalscorer from somewhere.

The battle for first place in Group Nine will be intriguing and intense. It will also be very private. Northern Ireland can take heart from the fact that they have drawn against both Portugal and Germany in the past year. But over a 10-game stretch Bryan Hamilton's team will be pushed to get even close to the two group favourites.

Ukraine, who visit Windsor Park on Saturday, are not the force they might have been had they competed as an independent country 10 years ago. In those days they provided world-class individuals such as Protasov, Zavarov, Rats and Belanov to the USSR. In the current Ukraine team there is nobody comparable.

Forecast: 1 Germany, 2 Portugal

Fixtures

31 August 1996 Northern Ireland v Ukraine

31 August Armenia v Portugal

5 October Northern Ireland v Armenia

5 October Ukraine v Portugal

9 October Albania v Portugal

9 October Armenia v Germany

9 November Albania v Armenia

9 November Germany v Northern Ireland

9 November Portugal v Ukraine

14 December Northern Ireland v Albania

14 December Portugal v Germany

29 March 1997 Albania v Ukraine

29 March Northern Ireland v Portugal

2 April Albania v Germany

2 April Ukraine v Northern Ireland

30 April Germany v Ukraine

30 April Armenia v Northern Ireland

7 May Ukraine v Armenia

7 June Ukraine v Germany

7 June Portugal v Albania

20 August Northern Ireland v Germany

20 August Portugal v Armenia

20 August Ukraine v Albania

6 September Germany v Portugal

6 September Armenia v Albania

10 September Albania v Northern Ireland

10 September Germany v Armenia

11 October Germany v Albania

11 October Portugal v Northern Ireland

11 October Armenia v Ukraine

REST OF THE WORLD QUALIFYING GROUPS

Five African, three or four Asian, three from Concacaf, one or none from Oceania and four South American teams qualify

Africa

The increase in the number of African World Cup qualifiers from two in 1990 to five in 1998 might seem a touch disproportionate to European onlookers, but the improved status of African football is there for all to see.

Pele famously stated that an African country would win the World Cup before the century was out. France 98 is the last opportunity for that to happen. And Nigeria are the one team who genuinely threaten to make that prediction a reality.

The Nigerians' victory at the Olympic Games could prove to be a seminal achievement for African football. In truth, the Olympic tournament is still a youth event - and African teams have won lots of those in recent years - but there were some very strong teams in Atlanta. Both Brazil and Argentina (defeated, respectively, in the semi-finals and final by Nigeria) are likely to take to the World Cup as many members of their Olympic squads as the eventual gold medallists.

Nigeria, with internationally-renowned names such as Amunike, Kanu, Amokachi and Finidi George, will surely qualify for France. Which other teams will accompany them is less easy to forecast. South Africa are the reigning African champions and feature two excellent individuals in sweeper Mark Fish (now at Lazio) and midfielder John Moshoeu. But they have yet to be tested away from their passionate home support and are in a difficult group. With Algeria and the Ivory Coast already eliminated, the other likely qualifiers are Tunisia, Cameroon and Ghana.

Qualifiers for second round (group winners qualify for the finals):

Group 1: Nigeria, Burkina Faso, Guinea, Kenya Group 2: Liberia, Tunisia, Egypt, Namibia Group 3: Congo, Zambia, South Africa, Zaire Group 4: Angola, Zimbabwe, Togo, Cameroon

Group 5: Gabon, Ghana, Morocco, Burundi Matches to be played 8 November 1996 to 17 August 1997

Asia

When France, the 1998 hosts, failed to qualify for the last World Cup, in the United States, word spread that Fifa, the governing body of world football, would try and introduce a new rule granting the hosts- to-be automatic qualification for the preceding tournament.

Thankfully, that has not materialised, so both Japan and South Korea must now attempt to get to France through the physical efforts of their footballers rather than the persuasive diplomacy of their politicians.

It is on the cards that both teams will make it. The Japanese have never qualified for the finals before. They came within a whisker of doing so last time out, only to see their South Korean arch-rivals steal the prize of a trip to the United States from under their noses.

The South Koreans have been present at the last three World Cups. They have never progressed beyond the first round, but in the States they provided Spain and Germany with plenty of uncomfortable memories.

Saudi Arabia outshone the Koreans in that same tournament, becoming the first team from the Middle East to survive beyond the opening round. They, the United Arab Emirates and Iraq, will lead the Arab challenge.

A new threat to the Far East and Middle East comes from the former Soviet republics, notably from Uzbekistan, who are the Asian champions.

Group winners progress to second round:

Group 1: Saudi Arabia, Malaysia, Bangladesh, Taiwan

Group 2: Iran, Syria, Maldives, Kyrgyzstan

Group 3: United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Jordan

Group 4: Japan, Oman, Nepal, Macao

Group 5: Uzbekistan, Indonesia, Yemen, Cambodia

Group 6: Korea Republic, Thailand, Hong Kong; Group 7: Kuwait, Lebanon, Singapore

Group 8: China, Turkmenistan, Vietnam, Tajikistan

Group 9: Iran, Kazakhstan, Pakistan

Group 10: Qatar, India, Sri Lanka, Philippines

Concacaf

When they are not suspended or acting as hosts, Mexico invariably take one of the World Cup qualifying places on offer in the Concacaf region. With three places going begging this time around, it is hard to imagine that they will not be on the World Cup trail again in two years' time.

The United States, too, are becoming regular performers in major competitions. Like Mexico, they have been invited to the last two Copa America tournaments (essentially, the South American championships), and they have also been on active service in the last two World Cups, the last one on home soil.

With the new Major League Soccer competition acting as a valuable testing ground for up-and-coming American talent, the US team can now expect to keep pace with the Mexicans as the Concacaf's No 1 nation.

The chief contenders for the third qualifying place are Canada, Costa Rica, El Salvador and, from the Caribbean, Trinidad and Tobago, the team that features the Aston Villa striker Dwight Yorke.

Qualifiers for semi-finals (group winners and runners-up progress to form one group with the first three teams qualifying for the finals):

Group1: USA, Costa Rica, Trinidad and Tobago, Guatemala

Group 2: Canada, El Salvador, Panama, Cuba

Group 3: Mexico, Honduras, Jamaica, St Vincent

Matches to be played 31 August to 21 December 1996

Oceania

Despite the increase in the number of finalists to 32, there is still no automatic place for the winners of the Oceania qualifying section. But perhaps that is only fair. After all, the region boasts just two teams with any prospect of putting on a competitive showing at the finals - Australia and New Zealand.

The Australians will probably come through to the qualifying play-off, just as they did in 1993 when Argentina knocked them out with a freak goal in Buenos Aires.

The "Socceroos" looked to be in fine shape when they faced Scotland at Hampden Park this year. They lost 1-0 but deserved a draw, and in players like English-based Mark Bosnich, Steve Corica and Robbie Slater showed that they possess enough pedigree to reach their first World Cup finals for 24 years.

Group winners plus the winners of a play-off between the runners- up qualify for second round:

Melanesian Group: Papau New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu

Polynesian Group: Cook Islands, Tonga, Western Samoa

Matches to be played September 1996.

Australia, Tahiti, New Zealand and Fiji join in the second round

South America

Without Brazil, automatically through to the finals as the holders, the South American qualifying tournament is short on mass appeal. Or at least it would have been but for the decision to introduce, for the first time, a giant round-robin tournament, in which each of the nine teams plays the others home and away over an 18-month stretch.

The competition began back in April and already there is something of an upset in the offing with Daniel Passarella's Argentina having lost 2-0 in Ecuador and been held 0-0 in Peru. But with four places available, and Brazil absent, it is inconceivable that Argentina, with so many excellent players at their disposal, will fail to qualify.

Maradona may have gone forever, but in Ariel Ortega, Argentina have a ready-made replacement in the No 10 shirt. The No 9 jersey at present belongs to the Fiorentina striker Gabriel Batistuta, but he is under increasing pressure from an Olympic Games star Hernan Crespo, who was the joint top scorer in Atlanta and has now moved to Serie A side Parma.

Argentina will hope to return to winning ways on Sunday when they play host to Paraguay. The pick of this weekend's games is the group leaders Colombia against the only other unbeaten team, Chile, while Bolivia, controversially allowed to stage their home games at altitude in La Paz, entertain Peru. South American champions Uruguay have to wait until October for their next match, and they have a bit of catching-up to do after losing two of their opening three matches.

The nine competing teams play each other twice, the first four qualifying for the finals:

24 April 1996 Argentina 3 Bolivia 1

24 April 1996 Colombia 1 Paraguay 0

24 April 1996 Ecuador 4 Peru 1

24 April 1996 Venezuela 0 Uruguay 2

2 June 1996 Ecuador 2 Argentina 0

2 June 1996 Peru 1 Colombia 1

2 June 1996 Uruguay 0 Paraguay 2

2 June 1996 Venezuela 1 Chile 1

7 July 1996 Bolivia 6 Venezuela 1

7 July 1996 Chile 4 Ecuador 1

7 July 1996 Colombia 3 Uruguay 1

7 July 1996 Peru 0 Argentina 0

Matches to be played 1 September 1996 to 16 November 1997.

Brazil qualify as champions.

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