The CONMEBOL zone had nine entries for the 1990 World Cup qualification: Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Paraguay, Peru, Uruguay, Venezuela. In addition, Argentina would represent the region as the reigning world champions.
The draw was held in Zürich 12 December 1987. The qualification would be arranged through three groups of three teams each. The total of 18 matches across the three groups would be played out from 30 July to 24 September 1989, kicking off considerably later than the other continental qualifying zones.
The two group winners from Group 1 and Group 3 would automatically qualify for the World Cup. The winner of Group 2, however, would play off against the Oceania zone winners for a place in the tournament proper.
(It is commonly held that the winning team with an inferior record than the other two group winners would play off against the Oceania zone winners. This is however not correct, as can be ascertained from contemporary sources reporting from the draw in 1987.)
South America’s continental tournament Copa América, by now held biannually, though only since the 1987 issue, had been played out in Brazil between 1 July and 16 July. The hosts had ultimately won, avenging the bitter defeat against Uruguay from the final round during the 1950 World Cup on home soil in an identical format to then. The 1989 edition of Copa América was in many ways a prelude to the ensuing World Cup qualification.
The Brazilians would be opening the qualification just two weeks after winning the South American championships.
30 July 1989
Group 3, match 1, Estadio Brígido Iriarte (Caracas)
Venezuela 0-4 Brazil
They put up a fine first half fight, the plucky hosts, but a goal down at the interval, they will lose their shape in the final 45, and the four goal cushion is well deserved for the recent Copa América champions.
6 August 1989
Group 3, match 2, Estadio Brígido Iriarte (Caracas)
Venezuela 1-3 Chile
Another early goal conceded for the hosts, just like last week, and despite being on top for the first 22-23 minutes of the second half, they ultimately deserved a second successive loss. Chile’s quality shone through in the end.
13 August 1989
Group 3, match 3, Estadio Nacional (Santiago)
Chile 1-1 Brazil
Two early incidents lead to a red card for each team. In the wake of this, plenty of shots are fired from distance, without reward. Brazil move in front after crazy own goal, whilst the late equalizer is another bizarre incident in a game far from free of controversy.
20 August 1989
Group 1, match 1, Estadio Hernando Siles (La Paz)
Bolivia 2-1 Peru
Bolivia saw one spot-kick saved and another converted, and Peru had gone in front from a fine finish late in the first half. The hosts were by far the better in midfield, bossing the majority of the game, and look to have a real gem in second half substitute teenager Sánchez. They deservedly turned the game around.
Group 2, match 1, Estadio Metropolitano (Barranquilla)
Colombia 2-0 Ecuador
A superior Colombia saw off the threat from their neighbours Ecuador without too much trouble. Iguarán scored twice in the air, of which the first was a world class finish.
Group 3, match 4, Estádio do Morumbi (São Paolo)
Brazil 6-0 Venezuela
An expected rout, and indeed the score was kept down by the fine goalkeeping of César Baena. Careca celebrated his return to the side by scoring four times, two in each half.
27 August 1989
Group 1, match 2, Estadio Nacional (Lima)
Peru 0-2 Uruguay
Group 2, match 2, Estadio Defensores del Chaco (Asunción)
Paraguay 2-1 Colombia
Group 3, match 5, Estadio Malvinas Argentinas (Mendoza, Argentina)
Chile 5-0 Venezuela
3 September 1989
Group 1, match 3, Estadio Hernando Siles (La Paz)
Bolivia 2-1 Uruguay
Group 2, match 3, Estadio Monumental Isidro Romero Carbo (Guayaquil)
Ecuador 0-0 Colombia
Group 3, match 6, Estádio do Maracanã (Rio de Janeiro)
Brazil 2-0 Chile
10 September 1989
Group 1, match 4, Estadio Nacional (Lima)
Peru 1-2 Bolivia
Group 2, match 4, Estadio Defensores del Chaco (Asunción)
Paraguay 2-1 Ecuador
17 September 1989
Group 1, match 5, Estadio Centenario (Montevideo)
Uruguay 2-0 Bolivia
Group 2, match 5, Estadio Metropolitano (Barranquilla)
Colombia 2-1 Paraguay
24 September 1989
Group 1, match 6, Estadio Centenario (Montevideo)
Uruguay 2-0 Peru
Group 2, match 6, Estadio Monumental Isidro Romero Carbo (Guayaquil)
Ecuador 3-1 Paraguay