Was Group 2 perhaps, on paper, the tightest looking one among the CONMEBOL groups? On the background of merits from recent years, it could possibly be claimed that Paraguay, who had participated in the 1986 World Cup and also made it to the final round of the recently held Copa América, were favourites, though that would be taking the promise of Colombia and their Atlético Nacional’s recently crowned South American champions out of the equation. 

It had been decided beforehand that this was the group where the winners would have to play off against the winners of the Oceania confederation in a two-legged affair, in order to decide who would progress through to the World Cup. 

Paraguay had made it past the group stage in the 1986 World Cup, and they had shown plenty of promise in the continental championships, which had rounded off only the previous month. In between, they had failed to make a mark on the 1987 issue of Copa América, where they had also lost to one of their group rivals this time around, Colombia. Their coach was an Argentinian by the name of Eduardo Luján Manera, who had been appointed last year, and who had succeeded Silvio Parodi. However, only days prior to their first qualifier, Manera would be replaced by Cayetano Ré, the manager who had led Paraguay during the 1986 World Cup. 

Colombia had their core from leading domestic club Atlético Nacional of Medellín. Not just a large playing crop hailed from the club which had triumphed in the Copa Libertadores back in May, when they had defeated Paraguay’s Olimpia of Asunción, but even manager Francisco Maturana. The highly talented 40 year old had taken over and led the team for the 1987 edition of Copa América, where they had finished third, even beating host nation Argentina in the third-place play-off game. In addition to the large Nacional contingent, there was also the exciting, European based talent of playmaker Carlos Valderrama. 

Ecuador – were they anything more than also-rans in this group? Well, they might, again, have failed to progress beyond the first group stage in the Copa América, but in Yugoslav coach Dušan Drašković, a 50 year old about a year into his first coaching assignment abroad, they appeared to have someone quite visionary, and who was looking to utilize their playing resources to the maximum. They’d given a fine account of themselves in the recently held tournament in Brazil, where they’d defeated Uruguay and then held Argentina, only to fall short against Chile in their final game. 


Match 1
20.08.1989: Colombia 2-0 Ecuador
Estadio Metropolitano Roberto Meléndez (Barranquilla)
Colombia got their qualification campaign under way with a fine performance and not least an excellent result against neighbours Ecuador. The hosts were the better side for most of the game, even if they did not produce a whole lot of goalscoring opportunities. 32 year old striker Arnoldo Iguarán proved his worth in the air with two powerfully executed headers, and substitute Luis Fajardo hit the bar with another late on. The visitors lacked punch up front, and were rarely able to threaten the eccentric René Higuita between the Colombian sticks. 

Match 2
27.08.1989: Paraguay 2-1 Colombia
Estadio Defensores del Chaco (Asunción)
Paraguay snatch victory deep into time added on, and get their World Cup qualification campaign up and running with a hugely important win against a Colombian team which had won the previous weekend. The hosts have several players back after missing the Copa América campaign, and they dominate possession for the majority of the game. Colombia, who had looked so neat during their win against Ecuador, were second best for most of the game. Substitute Javier Ferreira gave the hosts an early second half lead after coming on, and then Leonel Álvarez saw red for a cynical foul. Ten men Colombia equalised late on through ace marksman Arnoldo Iguarán, though they had a precious point snatched away from them six minutes into injury time after René Higuita had fouled Rogelio Delgado and conceded a penalty. The other goalkeeper, debutant José Luis Chilavert, converted to win the hosts the tie. 

Match 3
03.09.1989: Ecuador 0-0 Colombia
Estadio Monumental Isidro Romero Carbo (Guayaquil)
Featuring in their third successive Group 2 match, Colombia return home with a valuable point, although they could well have won the game on balance of opportunities. The game is intense, it is played with a focus on sportsmanship, and there’s an impressive flow, with relatively few niggling fouls. While both teams create solid goalscoring chances, neither can take advantage, and the group appears to be shaping for a two-horse race between the Colombians and Paraguay. Vitally, today’s visitors now can look forward to inviting the Paraguayans home. Ecuador will need to improve on their chances conversion in order to still have a say in the group. 

Match 4
10.09.1989: Paraguay 2-1 Ecuador
Estadio Defensores del Chaco (Asunción)

Match 5
17.09.1989: Colombia 2-1 Paraguay
Estadio Metropolitano Roberto Meléndez (Barranquilla)

Match 6
24.09.1989: Ecuador 3-1 Paraguay
Estadio Monumental Isidro Romero Carbo (Guayaquil)

Final table





Total number of players used:
Total number of players including substitutes:
Ever-presents (360 minutes):
Leading goalscorer:
Yellow/red cards:

Goalscorers (15)

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