Chelsea-bound Kendry Paez: A Rising Star in South American Qualifiers

CEO Tam DT
The opening round of South America's World Cup qualifiers showcased the brilliance of veterans like Lionel Messi and Neymar. However, in the second round, it was the young prodigy Kendry Paez who stole the spotlight....

The opening round of South America's World Cup qualifiers showcased the brilliance of veterans like Lionel Messi and Neymar. However, in the second round, it was the young prodigy Kendry Paez who stole the spotlight. At just 16 years old and with a future transfer to Chelsea, Paez is the latest gem from the remarkable production line at Independiente del Valle.

Paez has already had an incredible year, scoring in his first senior game at the age of 15 and representing Ecuador in both the U-17 and U-20 World Cups. Now, he has been given the opportunity to make his mark in senior football and World Cup qualification.

In a surprising move, coach Felix Sanchez decided to start Paez in the game against Uruguay. Although many expected him to make a cameo appearance from the bench, Paez proved his worth by not only starting the game but also assisting in the winning goal in a 2-1 victory.

Operating on the right side of the midfield, Paez displayed a swagger and style that captivated audiences. With his ability to use both feet and take on responsibility, he exhibited a casual ease that was a joy to watch. While he couldn't complete the full game, his impact was undeniable.

Ecuador's victory against Uruguay wasn't without its challenges. Uruguay took an early lead through Maxi Araujo, but Ecuador's resilience and the high altitude of Quito favored them. A set-piece goal by centre-back Félix Torres and a crucial assist by Paez secured the win for Ecuador, despite Enner Valencia missing a penalty.

This victory propels Ecuador to no points on the table due to their three-point penalty for administrative errors. With the expanded World Cup format, six South American teams will qualify automatically for 2026, with a seventh entering a playoff. Ecuador can now dream of Paez's contributions leading them to further success in the future.

In the early stages of the qualifiers, Brazil and Argentina are the joint leaders, having won both of their opening matches. Argentina's impressive 3-0 away win against Bolivia showcased the maturity of their young midfield, while Brazil secured a narrow 1-0 victory away to Peru.

Apart from Brazil and Argentina, Colombia sits in third place with four points after a hard-fought 0-0 draw against Chile. Uruguay and Venezuela both have three points, with Venezuela starting their campaign with a 1-0 win at home against Paraguay.

While the night belonged to Ecuador's young star Kendry Paez, we must also acknowledge the contribution of Salomon Rondon, Venezuela's experienced striker. Despite being past his prime, Rondon converted a late penalty to keep Venezuela's hopes alive.

As Paez dreams of many future World Cups, Rondon carries the weight of his final opportunity. These qualifiers have revealed the depth and excitement of South American football, with emerging talents and seasoned veterans taking center stage. The journey to World Cup 2026 has only just begun, and the possibilities are endless.

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