THE DAY REPLAYED - Diego Maradona's official debut as Argentina coach went according to plan as his charges disposed of Venezuela to close the gap on leaders Paraguay, who slumped to defeat in Uruguay. Brazil fell to fourth in the table after they drew in Ecuador, while Chile and Colombia both won to stay firmly in the hunt.
FIFA.com rounds up the highlights from the latest round of FIFA World Cup™ qualifiers in South America.
There was lots of goalmouth action for the 55,000 crowd at the Estadio Centenario to enjoy as the home side, the highest-scoring team in the competition, put the group leaders to the sword in an absorbing, fast-paced encounter. Hungry for the points after going three games without a win, Uruguay showed their attacking intent from the start. La Albirroja had not conceded in their previous three outings but were unable to stop Forlan from scoring his fifth goal of the competition - all of them coming in Montevideo. The usually solid Paraguayan rearguard was pierced once more just before the hour mark when Diego Lugano headed home, and although Gerardo Martino's side managed a late rally, the Uruguayans held firm to consign the visitors to only their second defeat in 11 games.
La Albiceleste lived up to expectations in Diego Maradona's first official match in charge, putting four goals past Venezuela without reply to climb into second place. Although La Vinotinto proved hard to break down in the first half, goals from the attacking trio of Lionel Messi, Carlos Tevez and Sergio Aguero helped put an end to their resistance. The Venezuelans have now lost all 16 of their FIFA World Cup qualifiers against the Argentinians and have no margin for error if they are to reach the finals for the first time in their history.
Brazil endured a difficult afternoon in Quito on Sunday, drawing 1-1 with Ecuador thanks in the main to a superb performance from Julio Cesar, who showed why the Brazilians have the best defensive record in the group. Both goals came from substitutes, with Julio Baptista giving the five-time world champions an undeserved lead only a minute after coming on. The enterprising Ecuadorians were eventually rewarded for their superior play when Cristian Noboa equalised with just a minute left on the clock.
While Dunga was counting his blessings in Quito, Bolivia coach Erwin Sanchez was ruing his misfortune in rainy Bogota. Despite sending out his star performers, Sanchez looked on helplessly as Colombia ended their five-game goal drought 26 minutes in thanks to a fine solo effort by Macnelly Torres. Los Cafeteros engineered countless openings and finally sealed three vital points when substitute Wason Renteria added a second near the end. The Colombians now lie sixth, just two points behind Uruguay.
Chile moved into third after downing Peru 3-1 in the Pacific derby in Lima. La Roja's hero of the hour was Alexis Sanchez, who scored the opening goal on two minutes, earned the penalty that allowed ex-Colo Colo team-mate Humberto Suazo to double Chile's advantage half an hour in, and then set up fellow former club-mate Matias Fernandez for the third 20 minutes from time. Peru's solitary goal came from Johan Fano and with just seven points to their name, and their hopes of reaching South Africa have surely gone.
Player of the day
Lionel Messi (ARG)
Although Brazil keeper Julio Cesar and Chile's Alexis Sanchez were in outstanding form, the young Barcelona star was in a league of his own as Argentina outclassed Venezuela. In the absence of Juan Roman Riquelme, Messi pulled on the fabled No10 shirt for the first time and did not disappoint, rolling home his side's opener and setting up another in yet another virtuoso display capped by a magnificent late dribble that ended with the ball brushing the post. "If that had gone in, we should have all left the stadium, paid for our tickets again and come back in," said a beaming Maradona, clearly proud of his heir's performance.
The numbers game
26 - The number of years since Brazil last beat Ecuador in Quito, a 1-0 win in the Copa America in 1983. In FIFA World Cup qualifiers, however, A Seleçao have never triumphed in the Ecuadorian capital.
What they said
"Paraguay haven't changed. They're still the best side in the competition and they're still top of the table. We're not going to bring them down a level just because they lost today." Uruguay coach Oscar Tabarez praises Paraguay after his side defeated them 2-0 in Montevideo.