The first week of February marked international football's return to the sporting foreground. In Asia the FIFA World Cup™ qualifiers took centre stage, while friendly action was the order of the day for many of Europe and South America's finest national sides.
Read on as FIFA.com takes a closer look at games involving South American teams preparing for the Olympic Football Tournament Beijing 2008 and the next round of qualifiers for the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa.
Oscar Tabarez's Uruguay side hosted Jose Luis Pinto's Cafeteros in Montevideo for an encounter that had a distinctly FIFA U-20 World Cup feel to it. The opening two goals at the Estadio Centenario were the work of striker Edixon Perea, who burst onto the scene as part of the Colombia side that came third at UAE 2003. Not to be outdone, the Charrúas hit back to level late on with strikes from Edinson Cavani and Luis Suarez, who both shone at last summer's U-20 showpiece in Canada.
Uruguay even went close to snatching the win after Suarez's late leveller, but the 2-2 draw ensured they maintained their four-game unbeaten run against Colombia. However, the last Cafetero success came in emphatic fashion, in the form of a 5-0 FIFA World Cup qualifying win on 6 June 2004.
The surprise result
Honduras2 - 0 Paraguay
Goals: Amado Guevara (48', penalty), Carlos Costly (55')
Boasting several of his brightest stars, including Julio Cesar Caceres, Roque Santa Cruz, Nelson Haedo and Salvador Cabanas, coach Gerardo Martino took his Albirroja squad to San Pedro Sula to face a Honduran side depleted by the absences of David Suazo, Julio de Leon and Wilson Palacios. Yet the current leaders of the South American qualifying group were caught napping in the opening minutes of the second half, time enough for their Catracho hosts to score twice and consign the Paraguayans to an unexpected defeat.
"That's what these kind of games are for. I've drawn more negative conclusions than positive ones from today's match," said the Argentinian tactician afterwards.
The star man
Colombia forward Edixon Perea caught the eye with a coolly taken brace against Uruguay, while Ezequiel Lavezzi and Gonzalo Higuain combined to impressive effect in their first game together for the Albiceleste. However, the performance of the day came from Brazilian livewire Robinho, who topped a sparkling display with a superb winner away to the Republic of Ireland. "I'm playing the best football of my career," said the Real Madrid man after the match.
Imposing performances from both Brazil and Argentina underlined the pair's status as serious contenders for the gold medal at Beijing 2008. Former Santos pair Diego and Robinho were outstanding as Dunga's Auriverde charges defeated the Irish in Dublin, and staked their claims as Brazil's creators-in-chief for the event in China.
The Albiceleste also took the opportunity to give their Olympic team a run-out against Guatemala. The Argentinian U-23s, aided and abetted by over-aged stars Martin Demichelis and Juan Roman Riquelme, recorded a convincing 5-0 friendly win over the Chapines in Los Angeles. Real Madrid's Gonzalo Higuain scored twice, with Ezequiel Lavezzi, Jonatan Maidana and Marco Ruben also finding the net.
Over in the Venezuelan city of Puerto La Cruz, the Vinotinto once again went head-to-head with Haiti, who they had narrowly defeated just a week before. In another tightly contested affair, the Haitians went ahead through Brunel Fucien before Alexander Rondon levelled matters for the home side in coach Cesar Farias' second match in charge.
Also worthy of mention was Bolivia's 2-1 win over Peru, in a friendly clash pitting the South American Zone's two bottom-placed teams. Erwin Sanchez's boys took the lead through Ricardo Pedriel, Miguel Cevasco equalising for Jose Del Solar's Peru before Leonel Reyes struck a dramatic late winner for the home side.