The South American road to the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™ reached its halfway stage this weekend, with Argentina and Brazil both returning to winning ways and Paraguay maintaining their momentum. The Albirroja stood tall in Colombia to take another step towards South Africa 2010, while the Albiceleste and Seleção saw off Uruguay and Venezuela respectively.
Argentina tasted victory for the first time in five outings when they prevailed in a rainswept River Plate derby in Buenos Aires. An entertaining encounter swung the hosts' way early on, when Messi and Aguero put them 2-0 ahead inside the opening 15 minutes. Lugano cut the deficit before the break, however, and that proved the prelude to a nervy second half for the Albiceleste, who clung on to stay third. The Uruguayans, still winless in FIFA World Cup™ qualifiers in the Argentinian capital, remain fifth.
The alarm bells will be ringing in Colombia after a second straight defeat at home. Cabanas's strike gave the Guaraníes the foundation they needed to control the game, and Eduardo Lara's side could find no way past Paraguay's rock-like defence. Having scored just four goals in their nine games - the worst strike record in the group - the goal-shy Cafeteros have squandered their fine start to the campaign.
It took Kaka just six minutes to remind everyone why he is so important to Brazil. Out of international action for 11 months, the AC Milan attacking midfielder gave his side an early lead over Venezuela with a stunning right-foot strike. A brace from Robinho and an Adriano goal completed a 4-0 win that keeps Dunga's team second. A flat Vinotinto side now find themselves languishing one place off the bottom.
Ecuador confirmed their return to form when Cristian Benitez nodded home from a corner to secure a 1-0 win over Chile in Quito. Unbeaten in their last six games, Sixto Vizuete's charges now lie sixth. La Roja stay fourth, meanwhile, and face a vital encounter with Argentina on Wednesday. The Quito game was also notable for the dismissals of Ismael Fuentes, Luis Valencia and Gonzalo Jara, the only red cards to be dealt out on Matchday 9.
Bolivia moved up to eighth after a resounding 3-0 win over Peru. Joaquin Botero set the Bolivians on their way with a quick-fire brace, before Ronald Garcia completed the scoring to send the Incaicos plummeting to the bottom of the table.
Player of the day
Joaquin Botero (BOL)
The evergreen striker had an afternoon to remember in La Paz. Botero converted two headers in a 16-minute spell to overtake Agustin Ugarte as Bolivia's all-time highest goalscorer. "I'm delighted to form part of my country's footballing history," commented the Bolivar player, who is now the leading marksman in South American qualifying with five goals.
1 - The number of international goals Lionel Messi has scored on home soil. The Barcelona star took his tally for Argentina to 12 with a header against Uruguay in Buenos Aires on Saturday, his 11 previous goals all having come away from home.