2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™

14 June - 15 July

2018 FIFA World Cup™ 

Argentina top ahead of tight-knit chasing pack

© Getty Images

THE DAY REPLAYED - Lionel Messi marked his return to the international fold by edging Argentina past Uruguay and to the top of the table in South American qualifying for the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™.

Despite their defeat, the Uruguayans head the chasing pack as one of three teams that lie neck and neck in the remaining automatic qualification places, just a point behind the leaders. The other two are Colombia, who got the better of Venezuela, and Ecuador, in spite of their loss to Brazil.

The Brazilians' win, meanwhile, moved them into the play-off spot, although they are only ahead of Paraguay on goal difference. La Albirroja, for their part, beat Chile, leaving the two-time reigning Copa America champions off the pace.

Matchday 7 was the third set of fixtures in this campaign not to feature any draws. In addition, it was also notable for the fact that the four coaches kicking off their tenures – Edgardo Bauza, Tite, Guillermo Hoyos and Francisco Arce – all got off to a winning start. We round up the action below.

Match of the day
Argentina 1-0 Uruguay
Lionel Messi 43
*Messi's deflected strike was enough for Argentina to scrape past Uruguay and make it five straight home wins over their neighbours in World Cup preliminaries. Bauza's men managed to keep their historic rivals at bay despite being at a numerical disadvantage for the whole second half following Paulo Dybala's sending-off on the stroke of half-time.

For Uruguay, who remain winless in Argentina in qualifying action, the result represented a first reverse since they were beaten by Ecuador in Quito on Matchday 3.

Brazil produced a dazzling second-half performance to turn over Ecuador 3-0 and register their first-ever qualifying victory in Quito. A Neymar penalty and a Gabriel Jesus brace did the job for Tite's charges, who are now right back in the hunt for a berth at Russia 2018. La Tri, who ended the match with ten men after full-back Juan Carlos Paredes saw red, have now claimed just one out of the last nine points available after racing out of the traps by winning four on the spin.

Colombia, by contrast, have well and truly put their slow start behind them after notching up their third consecutive win. A great team display earned them a 2-0 triumph over Venezuela and took them up to third in the standings. James Rodriguez was the star of the show with a goal and an assist, despite having a penalty saved by Daniel Hernandez, who also denied Carlos Bacca from the spot. As for La Vinotinto, the outlook is gloomy indeed: they are rooted to the foot of the table with a solitary point and sit 11 points away from fifth place, with 33 left to play for.

Another team who picked up a crucial victory were Paraguay, who overcame Chile 2-1 in Asuncion. Oscar Romero and Paulo da Silva's efforts inside the first ten minutes secured the spoils for *La Albirroja *and ended their run of two consecutive home losses to the Chileans in qualifiers. Arturo Vidal pulled one back in injury time for the visitors, who had Gary Medel sent off.

Lastly, goals in each half from the veterans Pablo Escobar and Ronald Raldes, aged 38 and 35 respectively, helped Bolivia to their first win in four matchdays, a 2-0 defeat of Peru in La Paz. The pair had been out in the cold under the previous regime, but responded in emphatic fashion after being recalled by new coach Hoyos. Peru's travails on the road, meanwhile, show no signs of abating: they have lost all four of their away qualifiers without scoring a goal.

Player of the day
Gabriel Jesus (Brazil)
*A key figure in the U-23 team that won gold at the Olympics two weeks ago, the 19-year-old enjoyed a dream senior debut for his country, playing a decisive role in the victory over Ecuador in Quito. Not only was the Palmeiras starlet brought down for the penalty from which Brazil broke the deadlock, but he then proceeded to bag two goals of his own to round off the scoring, the first of which was a fine flicked finish.

*Did you know?
Daniel Hernandez made history even in defeat. With his stops from Carlos Bacca and James Rodriguez, the Venezuelan became the first goalkeeper from his country to save two penalties in a single World Cup qualifier. Indeed, only two of his compatriots had previously kept out a spot-kick in the South American preliminaries: Cesar Baena in 1989 and Gilberto Angelucci in 2000.

*What they said

Gracias Colombia! Un lindo triunfo, ahora a pensar en lo que viene. Gloria a Dios! pic.twitter.com/yhCBQau8o3

— James Rodríguez (@jamesdrodriguez) September 2, 2016

"Thank you Colombia! A fantastic win, now we turn our thoughts to what's up next. Glory to God!"

Colombia captain James Rodriguez was in high spirits after the victory over Venezuela.

Matchday 7 results
1 September
*Bolivia 2-0 Peru
Colombia 2-0 Venezuela
Ecuador 0-3 Brazil
Argentina 1-0 Uruguay
Paraguay 2-1 Chile

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