THE DAY REPLAYED – Argentina won in Santiago to strengthen their grip at the top of the table on Matchday 10 in the South American Zone qualifying competition for the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil™. At the other end of the standings, meanwhile, Bolivia and Paraguay both won to breathe new life into their faltering campaigns.
FIFA.com rounds up the final round of qualifiers of 2012, which brought further defeats for Uruguay and Chile, leaving their hopes hanging in the balance.
Match of the day
Chile 1-2 Argentina
Goals: Felipe Gutierrez 90 (CHI); Lionel Messi 28, Gonzalo Higuain 30 (ARG)
Eight years on from Lionel Messi’s Barcelona debut, Argentina paid tribute to their skipper with their fifth win in six games, staying right on track in their seemingly unstoppable charge to the world finals. Though not completely at ease in the first half, La Albiceleste made the home side pay for their profligacy in front of goal, as both Messi and Higuain conjured up delightful goals to pull level with Luis Suarez as the leading marksmen in the competition. The Argentinians are now eight points clear of Uruguay in fifth, while the Chileans, who have lost their last three qualifiers, drop down to sixth behind Venezuela and Uruguay on goal difference.
Uruguay’s freefall continued apace as they crashed 4-1 away to Bolivia, their second heavy defeat in succession. Without a win in their last four qualifiers now, a run in which they have conceded 12 goals and scored only two, La Celeste had no answer to Xabier Azkargorta’s side, who sated their hunger for victory thanks largely to a hat-trick by Carlos Saucedo. Gualberto Mojica also got on the scoresheet for the hosts, with Luis Suarez pulling one back for the visitors with a late free-kick.
Bottom-placed Paraguay also got back to winning ways, ending a run of five straight losses with a 1-0 win over Peru in Asuncion. Pablo Aguilar’s second-half header, his first goal for his country, proved the difference between the teams in a scrappy game that generated little in the way of goalmouth action. Though they remain last, La Albirroja lie just a point behind Peru, who have now lost on five of their six qualifying trips to the Paraguayan capital and remain winless there.
Ecuador registered only their second point on the road in an entertaining 1-1 draw in Venezuela, a result that moved them into second and La Vinotinto into fourth. Adopting an enterprising approach, La Tricolor were rewarded when Segundo Castillo cancelled out Juan Arango’s fine opener.
Player of the day
Carlos Saucedo (BOL)
The 33-year-old San Jose striker will remember his FIFA World Cup qualifying debut for a long, long time, as he served up a virtuoso display of finishing to put the reigning Copa America champions to the sword in La Paz and push Bolivia back into contention for a place at Brazil 2014. The leading scorer in Bolivia’s Torneo Apertura with nine goals, Saucedo proved he has the class to thrive at the highest level.
19 - Argentina are the top scorers in the South American qualifiers with 20 goals so far, 19 of which have been scored by their attacking quartet, with Lionel Messi and Gonzalo Higuain finding the back of the net seven times each, Sergio Aguero scoring three and Angel Di Maria two. The remaining goal was scored by Ezequiel Lavezzi, against Bolivia.
What they said
“We’re not dead and we’re going to fight. We’re still in there. It’s just a question now of getting things right in the seven finals we have left. The hour of truth will start against Paraguay,” Uruguay coach Oscar Tabarez makes a defiant response to his side’s 4-1 defeat in Bolivia.