THE DAY REPLAYED - In a match that will live long in the memory, Colombia fought back from three goals down to draw 3-3 with Chile in Barranquilla. In doing so, Los Cafeteros sealed their ticket to the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil™, the first time they will be present at a global showdown since France 1998.
Elsewhere, Ecuador edged closer to qualifying by overcoming Uruguay 1-0 in Quito, knocking Chile off third spot in the standings on goal difference. Venezuela were unable to pick up maximum points at home to Paraguay, a result which meant the end of the line for their World Cup hopes, while Argentina ensured they will travel to Brazil as group winners after beating Peru. FIFA.com rounds up all the action from the penultimate matchday.
Match of the day
Colombia 3-3 Chile
Goals: Teofilo Gutierrez (69’), Falcao (75’ and 84’, both penalties); Arturo Vidal (19’, penalty), Alexis Sanchez (22’, 29’)
Chile were outstanding in the first period and gave no indication that a second-half capitulation, handing them their first draw of this qualifying competition, was to follow. With Jorge Valdivia and Vidal pulling the strings, the pace of Eduardo Vargas causing problems and Sanchez’s opportunism a constant threat, La Roja’s directness propelled them to a 3-0 lead inside half an hour against a side that had not conceded a goal for 474 minutes in Barranquilla. Chile could even have gone into the break with an even greater advantage.
Nevertheless, Colombia coach Jose Pekerman threw caution to the wind with his substitutions and the hosts battled back, aided by an inspired James Rodriguez and Carlos Carmona’s sending off. Three minutes after the latter’s expulsion, Colombia had a foothold in the game after a penalty from Falcao, with El Tigre taking his goal tally to nine in the qualifying competition, just one behind top scorers Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez.
Colombia were relentless from that moment on and were rewarded at the final whistle with a place at a World Cup finals for the first time in 16 years. Chile slipped down to fourth as a result, but still have qualification for Brazil 2014 in their own hands.
Third place is now occupied by Ecuador, who beat Uruguay 1-0 in Quito in a decisive encounter. Jefferson Montero scored the only goal of the game in the first half to end a run of four qualifying matches without victory. Furthermore, the win was Ecuador’s first home triumph over La Celeste in World Cup qualifying since 1997, following two draws and a defeat.
The reverse leaves Los Charrúas needing other results to go their way to secure automatic qualification, but they have the safety net of a guaranteed spot in the intercontinental play-offs for what would be a fourth consecutive time. “The play-offs are made for us…The other results mean we’re pretty much certain to face Jordan,” said Oscar Tabarez after the defeat.
Meanwhile, Venezuela failed to capitalise on their slim chances of reaching the play-offs following a 1-1 draw with Paraguay in San Cristobal. Edgar Benitez put the visitors in front but Luis Manuel Seijas equalised late on for La Vinotinto and the stalemate left La Albirroja without an away victory for the first time in five qualifying competitions. Venezuela have not beaten Paraguay at home in World Cup qualifying since 2001.
Argentina closed out the final Matchday 17 fixture with a 3-1 win over Peru in Buenos Aires. The victory assured La Albiceleste their place as group winners, a feat they had not managed since Korea/Japan 2002 qualifying under coach Marcelo Bielsa. An Ezequiel Lavezzi brace and a Rodrigo Palacio strike grabbed the points for the hosts, who were forced to come from behind following a terrific opener from Claudio Pizarro.
Player of the day
Ezequiel Lavezzi (ARG)
El Pocho took full advantage of the space in the starting line-up left by the absent Messi and Gonzalo Higuain, scoring his second and third goals in this qualifying tournament. The 28-year-old Paris Saint-Germain striker seems certain to be among the forwards Alejandro Sabella will take to the World Cup next year.
91.6 Percentage of points Ecuador have won at home during the current qualifiers, a quota unbeaten anywhere else on the continent. Of the eight matches played in Quito, La Tricolor won seven and drew one (against group leaders Argentina), scoring 15 and conceding just three. Furthermore, the 22 points earned at home make up 88 per cent of Ecuador’s total haul at present.
What they said
“It wasn’t enough. We’ve made progress and if that continues, regardless of whether Farias is here or not, Venezuela will make it to a World Cup sooner rather than later.”
Venezuela coach Cesar Farias after his side were eliminated.
Results - Matchday 17
Colombia 3-3 Chile
Ecuador 1-0 Uruguay
Venezuela 1-1 Paraguay
Argentina 3-1 Peru
Rest day: Bolivia