THE DAY REPLAYED – Chile squeezed out a narrow win over Ecuador to reach the FIFA World Cup™ for the ninth time in their history. Despite the defeat, La Tricolor booked the fourth and final direct qualifying slot for Brazil 2014, where they will be making their third appearance in the world finals.
Despite overcoming Argentina to pull level on points with the Ecuadorians, Uruguay were condemned by their inferior goal difference to fifth place and a fourth consecutive play-off, in which they will take on Jordan home and away in November.
The 18th and final matchday of the South American preliminaries also produced a win for Colombia over Paraguay and a draw between Peru and Bolivia, details of which are provided in FIFA.com’s round-up of Tuesday’s events.
Match of the day
Chile 2-1 Ecuador
Goals: Alexis Sanchez 35, Gary Medel 38 (Chile); Felipe Caicedo 66 (Ecuador)
An inspired Alexis Sanchez scored his fourth goal in four games as La Roja turned in another fine first-half display, though keeper Claudio Bravo had to be alert on a couple of occasions to keep the visitors out. Despite tailing off again in the second half, the Chileans held on for the three points to extend their unbeaten run in the competition to six games, five of them wins.
Reacting to Chile’s second successful qualifying campaign in a row, the first time they have achieved the feat, their head coach Jorge Sampaoli said: “At the end of the competition we found a style that gave us the edge over every team we faced.”
For their part Ecuador are back in the finals for the first time since 2006. Though they went the whole tournament without an away win, drawing three games on the road and losing the other five, Caicedo’s strike at least brought to an end a 533-minute goal drought in qualifiers in Santiago, one that stretched back to Alex Aguinaga’s goal in 1996. “We want to dedicate our qualification to the memory of (Cristian) Chucho Benitez,” said coach Reinaldo Rueda afterwards, recalling the late Ecuadorian forward.
Uruguay finished on the brink of direct qualification once again despite beating Argentina 3-2 in Montevideo. Cristian Rodriguez, Luis Suarez – from the spot – and Edinson Cavani were on target for La Celeste as they beat their rivals from over the River Plate for only the second time in ten qualifying meetings. Maxi Rodriguez struck both goals for La Albiceleste, who had already made sure of first place. The defeat was their first in 14 games, their last reverse coming against Venezuela on Matchday 2 in October 2011.
Colombia went to Paraguay and won 2-1 to make sure of second place, their best ever performance in the preliminaries, eclipsing their third place on the road to France 1998. Central defender Mario Yepes was the unlikely two-goal hero for Los Cafeteros, who have now won on their last four qualifier visits to Asuncion. La Albirroja led through Jorge Rojas but could not avoid sliding to a defeat that means they finish bottom of the table for the first time since the current system was introduced.
In the last game of the competition Peru and Bolivia drew 1-1 in Lima. Yoshimar Yotun put the hosts ahead, with Diego Bejarano levelling the game up to extend the Peruvians’ winless run to five games. Though left with their lowest points total of the round-robin era, the Bolivians were at least able to climb off the bottom of the table and ahead of Paraguay on goal difference.
Player of the day
Mario Yepes (COL)
The scorer of a solitary goal in 50 previous qualifying appearances, the Colombia centre-half and skipper helped himself to two against Paraguay, ensuring his side finished second in the table. Now 37, Yepes has consolidated his position as a leading figure in a team with high hopes for Brazil 2014.
11 - The number of goals scored by Luis Suarez in the qualifiers, a tally that allowed him to become the first Uruguayan to end the South American preliminaries as leading marksman since the round-robin system was introduced. El Pistolero outgunned Lionel Messi by one goal and Gonzalo Higuain and Radamel Falcao by two, though none of that illustrious trio were in action on the final matchday.
What they said
“It’s a good way to finish. I think we were up against a good side, even though they had a lot of first-team players out. We now need to focus on Jordan, and we’ll be making a big mistake if we think they’re not going to cause us problems. Our mindset is not to believe that the future is mapped out beforehand,”
Uruguay coach Oscar Tabarez responds to his side’s victory over Argentina.
Matchday 18 results
Paraguay 1-2 Colombia
Chile 2-1 Ecuador
Uruguay 3-2 Argentina
Peru 1-1 Bolivia
No game: Venezuela