THE DAY REPLAYED – There were four home wins out of four as the CONMEBOL qualifying competition for the FIFA World Cup Brazil 2014™ began on a rainy Friday across South America.
The goals and the chances flowed as Uruguay and Bolivia played out the day’s most entertaining game in wet conditions in Montevideo. Fourth in the FIFA/Coca-Cola World Rankings, La Celeste racked up their third consecutive big home victory over a side ranked 77 places below them thanks to the attacking prowess of Suarez and Cavani and an unusually prolific goalscoring contribution from Lugano. The captain received the loudest cheers of the day from the Centenario faithful as Bolivia’s long search for a win on Uruguayan soil continued.
Real Madrid duo Angel Di Maria and Gonzalo Higuain showed the depth of their understanding as Alejandro Sabella began his reign as Argentina coach with a commanding 4-1 defeat of Chile. Sporting the captain’s armband, Lionel Messi was also in fine form, scoring his first international goal in 16 games, a drought stretching back two years and seven months. La Roja, who have never won on the other side of the Andes, have now gone five games without winning, a record they will need to end when Peru come visiting on Tuesday.
Third at the recent Copa America, the Peruvians continued their renaissance under Sergio Markarian with an excellent 2-0 defeat of Francisco Arce’s Paraguay, both goals coming from Paolo Guerrero. Under the cosh from the start in Lima, La Albirroja were saved from an even heavier defeat by Diego Barreto’s fine performance between the posts, as the Peruvians tuned up for their trip to Santiago with a confidence-boosting win.
Ecuador recorded a 2-0 triumph of their own against Venezuela, who had spent a month preparing for the altitude of Quito but had no answer to Luis Antonio Valencia’s galloping runs up the right. The on-song Manchester United wide man sent in pinpoint first-half crosses to allow Jaime Ayovi and Cristian Benitez to head Reinaldo Rueda’s side to victory and avenge last July’s Copa America loss to La Vinotinto.
Player of the day
Gonzalo Higuain (ARG)
Fresh from scoring a Spanish league hat-trick for Real Madrid against Espanyol, the 23-year-old striker put Chile to the sword with another triple, one of the goals coming from his right foot and the other two with his left. “I’m happy but I can’t afford to relax. I need to keep it going,” said the insatiable Higuain, who also set up Messi for La Albiceleste’s second goal of the day.
15: The number of FIFA World Cup qualifiers Paolo Guerrero has now played for Peru. Prior to hitting a match-winning brace against La Albirroja, the Hamburg striker had only scored two goals in those games and featured in one win.
What they said
“It’s a big blow for us. We didn’t just lose to Argentina today, but to a lot a Chilean media outlets who’ve been laying into us. This defeat will make a lot of people happy.”
Chile coach Claudio Borghi responds to the nation’s media after his side’s 4-1 loss to Argentina.