THE DAY REPLAYED – Continuing a trend that emerged at this year’s Copa America, the South American qualifying competition for the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil™ looks set to be one of the tightest since the current round-robin league system was introduced. With four rounds of games now completed, the top five sides in the nine-team group are separated by a single point, while bottom-placed Bolivia are the only outfit yet to record a win.
FIFA.com rounds up all the news from Tuesday’s quartet of games in the CONMEBOL Zone.
Match of the day
Colombia 1-2 Argentina
Goals: Dorlan Pabon 45 (Colombia); Lionel Messi 60, Sergio Aguero 84 (Argentina)
Things looked bleak for Argentina when Javier Mascherano inadvertently deflected Dorlan Pabon’s low free-kick into the back of the net to end a largely uneventful first half. Switching his side around in the second 45 minutes, Alejandro Sabella found the perfect ally for Lionel Messi in Sergio Aguero, and though his side failed to produce their best football, they will take great heart from fashioning a late turnaround. The win was La Albiceleste’s fourth FIFA World Cup qualifying triumph on Colombian soil and the second for Sabella, who was assistant coach to Daniel Passarella in their 1-0 win in 1997, a game also played in Barranquilla.
Argentina’s hard-earned victory took them level with Uruguay on seven points at the top of the section, where they would be joined a few hours later by Venezuela, 1-0 winners over Bolivia. As was the case in their ground-breaking defeat of the Argentinians last month, the hero of the hour for La Vinotinto was a centre-half. Following the trail blazed by Fernando Amorebieta a few weeks ago, Oswaldo Vizcarrondo settled the issue with a 24th-minute header, leaving the still-winless Bolivians bottom of the group.
Cristian Benitez turned in another fine performance as Ecuador saw off Peru 2-0 in Quito to move into fourth place, a point adrift of the leading trio. Benitez it was who set up experienced midfielder Edison Mendez for his 11th goal in FIFA World Cup qualifying, the striker then capping the win by prodding home a rebound with a minute remaining.
Rocked last week by disciplinary problems and a heavy defeat to a rampant Uruguay side, Chile recovered their poise with a timely 2-0 defeat of Paraguay in Santiago. Pablo Contreras set La Roja on the way with his first goal for his country since 2003, with Matias Campos adding the second after the break as the Chileans moved fifth on six points, one off the pace. Winners in Peru on their last two world finals qualifying visits, the Paraguayans now find themselves down in seventh place.
Player of the day
Lionel Messi (Argentina)
Returning to the country where he scored his first goal in Albiceleste colours six years ago, at the 2005 South American U-20 Championship, the Argentinian captain showed his character by calling for the ball at every opportunity, netting his side’s equaliser and playing a part in their winner. A scorer in the same fixture four years ago, a 2-1 win for Colombia in Bogota, Messi can be happy with his afternoon’s work in Barranquilla.
34 - The number of years Ecuador have now gone without losing to Peru in a FIFA World Cup qualifier. Since going down in Lima in the qualifying competition for Argentina 1978, La Tricolor have faced the Peruvians nine times, winning six of those matches (the last three consecutively) and drawing the other three.
What they said
“I don’t want to sound pompous, but I think the players were playing for me today. I celebrated more today than in any other game I’ve coached, after one of the toughest weeks of my career as a coach and player. At the same time, I’ve never been so sure of the decisions I’ve made.” Chile coach Claudio Borghi reacts to his side’s win over Paraguay.