THE DAY REPLAYED – South American qualifying for the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil™ reached the halfway stage on Friday, with Argentina, Colombia and Ecuador all sitting pretty in the top three places after Lionel Messi, Radamel Falcao and Felipe Caicedo each struck twice to fire them to respective wins. FIFA.com recaps the action on a day when Uruguay and Chile suffered further slip-ups, while bottom-placed Paraguay slumped to another defeat.
Lionel Messi’s latest double took his goal tally to 11 in his last eight internationals and proved the key as Argentina saw off a typically combative Uruguay in the latest instalment of their long-running rivalry, played out in Mendoza. Decked out in white for the occasion, La Celeste had no answer when the Albiceleste captain took the game by the scruff of the neck in the second half to condemn the visitors to their second consecutive heavy away defeat. The Uruguayans remain in the fourth and final automatic qualification slot, however, just ahead of Chile on goal difference.
Ecuador made it five wins out of five at their Estadio Atahualpa fortress in Quito with a 3-1 defeat of Chile, this after La Roja became the first side to score there in the competition when Juan Paredes struck on the break. Reinaldo Rueda’s men hit back hard, however, with Felipe Caicedo scoring twice and Juan Segundo Castillo adding another to keep Ecuador third. The only bad news for the victors is that Caicedo, who has hit four goals in his last three games, will miss next week’s meeting with Venezuela after picking up another yellow card.
Jose Pekerman’s Colombia stayed second after Radamel Falcao turned in another virtuoso display to inspire them to a 2-0 win over struggling Paraguay in Barranquilla. La Albirroja fought all the way and could have even taken the lead, but had no answer to the Atletico Madrid man’s exquisite second-half double, which keeps Los Cafeteros within a point of table-topping Argentina.
In the day’s other game, played in La Paz, Bolivia and Peru shared the points in a 1-1 draw lit up by two wonder strikes. Sergio Markarian had prepared his side for the high-altitude trip by setting up a training camp in the city of Cusco, high up in the Peruvian Andes. His acclimatisation plan looked to have paid off when Juan Carlos Marino’s right-footed piledriver gave them a first-half lead. Alejandro Chumacero replied with a thunderbolt of his own after the break, however, to set the seal on a draw that pleased neither side, least of all the Bolivians, who remain eighth, just one point off the bottom.
Player of the day
Radamel Falcao (COL)
Though it came as no surprise to see the Atletico Madrid striker in among the goals again on Friday, the two sumptuous left-footed strikes he conjured up against Paraguay took the breath away. “The first was pretty similar to the ones I scored against Chelsea and Athletic Bilbao. I think my right foot is getting a little jealous now,” he joked after giving his side their third win in a row and taking his tally for the qualifiers to five.
5 - The number of consecutive defeats Paraguay have now suffered in the group, their worst run since the current qualifying system was introduced in 1996. Bottom of the table on four points, La Albirroja’s last win was a 2-1 defeat of Ecuador on 11 November last year.
What they said
Alejandro Sabella, Argentina coach: “The Royal Spanish Academy need to come up with a new word to define what Messi does out on the pitch.”