THE DAY REPLAYED – Chile produced one of the most eye-catching results of Matchday 13 of then South American Zone qualifying for the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil™ thanks to an away win over ailing Paraguay. This performance, allied to Venezuela’s draw in Bolivia, tightened La Roja’s grip on fourth spot in the standings, the final direct qualifying berth for Planet Football’s biggest showpiece.
Also impressive were Peru, who beat high-flying Ecuador to move into sixth place ahead of Uruguay. Argentina and Colombia, for their part, produced the first goalless draw of CONMEBOL qualifying for Brazil 2014. FIFA.com rounds up all the action.
Well aware of what was at stake, Chile coach Jorge Sampaoli sent out a side boasting no fewer than three out-and-out forwards – an ambitious approach that led to La Roja dominating proceedings from start to finish. The Chileans, still without a draw in this qualifying competition, have now won their last three games against Paraguay, two of which took place in Asuncion.
The victory moved La Roja two points clear ahead of fifth-placed Venezuela, while also putting them within two of Ecuador and Colombia, both of whom must face Chile in October. Defeat for Paraguay, meanwhile, has practically written off their already slim chances of qualifying for Brazil 2014. This fact overshadowed a record-breaking strike from Roque Santa Cruz – who is now La Albirroja’s 26-goal all-time leading scorer, one ahead of Jose Cardozo.
Despite starting with Lionel Messi on the bench – the Barcelona superstar instead coming on for a 33-minute cameo – competition leaders Argentina arguably deserved more against Colombia. However, La Albiceleste were unable to overcome the brave resistance of Cafetero keeper David Ospina and had to settle for a 0-0 draw, a result that moved the Colombians up into second place.
“Ospina was in excellent form for us,” said Colombia boss, and former Argentina supremo, Jose Pekerman on the key to the goalless stalemate, the first in 14 qualifiers between Los Cafeteros and La Albiceleste. Another factor was the sheer intensity of the encounter, underlined by a total of eight yellow cards as well as straight reds for both Gonzalo Higuain and Cristian Zapata.
Unable to take advantage of that result were Ecuador, who are still yet to win on the road in Brazil 2014 qualifying. On the back of two consecutive draws away from their Quito stronghold, Reinaldo Rueda’s charges were beaten 1-0 by Peru in Lima, where they had not tasted defeat since 1977, and thus slipped from second to third in the standings. The only goal of the game was struck by Los Incaicos’ veteran Claudio Pizarro, a winner that helped Peru bump Uruguay out of sixth spot and moved them within two points of Venezuela, who they visit in September.
After picking up a 1-1 draw away to Bolivia, fifth-placed Venezuela may feel they missed a fine opportunity to put some distance between themselves and their pursuers. Cesar Farias’ side currently occupy the region's Intercontinental Play-off berth and took the lead in La Paz thanks to Juan Arango, whose 22nd senior international strike moved him level with Giancarlo Maldonado as La Vinotinto’s all-time leading marksman.
Four minutes from the end, however, Arango and Co’s hopes of a vital victory were dashed by an equaliser from Jhasmani Campos. Nor did the draw do Bolivia’s own cause much good, as Xavier Azcargorta’s charges remain six points behind Venezuela with only 12 to play for.
Player of the day
Claudio Pizarro (PER)
Now 34 years of age, the experienced Peru forward conjured up an exquisite half-volley to sink Ecuador and seal three points that keep Los Incas’ dreams of a Brazil 2014 place alive. Pizarro, a member of the Bayern Munich squad that recently clinched a Bundesliga-German Cup-UEFA Champions League treble, took his qualifying tally to two goals, having not scored in the competition since Matchday 2’s defeat against Chile in Santiago.
50 – The number of CONMEBOL qualifiers for Brazil 2014 played prior to the first 0-0 draw. The fact it featured Argentina and Colombia makes it stand out even more, given the pair are the region’s leading scorers in qualifying with tallies of 24 and 19 goals respectively. In an additional piece of trivia, Los Cafeteros’ stout defending prevented La Albiceleste adding to their run of scoring in nine consecutive FIFA World Cup qualifiers.
What they said
“It would have been much nicer to take all three points, but taking one in La Paz is still very good, we’re aware of that. What’s more, I’d even say it’s worth its weight in gold, as it could turn out to be the point that takes us to the World Cup,” Venezuela coach Cesar Farias, following La Vinotinto’s 1-1 draw in Bolivia.