THE DAY REPLAYED – As expected, Argentina overpowered the already-eliminated Paraguay on Tuesday to become the first South American side to reach the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil™ via the qualifying competition.
Colombia had the chance to join them but lost in Uruguay and must wait until October for another opportunity to seal their place. In beating Los Cafeteros, the Uruguayans put themselves firmly in contention for one of the three remaining automatic qualification slots, while Venezuela beat Peru in Puerto Ordaz to keep their faint play-off hopes alive and eliminate their opponents on the night.
Elsewhere Ecuador clung on to fourth after drawing in Bolivia, a result that allowed Chile, who were not in FIFA World Cup qualifying action, to stay third. FIFA.com reviews events on Matchday 16 in the South American qualifiers for Brazil 2014.
Two late goals in the space of three short minutes earned Uruguay a valuable victory in their bid to avoid a fourth consecutive play-off. La Celeste’s win was made all the more notable by the fact it was achieved without Diego Lugano, Diego Godin, Martin Caceres and Diego Forlan. The hosts worked hard to contain Colombia’s much-vaunted attack and then struck at the right time, with Cavani and Stuani both converting from close range.
Los Charruas, who had drawn their last two qualifiers at the Estadio Centenario, are now level on 22 points with Ecuador, but remain fifth by virtue of their inferior goal difference (0 to Ecuador’s +4).
The two sides face each other in a crunch game in Quito on 11 October. Speaking after Tuesday’s vital win, Uruguay coach Oscar Tabarez said: “We haven’t made sure of anything yet, but we’re in a better position than we were in June.”
The vanquished Colombians, who failed to score for only the third time in the current competition and had not conceded twice since losing to Argentina on Matchday 4, will now have to wait until next month to confirm their place in Brazil. To do so, however, they need only one point from their remaining two matches.
Argentina suffered no such slip-up in Asuncion, where they surged to a 5-2 victory over Paraguay to book their place at Brazil 2014. Lionel Messi scored twice from the spot, with Sergio Aguero, Angel Di Maria and Maxi Rodriguez also on target as La Albiceleste ended a run of two qualifying defeats on Paraguayan soil. Jose Nunez and Roque Santa Cruz were the men on target for La Albirroja, whose remote chances of reaching a fifth successive world finals ended when Uruguay won earlier in the evening.
Ecuador went winless for a fourth consecutive game when they drew 1-1 with Bolivia in La Paz. Still to win away from their Quito stronghold, El Tricolor are now in danger of missing out on automatic qualification, something they seemed virtually assured of only a few short months ago. All that separates them from the rejuvenated Uruguayans is their superior goal difference.
After falling behind to Jaime Arrascaita’s long-range strike, Reinaldo Rueda’s side hit back through a Felipe Caicedo penalty, prompting the coach to comment afterwards: “This point could be vital.”
Venezuela stayed in the hunt with a 3-2 home defeat of Peru. Despite falling behind to a Paolo Hurtado goal, La Vinotinto held their nerve and struck back through Jose Rondon, Cesar Gonzalez – from the penalty spot – and Romulo Otero to end a run of three games without victory. The Venezuelans have just one game remaining, however, and only a slim chance of finishing fifth.
To have any chance of claiming the play-off spot, they need to win in their last outing and hope either Ecuador or Uruguay, whom they trail by three points, fail to score points in their final two games. Carlos Zambrano pulled a late goal back for the now-eliminated Peruvians, whose last finals appearance came at Spain 1982.
Player of the day
Lionel Messi (ARG)
La Pulga’s brace of spot-kicks allowed him to pull level with Uruguay’s Luis Suarez as the qualifying competition’s joint top scorer on ten goals. Messi also showed several flashes of brilliance, not least in setting up Aguero for his side’s second, and made his presence felt yet again in Argentina’s star-studded yet finely tuned front line.
11 - The number of consecutive FIFA World Cup finals Argentina have now reached after clinching their place at Brazil 2014. The last world finals La Albiceleste missed out on was Mexico 1970, and their overall total of 15 appearances is bettered only by Brazil, who have not missed one of the 19 global showpieces held to date and will of course be hosting next year’s tournament.
What they said
“We had to stand up and be counted, and we played a great game. No matter what happens now we have to finish with dignity because this team deserves it. I think this is the Venezuela people want to see,” Venezuela midfielder Tomas Rincon responds to his side’s win over Peru.