Argentina dominant, Uruguay held

THE DAY REPLAYED – Argentina, Chile and Venezuela were all smiling after the fifth round of matches in the South American qualifying competition for the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil™. The trio continued their fine recent records against their respective opponents Ecuador, Bolivia and Uruguay, with La Albiceleste replacing the Uruguayans at the top of the table after their handsome win in Buenos Aires. rounds-up the first three games of the weekend in South America, with Peru and Colombia bringing Matchday 5 to a close on Sunday.

Match of the day
Argentina 4-0 Ecuador
Goals: Sergio Aguero 20, Gonzalo Higuain 29, Lionel Messi 31, Angel Di Maria 76 (Argentina)

Argentina were the day’s big winners, making short work of Ecuador in Buenos Aires by turning in their best first half of football since Alejandro Sabella took over as coach. Inspired by Lionel Messi and Sergio Aguero, who was celebrating his 24th birthday, La Albiceleste finished the game off with a three-goal burst in 11 minutes, one that erased memories of the listless 1-1 draw with Bolivia last November. Angel Di Maria’s fine second-half strike set the seal on a dominant performance.

La Albiceleste, who are not in action next weekend, moved to the top of the group on ten points, while La Tricolor, who have never won in Buenos Aires, have now lost both their away games in the competition.

ElsewhereVenezuela maintained their status as Uruguay’s bogey team thanks to Jose Rondon’s late strike, which silenced the Centenario and cancelled out Diego Forlan’s opener. Though they have now gone 16 games without defeat, the home side could not conceal their disappointment at the result, in contrast to the visitors, who celebrated as if they had claimed all three points. Cesar Farias’ men have good reason to be happy, having moved into a direct qualification slot on the back of their four-game unbeaten run in the group.

In La Paz, meanwhile, Chile maintained their hold over Bolivia, defeating them in their own backyard for the third time in a row. La Roja, who have yet to draw after five games, were made to suffer in the first half, but held on to settle the issue with goals from Charles Aranguiz and Arturo Vidal, back in the side after being forgiven for his previous indiscretions by the Chilean FA. Rooted to the bottom of the table on one point, Bolivia’s hopes of reaching Brazil 2014 look increasingly remote.

In the weekend's final match, Colombia coach Jose Pekerman guided his side* to a narrow 1-0 victory over Peru in his first official match in charge. The Colombians had James Rodriguez to thank as the young winger netted the game's only goal on 52 minutes, keeping Peru winless at home against *Los Cafeteros in FIFA World Cup qualifiers since 1981.

Player of the day
Claudio Bravo (CHI)
*Though the scoreline might suggest otherwise, Chile’s goalkeeper captain had a big hand in their win in La Paz. Bravo’s agility and reflexes helped him withstand everything the Bolivians had to throw at him, the Real Sociedad custodian being kept especially busy in the first half. *Roja
coach Claudio Borghi was particularly grateful for the 29-year-old keeper’s performance, thanking him for vital stops from Pablo Escobar and Jhasmani Campos when the score was still level.

The stat 12 – The number of years that Venezuela and Chile have now gone unbeaten in FIFA World Cup qualifiers against Uruguay and Bolivia respectively, a run stretching back six games to the qualifying competition for Korea/Japan 2002.

What they said
“I don’t want to blow what we’ve done out of proportion, but Venezuela showed that we’re doing things the right way. We’ve got character and we’ve got tigers too. This little point here could end up being the one that takes us to the World Cup,” Venezuela coach Cesar Farias reacts to his side’s 1-1 draw with Uruguay.

Results*Saturday 2
*Uruguay 1-1 Venezuela
Bolivia 0-2 Chile
Argentina - Ecuador

Sunday 3
Peru 0-1 Colombia*

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