Matchday ten of the South American qualifying competition for the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™ proved a perfect one for Paraguay. While they were winning again to put one foot firmly in the finals, Argentina and Brazil stumbled to leave the race for the remaining three automatic spots tighter than ever. Only five points separate the quintet of sides chasing the Albirroja,* *and with eight rounds still to go the two continental giants still have much to do.
FIFA.com rounds up all the midweek highlights from the CONMEBOL Zone, which included an historic triumph for Chile over Argentina, another deflating home performance from Brazil and an unexpected comeback win for Venezuela against Ecuador.
Match of the day
Chile 1-0 Argentina
Goal: Fabian Orellana 35
Unintimidated by their neighbour's reputation, Chile stood firm on a warm evening in Santiago to record a deserved win. Marcelo Bielsa's side approached the game as if their lives depended on it, handing the visitors only their second defeat of the campaign. Orellana's first-half goal was no less than the hosts deserved, and they stay fourth but are now level on points with their neighbours. For Alfio Basile and his men, meanwhile, the problems are starting to mount.
Surprise of the day
Bolivia 2-2 Uruguay
Goals: Marcelo Martins 15, 42 (Bolivia); Carlos Bueno 63, Sebastian Abreu 88 (Uruguay)
*Two goals down at the break, Uruguay looked down and out in La Paz. The *Celeste are nothing if not tenacious, however, and showed some of their famed grit and determination to escape with a draw thanks to second-half headers from Bueno and Abreu. Grateful to be among the points again after losing to Argentina at the weekend, the Uruguayans cling on to fifth and the coveted play-off spot.
The other matchesThe Paraguayan juggernaut continues to gather momentum on its seemingly inexorable journey to South Africa 2010. The Guaraníes chalked up their fifth consecutive home win, this time at the expense of Peru. New boy Edgar Benitez proved their saviour, coming on after a goalless first half to score with a left-foot strike and take the tabletoppers to 23 points. The luckless Peruvians remain rooted to the bottom on seven.
Venezuela were also celebrating after reviving their hopes with a heartening 3-1 win over Ecuador, their first in six outings. The Tricolor, who arrived in Puerto La Cruz buoyed by a six-game unbeaten run, took an early lead through Isaac Mina. The Vinotinto surged back with a glorious 20-minute spell in the second half, however, scoring as many goals in that time as they had in their previous five matches, the timely treble coming from Giancarlo Maldonado, Alejandro Moreno and Juan Arango.
Brazil's home travails continued as they recorded their third straight goalless draw in front of their own fans, this time against Colombia. Despite hanging on to second place in the table, Dunga's men were short of ideas once again and left the field to another round of boos and catcalls. The goal-shy Cafeteros, meanwhile, have now gone 532 minutes without finding the back of the net and six matches without a win. Little wonder, then, that they are languishing in seventh, five points adrift of the automatic qualification slots.
Player of the day
Fabian Orellana (CHI)
The Audax Italiano midfielder enjoyed a dream debut against Argentina in Santiago, producing a flawless display on the right flank and scoring the only goal of the game to give La Roja their first ever win over the Albiceleste in a FIFA World Cup qualifying match.
The stat 28 - The number of points Paraguay accrued in qualifying for the 2006 FIFA World Cup Germany. With eight games still to go this time around, the Albirroja have already amassed 23.
South American Zone, Matchday 10 results
*Bolivia 2-2 Uruguay
Paraguay 1-0 Peru
Chile 1-0 Argentina
Brazil 0-0 Colombia
Venezuela 3-1 Ecuador