THE DAY REPLAYED - Ecuador eased to victory in Venezuela to end the year as the outright leaders of the South American qualifying group for the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™. In doing so, La Tri maintained their status as the only side to have scored maximum points to date.
Lying second behind them are Uruguay, who beat reigning Copa America champions Chile to leapfrog them in the table, leaving La Roja tied for third on seven points with Paraguay, who edged out Bolivia in Asuncion, and Brazil, victorious against Peru in Salvador.
A day on which there were no draws also saw Argentina pick up their first win in seeing off Colombia in a tight encounter in Barranquilla.* FIFA.com* rounds up all the action from Matchday 4 in the CONMEBOL Zone.
*Match of the day
*Uruguay 3-0 Chile*
Diego Godin 23, Alvaro Pereira 61, Martin Caceres 65
*La Celeste gained revenge for their elimination at the hands of La Roja in this year’s Copa America by putting three unanswered goals past them in Montevideo, all scored by defenders from set-pieces. Impressive throughout, Oscar Tabarez’s side gave no opportunities to the Chileans, who had Jorge Valdivia sent off after the final whistle and are still without a win at the Centenario, where they have registered a solitary draw in eight visits.
*Ecuador maintained their superb form with a deserved 3-1 win in Venezuela. Fidel Martinez, Jefferson Montero and Felipe Caicedo were the men on target as La Tri posted their first qualifying win on Venezuelan soil since 2000, ending a run of two defeats and a draw. Caicedo has now scored in five consecutive World Cup qualifiers, a streak that goes back to the last match of the Brazil 2014 campaign. Josef Martinez’s lone strike was not enough for the still-pointless Vinotinto to avoid their worst start since the current round-robin format was introduced.
Argentina got back to winning ways with a 1-0 victory in Colombia, with Lucas Biglia opening his international account in his 38th appearance for his country. The defeat was Colombia’s first at home in a world finals qualifier since Argentina beat them on Matchday 4 of the Brazil 2014 preliminaries, a run stretching back seven games, with La Albiceleste *having now gone four qualifying matches unbeaten against *Los Cafeteros (three wins and a draw).
Meanwhile, Brazil had little problem in brushing aside Peru 3-0, the goals coming from Douglas Costa, Renato Augusto and Filipe Luis. The win was A Canarinha*’s *third in a row in qualifiers against the Peruvians, all without conceding. *Los Incas *are now winless in 25 matches on the road in the preliminaries, an unwanted sequence comprising two draws and 23 defeats and extending all the way back to June 2004, when they secured a 3-1 victory in Uruguay.
Over in Asuncion, Paraguay came from behind to see off Bolivia 2-1. Yasmani Duk opened the scoring for La Verde, only for La Albirroja to hit back immediately thanks to strikes from Dario Lezcano and Lucas Barrios, with all the goals coming within five second-half minutes of each other. Los Guaraníes, who had Pablo Aguilar sent off late on, have now won all nine of their home World Cup qualifiers against the Bolivians.
Player of the day
Diego Godin (Uruguay)
Having failed to score in his first 32 World Cup preliminary matches, the 29-year-old centre-half and captain has made up for lost time in the race for places at Russia 2018, finding the target in three of Uruguay’s four games to become their leading scorer in the campaign. La Celeste have won all three of those matches, their only defeat to date coming in the one game in which he did not find the back of the net, against Ecuador.
*Did you know?
*With four consecutive wins, Ecuador have put together the second-best ever start in the South American qualifiers since the current system was adopted in the preliminaries for France 1998. The record is five wins in a row, achieved by Argentina at the start of the qualifiers for Korea/Japan 2002.
What they said
*“12 points that fire our dreams and our desire to keep on fighting. Together we can do this! Come on TRI!” *Felipe Caicedo tweets his delight after getting on the scoresheet in the win over Venezuela.*
Matchday 4 results
Colombia 0-1 Argentina
Venezuela 1-3 Ecuador
Uruguay 3-0 Chile
Paraguay 2-1 Bolivia
Brazil 3-0 Peru