South America went on to the 9th round of CONMEBOL World Cup 2018 Qualifiers on Thursday night. The results saw routine wins for Uruguay and Brazil while Argentina fell to a draw away at Peru in the noteworthy fixtures
Uruguay vs Venezuela
Uruguay squared off against lowly Venezuela at home and picked up a comfortable 3-0 win. Nicolas Lodeiro scored around the half-an-hour mark with a fine diving header from Luis Suarez’ cross to give the home side the lead. The scoreline was doubled within a minute of the second half when Edinson Cavani thumped the ball into the net after some poor defending. The Paris-Saint Germain forward got his second and Uruguay’s third after he met Luis Suarez’ deft flick. The result put Uruguay on top of their qualifying table.
Brazil vs Bolivia
Brazil easily put aside a poor Bolivia side at the Arena das Dunas in Natal. Neymar got his 49th international goal after he played a brilliant give-and-go with Gabriel Jesus to give the Selecao the lead with a simple tap-in. The lead was doubled by Liverpool midfielder Phillipe Coutinho after a wonderful Brazilian move which included some sweet touches. Filipe Luis tripled the lead after some good work and smart running down the left wing by him and Neymar. The Barcelona winger was at it again for the fourth goal, playing a rapid through ball to Gabriel Jesus who chipped the stranded goalkeeper. The game seemed done and dusted by half-time with Brazil leading 4-0. Roberto Firmino added a fifth in a quiet second-half as Brazil trounced the Bolivians. They currently sit behind Uruguay in the table.
Peru vs Argentina
Edgardo Bauza’s Argentina side faced Peru without the brilliance of captain Lionel Messi. With an offensive front line of Sergio Aguero, Angel di Maria and Juventus pair Paulo Dybala and Gonzalo Higuain, a win seemed a certainty. However, it was one of the defenders that gave La Albiceleste the lead. Everton man Ramiro Funes Mori thumped home after a ramble in the box from a corner kick. In the second half, Argentina were unable to capitalize on their lead and conceded through Jose Paolo Guerrero who brilliantly controlled a cross and finished past Sergio Romero. 14 minutes before the end, a wonderful Argentina move saw Gonzalo Higuain easily dink the ball over the goalkeeper and send Argentina close to a win. However, Funes Mori, who was the hero of the first half, turned villain and gave away a lazy penalty after a push on goalscorer Guerrero. Cristian Cueva stepped up and struck the ball high into the goalkeeper’s right to salvage a point for the Peruvians.
Paraguay vs Colombia
Colombia sealed a fifth win of their World Cup qualifying campaign after a 1-0 success away at Paraguay. In a game that was dominated by defences, it took until the 91st minute for Colombia to score – and it was worth the wait. Substitute Edwin Cardona scored a sumptuous goal as he chipped the goalkeeper after a good passing move. In a game which saw opportunities come in small numbers, Colombia coach Jose Pekerman was full of praise for his side:
“We were very evenly matched throughout the game, but I think the result was fair. Gradually we learned to defend and counter-attack.” – Jose Pekerman.
Ecuador vs Chile
Ecuador met two-time and defending Copa America champions Chile at home as they looked to build on their strong start to qualifying and qualify for their first FIFA World Cup since 2006. They were able to do just that as Manchester United’s Antonio Valencia, who was deployed in midfield scored after receiving a cross from the left wing and finishing past Claudio Bravo. Their lead was doubled just four minutes later when left full-back Cristian Ramirez scored after some shabby Chilean defending. Felipe Caicedo put the result beyond doubt just seconds after the second-half kicked off. He tapped in Antonio Valencia’s shot to make it 3-0. Chilean claims for the goal being scored while being in an offside position were rubbished by the referee as the Ecuadorians rejoiced.
Halfway through the CONMEBOL World Cup Qualifiers, Uruguay sit on top of the standings with 19 points, one ahead of second-placed Brazil and three ahead of Ecuador, Colombia and Argentina respectively, who have 16 points and are only separated by goal difference. Paraguay are in sixth place, four points away from the top four who automatically qualify as well as the fifth placed team who have to face a qualifier against the winner of the OFC World Cup Qualifiers. Defending Copa America champions Chile are in 7th with 11 points and have a huge task on their hands. Peru, Bolivia and Venezuela occupy the 8th, 9th and 10th place spots in the standings respectively with 8, 7 and 2 points and are seemingly out of the equation.
The next round of games sees high-flying Ecuador travel to Bolivia, while Chile need a win at home against Peru. Bottom side Venezuela won’t have it easy when Neymar and Co. visit as they face Tite’s Brazil. Argentina face Paraguay in Cordoba and in the pick of the games, Colombia face Uruguay in Barranguilla. All fixtures take place on the 11th of October.