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South American World Cup qualifiers wrap: Argentina pip Colombia, Brazil thrash Paraguay

Colombia will need a miracle to play in the 2022 FIFA World Cup after their 1-0 loss to Argentina in South American qualifying.
Lautaro Martinez scored the only goal of the match in Cordoba in the 29th minute on Tuesday after he was left alone in the penalty box by two Colombia defenders.

Goalkeeper Camilo Vargas made several important saves, including three shots by veteran Ángel di Maria. Argentina did not count on superstar Lionel Messi, who is still recovering from COVID-19.

But the team — and Brazil — have already secured their places in the FIFA World Cup. Colombia are in seventh place with 17 points. Peru, currently in fifth place with 20 points, will play later against Ecuador in Lima.

If the Peruvians win, the closest rival to Colombia in a qualifying position will be Uruguay, with 22 points. Uruguay has two games left – Peru at home and Chile away. Colombia’s last rivals are less dangerous, Bolivia at home and Venezuela away.

“This is not over, we want to go at it until the end,” Colombia coach Reinaldo Rueda said in a news conference. “Maybe we need more clarity in the midfield and also in our finishing. We miss that energy.”

South America has four direct spots in the World Cup. The fifth position will play an international playoff against an Asian team for a berth.

Leader Brazil thrashed Paraguay 4-0 at home with goals scored by Raphinha, Philippe Coutinho, Antony and Rodrygo. Coach Tite did not count on an injured Neymar playing, and also used the game to test out other players like Argentina coach Lionel Scaloni did.

Earlier, Chile beat Bolivia 3-2 in the altitude of La Paz thanks to two goals by Alexis Sánchez and another by Marcelino Nunez.

The result kept the Chileans in contention in sixth place with 19 points and nearly ended the chances of the hosts, who remain with 15 points. The Bolivian goals came from Marc Enoumba and Marcelo Martins.

“This was a reward to our efforts, but it doesn’t finish here,” Chile striker Sánchez said. Chile’s final challenges will be at Brazil and home against Uruguay.

The Uruguayans gave new coach Diego Alonso his second consecutive win on the job — a 4-1 hammering of Venezuela. Rodrigo Betancur, Giorgian de Arrascaeta, Edinson Cavani and Luis Suarez all scored for Uruguay. Venezuela’s only goal was from Josef Martinez.

Third-place Ecuador could secure its direct spot with a win at Peru. The two final rounds of South American qualifiers will be played in the end of March.

AP

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