Messi’s Argentina thrashed 3-0
Rio de Janeiro: Brazil dealt Argentina’s hopes of reaching the 2018 World Cup finals a serious blow on Thursday with a resounding 3-0 win that dropped the world’s top ranked side into sixth place in the 10-team South American qualifying group.
It leaves the possibility of a showdown between Lionel Messi’s side and the All Whites for a final World Cup spot well and truly in play, though there’s plenty of water to flow under that bridge yet. First half goals from Philippe Coutinho and Neymar were followed by a third from Paulinho after 58 minutes to sink the Argentines and extend their winless run to four games. Brazil remain top of the group with 24 points from 11 games. Argentina are now sixth on 16 points, with the top four teams qualifying automatically for the finals in Russia and the fifth-placed side going into a play-off with the Oceania winners. “Today we imposed ourselves, the fans helped from the first minute and we leave here very happy,” Coutinho said. Messi, who returned to the side after three games out injured, was anonymous in a match lit up by brilliant moments from the home side. Brazil took the lead after 24 minutes when Neymar slipped the ball to Philippe Coutinho on the left with the deftest of touches and the Liverpool midfielder hammered an unstoppable drive into the top corner of the net. The Barcelona striker was lucky not to concede a penalty after he handled in the box 12 minutes later but he was always dangerous at the other end and he doubled Brazil’s lead just seconds before half time when he coolly slotted home after taking a defence-splitting pass from Gabriel Jesus.
Paulinho sealed it 13 minutes into the second period when the midfielder charged into the box between defenders and poked home a cross from Renato Augusto. Brazil were dominant in a rampant second half and could have scored more with Neymar and substitute Robero Firmino both coming close. In the evening’s other games, Peru got four goals in the second half to beat Paraguay 4-1 away in Asuncion, while Venezuela thrashed Bolivia 5-0. Earlier, Colombia drew 0-0 at home to Chile and stay in third, while Uruguay beat Ecuador 2-1 to remain second. - AAP But the most encouraging element Hudson spoke of today was the improved maturity in his squad. Hudson predicted New Caledonia would encounter a much more confident New Zealand squad than in recent outings when the Island minnows had caused the All Whites considerable grief.
New Zealand Football still look back in horror to 2012 when New Caledonia stunned the All Whites 2-0 in Honiara at the Oceania Nations Cup, costing the organisation $1.3 million, as the result meant they failed to qualify for the Confederations Cup in Brazil. The All Whites last played New Caledonia in June, winning 1-0 in Papua New Guinea in a Nations Cup match but they were far from impressive.
“It was a strange day,” Hudson recalled today. “We had so many things happen that day. “Mentally, we put so much pressure on ourselves. That included players and staff because of what had happened in Honiara four years ago. It was like this dark cloud over us. It was a semifinal, it was the same team and we had to win at all costs. So it was too much ‘gotta win-win-win’ as opposed to every other game where we just stuck to our plan and did what we said we would do. “But we’re a completely different team to the team we were in the semifinal against New Caledonia last time. We’re a completely different team to the one we were in Honiara. We just need to have a fresh approach and make sure we leave everybody in the stadium London: Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has urged Chile not to risk forward Alexis Sanchez in their World Cup qualifier against Uruguay.
The 27-year-old missed Chile’s 0-0 draw against Colombia on Thursday after picking up a muscle injury. Chile’s medical staff hoped he would recover in time for Tuesday’s game against Uruguay in Santiago. “He always wants to play and he’s always ready to play even when injured,” Wenger told beIn Sports. Sanchez, who has scored eight goals in all competitions for Arsenal this season, was sidelined for two months last season after injuring his hamstring. “It’s a grey area between the national team and the club team and we have to preserve the health of Alexis Sanchez,” Wenger added. “We have to get access for our medical staff to the MRI scan to see what grade it is and make absolutely sure they don’t make any decision that could harm his future.” -BBC Sports