Uruguay, Ar­gentina and Colom­bia qual­ify

The Jerusalem Post - - SPORTS -

Mean­while, Uruguay, Ar­gentina and Colom­bia qual­i­fied for next year’s World Cup on Tues­day af­ter a dra­matic last round of South Amer­i­can fix­tures that also saw Peru clinch a play­off spot against New Zealand and Chile miss out com­pletely.

Brazil was for­tu­nate enough to es­cape most of the drama, hav­ing al­ready qual­i­fied as group win­ners, but it still had a say in who would join it in Rus­sia next year.

Ar­gentina, a fi­nal­ist three years ago but out­side the four qual­i­fy­ing spots go­ing into its match in Ecuador, fell be­hind in the first minute, but a Lionel Messi hat-trick guar­an­teed his side one of the three au­to­matic berths still up for grabs.

“Luck­ily, we re­acted quickly af­ter Ecuador scored,” Messi said af­ter the cel­e­bra­tions in Quito had died down fol­low­ing Ar­gentina’s 3-1 win. “Thank God, we ful­filled our ob­jec­tive.”

Uruguay also went be­hind at home to Bo­livia, to an own=goal from Gas­ton Silva af­ter 24 min­utes, but it forged ahead with two goals in each half to fin­ish sec­ond in the 10-team group be­hind five­time World Cup win­ner Brazil.

Martin Cac­eres, Edin­son Ca­vani and two Luis Suarez strikes gave the home side a com­mand­ing lead be­fore Diego Godin’s own-goal com­pleted the scor­ing in a 4-2 win for the hosts.

A sec­ond-half goal from Paolo Guer­rero kept Peru in with a chance of a first World Cup ap­pear­ance since 1982.

Peru, un­beaten in its last six qualifiers un­der Ar­gentina man­ager Ri­cardo Gareca, failed to se­cure the win that would have en­sured au­to­matic qual­i­fi­ca­tion, but has the con­so­la­tion of a home-and-away play­off against Ocea­nia cham­pion New Zealand.

Five-time cham­pion Brazil had al­ready qual­i­fied be­fore its game against Chile, but a 3-0 home vic­tory saw the vis­it­ing side drop from third to sixth in the stand­ings, fail­ing to even qual­ify for the in­ter-con­ti­nen­tal play­off.

Three sec­ond-half goals, one from Paulinho and two from Gabriel Je­sus, en­abled the group lead­ers to ex­tend their un­beaten run in the group to 17 games.

The re­sult marks the end of a bril­liant run by the Chileans, who won the last two Copa Amer­i­cas in 2015 and 2016 and qual­i­fied for the last two World Cups.

“My soul is de­stroyed,” Ar­turo Vi­dal wrote on so­cial me­dia. “Thanks boys, for ev­ery­thing, for all these years to­gether giv­ing our lives in ev­ery game.”

Paraguay also missed out af­ter it lost 1-0 at home to bot­tom side Venezuela when a vic­tory would have seen it clinch the play­off berth in­stead of Peru.

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