Brazil go top, Ar­gentina stunned in WC qual­i­fiers

Kuwait Times - - SPORTS -

RIO DE JANEIRO:

Brazil recorded it fourth straight win un­der is new coach on Tues­day to be­come the new leader of South Amer­ica’s World Cup qual­i­fy­ing group af­ter 10 matches. Arch ri­val Ar­gentina, how­ever, was shocked 10 at home by Paraguay and is in a pre­car­i­ous fifth place. The two heavy­weights will face each other in Brazil in their next games.

De­spite the ab­sence of Barcelona star Ney­mar, Brazil had lit­tle trou­ble in win­ning 20 at Venezuela. Pre­vi­ous group leader Uruguay slipped to sec­ond af­ter a cred­itable 2-2 draw away to Colom­bia. Brazil is now one point ahead of Uruguay in the ta­ble.

Else­where, third place Ecuador man­aged to come from be­hind and stop ninth place Bo­livia in the al­ti­tude of La Paz with a 2-2 draw. Copa Amer­ica cham­pi­ons Chile took a much-needed 2-1 home vic­tory over Peru.

BRAZIL

It took only seven min­utes for Brazil to for­get the sus­pended Ney­mar’s ab­sence, keep up its new-found mo­men­tum and prove Venezuela de­serves the bot­tom po­si­tion in the South Amer­i­can qual­i­fiers. Teenage striker Gabriel Je­sus, re­cently signed by Manchester City, scored his fourth goal in his fourth in­ter­na­tional ap­pear­ance with a classy lob over goal­keeper Dani Her­nan­dez, who had given the ball to away eas­ily. Winger Wil­lian, who re­placed Ney­mar, scored the sec­ond at 55 min­utes af­ter a cross by mid­fielder Re­nato Au­gusto.

It was Brazil’s least im­pres­sive per­for­mance un­der new coach ‘Tite’ but he is en­joy­ing a hon­ey­moon pe­riod as the new coach, hav­ing lifted the Sele­cao from sixth in the stand­ings to top spot. The match was in­ter­rupted at 67 min­utes when the light went out in the eco­nom­i­cally trou­bled coun­try. It took 22 minute to restart the game.

AR­GENTINA

Ar­gentina finds it­self in fifth place, which yields only a fur­ther play­off po­si­tion rather than au­to­matic qual­i­fi­ca­tion for Rus­sia 2018.

Af­ter two dis­ap­point­ing draws and still with­out the in­jured Lionel Messi, new coach Edgardo Bauza’s team was even worse in the de­feat to a hard­work­ing Paraguay side 1-0 in Cordoba. The win­ning goal was scored by the vis­i­tors at 17 min­utes by Dynamo Kyiv striker Derlis Gon­za­lez. Ar­gentina had a chance to equal­ize with a penalty early in the sec­ond half but Ser­gio Aguero’s at­tempt was blocked.

Ar­gentina strug­gled in the ab­sence of ex­pe­ri­enced de­fend­ers Pablo Za­baleta, Ni­co­las Ota­mendi and Ramiro Funes Mori. One of their re­place­ments, Martin Demiche­lis spelt out the predica­ment clearly.

“We have to be hon­est with our­selves, we have to im­prove quickly,” Demiche­lis said. We have to make a big self-crit­i­cism. We have things to cor­rect.”

In Novem­ber Ar­gentina will have tough matches away against Brazil and home against Colom­bia. Messi is ex­pected to re­turn for those two. The vic­tory in Cordoba of­fers some re­lief to Paraguay, which re­mains in sixth place, but now only one point be­hind Ar­gentina.

URUGUAY

In Bar­ran­quilla, coach Os­car Tabarez’ Uruguay played against Jose Pek­er­man’s Colom­bia for the fifth time. Each had won two. The first draw be­tween them was one of the most ex­cit­ing games of the South Amer­i­can qual­i­fiers so far. In rainy con­di­tions, Colom­bia went ahead with a header by Abel Aguilar (16). Uruguay re­sponded with another header by Cris­tian Ro­driguez (27). In a typ­i­cal bull­doz­ing goal of his, Barcelona star Luis Suarez put the vis­i­tors ahead in the 73rd, be­fore Colom­bia de­fender Yerry Mina scored the fi­nal goal in the 84th.

“We are firm, we are strong and I be­lieve that this match shows that the World Cup is much closer to us,” cen­tral de­fender Diego Godin said.

Suarez equaled Ar­gen­tinian Her­nan Cre­spo as the top goal scorer in South Amer­i­can World Cup qual­i­fiers with 19 goals.

“This was a great point, we have to en­joy this,” Suarez said.

CHILE

Bay­ern Mu­nich’s Ar­turo Vi­dal gave re­newed World Cup hope to Chile by scor­ing both goals in a 2-1 home win against Peru.

Be­fore 35,000 tense fans in San­ti­ago, he opened the score for the Copa Amer­ica cham­pi­ons with a header at 10 min­utes. But when Peru­vian Edi­son Flores drib­bled through Chile’s de­fense and lev­eled the score from the edge of the box at 76 min­utes, those fans would have feared the worst. Vi­dal came to the res­cue with a 15-me­ter shot in the 86th minute.

Chile re­mains in sev­enth place with 14 points, now two be­hind fifth place Ar­gentina, who so far has the play­off spot. Peru still lags at eighth, with eight points.

The Chilean foot­ball fed­er­a­tion still claims the three points from the 0-0 home draw with Bo­livia in Septem­ber. Chile’s ex­ec­u­tives claim that Bo­livia fielded an in­el­i­gi­ble player, de­fender Nel­son Cabr­era.

ECUADOR

In the 3-0 vic­tory over Chile on Thurs­day, Ecuador’s En­ner Va­len­cia was re­moved in an am­bu­lance in what some claimed was an at­tempt to elude po­lice who were chas­ing him for al­leged avoid­ance of al­imony play­ments. With his le­gal sit­u­a­tion sorted back home, he was news for a dif­fer­ent rea­son on Tues­day with a brace that de­liv­ered a draw in the al­ti­tude of La Paz. Bo­li­vian Pablo Es­co­bar opened the score for the hosts at 3 and 42 min­utes. Va­len­cia lev­eled at 47 and 89. Ecuador stays in third place, with 17 points, and Bo­livia lags in ninth, with eight.— AP

MERIDA: Brazil’s Paulinho, left, fights for the ball with Venezuela’s To­mas Rin­con dur­ing a 2018 World Cup qual­i­fy­ing soc­cer match in Merida, Venezuela, Tues­day. — AP

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