Ar­gentina, Brazil move closer to 2018 fi­nals

The Myanmar Times - - Sport -

LIONEL Messi pro­duced a mag­i­cal dis­play to get Ar­gentina’s World Cup qual­i­fi­ca­tion back on track on Novem­ber 15 as Brazil notched their sixth con­sec­u­tive vic­tory to put one foot in the 2018 fi­nals in Rus­sia.

Messi curled home a stun­ning 30yard free-kick and set up goals for Lu­cas Pratto and An­gel Di Maria in a 3-0 win over Colom­bia in San Juan.

The vic­tory el­e­vated Ar­gentina into the qual­i­fy­ing places af­ter a dis­as­trous run of re­sults which saw them take just two points from their pre­vi­ous four games.

But the feel­good fac­tor gen­er­ated by the re­sult was over­shad­owed by a me­dia boy­cott im­posed by a furious Messi and his Ar­gentina team­mates af­ter the fi­nal whis­tle.

Messi said the Al­bice­leste’s players were in­censed by a claim made by an Ar­gen­tine jour­nal­ist that for­ward Eze­quiel Lavezzi had been caught smok­ing mar­i­juana in the camp.

Lavezzi, who was not in­cluded on the sub­sti­tutes bench against Colom­bia, has an­grily de­nied the claims.

“We have made the de­ci­sion not to talk to the press any more. Ob­vi­ously you know why,” said Messi, who has an of­ten tense re­la­tion­ship with Ar­gentina’s me­dia.

“There were a lot of ac­cu­sa­tions, a lot of dis­re­spect, and the ac­cu­sa­tions they made against ‘Po­cho’ [Lavezzi] are very se­ri­ous.

“We know that most of you guys don’t play that game of dis­re­spect. We can be crit­i­cised if we lose, or win, or if we play well or badly. But this is get­ting into per­sonal lives. If we don’t put a stop to it now, we’ll never stop it.”

The win left Ar­gentina in fifth spot in the 10-team stand­ings, with 19 points from 12 games. The top four sides qual­ify au­to­mat­i­cally for the 2018 fi­nals while the fifth-placed team goes into a play-off with the first-placed team from the Ocea­nia zone.

Brazil coast­ing to Rus­sia Colom­bia mean­while slipped to sixth place fol­low­ing the de­feat, one point be­hind Ar­gentina.

While Ar­gentina have made hard work of qual­i­fi­ca­tion so far, Brazil ap­pear to be coast­ing to­ward Rus­sia.

Only a mirac­u­lous se­quence of re­sults is likely to deny them an au­to­matic qual­i­fy­ing place fol­low­ing their Novem­ber 15 2-0 win over Peru in Lima.

Manch­ester City-bound teenager Gabriel Je­sus was the hero once more, scor­ing one goal and lay­ing on an­other for Re­nato Au­gusto to give Brazil a sixth con­sec­u­tive win un­der new coach Tite.

The re­sult left Brazil four points clear at the top of the stand­ings with 27 points from 12 games.

In qualifiers for the 2010 World Cup, 28 points was enough to guar­an­tee au­to­matic qual­i­fi­ca­tion.

With six games left, Brazil should be safe with some­thing to spare.

In San­ti­ago mean­while, Chile con­tin­ued their re­cov­ery with a hard­fought 3-1 win over Uruguay.

Arse­nal star Alexis Sanchez was the hero, scor­ing twice for the Chileans in the sec­ond half af­ter Ed­uardo Var­gas had can­celled out Edin­son Ca­vani’s first-half opener for Uruguay.

Sanchez and Chile had risked the wrath of Arse­nal boss Arsene Wenger af­ter play­ing de­spite in­jur­ing a ham­string dur­ing train­ing last week.

Wenger had ex­pressed fear Chile had made a “sui­ci­dal” de­ci­sion by play­ing Sanchez af­ter the in­jury.

But the in-form striker showed no sign of ill-health with two well-taken goals to seal a cru­cial three points.

Manch­ester City goal­keeper Clau­dio Bravo saved a late penalty from Luis Suarez as the two-time Copa Amer­ica win­ners hung on for the win.

In other games on Novem­ber 15, Bo­livia jolted Paraguay with a 1-0 win in La Paz while Venezuela slipped to the bot­tom of the stand­ings af­ter Ecuador coasted to a 3-0 vic­tory in Quito.

Ecuador are now third in the stand­ings, three points be­hind sec­ond-placed Uruguay. –

Photo: AFP

Ar­gentina’s Lionel Messi (cen­tre) vies for the ball with Colom­bia’s de­fender Jei­son Murillo (right) and Colom­bia’s mid­fielder James Ro­driguez, dur­ing their 2018 FIFA World Cup qual­i­fier foot­ball match in San Juan, Ar­gentina, on Novem­ber 15.

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