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Argentina qualify for WC after draw with Brazil

Argentina drew 0-0 with Brazil to become the second South American team to qualify for the 2022 World Cup on Tuesday, with coach Lionel Scaloni saluting his players at the end of what he called a “magnificent” year.

The point, combined with results elsewhere, means Argentina join Brazil as the only two of the 10 South American sides to guarantee their place in Qatar with between four and five games still remaining.

The feat came four months after Scaloni led Argentina to the Copa America, their first major trophy in 28 years.

“This was a magnificent year,” the former Lazio, Deportivo La Coruna and West Ham player said. “Winning the Copa, qualifying for the World Cup unbeaten. It was a dream.”

Argentina players applaud the fans after qualifying for the 2022 World Cup
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Argentina players applaud the fans after qualifying for the 2022 World Cup

Scaloni had never been a head coach when he was appointed in 2018 but he has turned Argentina into a team that can look ahead to Qatar with optimism.

Lionel Messi at last appears to be enjoying his international football after years of ups and downs in a blue and white shirt and the midfield, anchored by the increasingly influential Rodrigo De Paul, is settled and solid.

Most noticeably, Scaloni has shored up a creaky defence, especially between the posts where Aston Villa’s Emi Martinez is the most reliable goalkeeper they have had in years.

His side have conceded just six goals in their 13 qualifiers, only two more than Brazil.

Tuesday night’s draw against their arch rivals was their 27th match unbeaten, a run that dates back more than two years, and came just days after they beat another fierce rival Uruguay 1-0 in Montevideo.

“We got four points against two very difficult rivals,” Scaloni said after an entertaining match in San Juan. “We all like to win of course but these games help a team to mature. Without a doubt, the balance is positive.”

“Having qualified so far in advance, in a really difficult qualifying section, is something we should be proud of.”

Who has qualified for Qatar 2022?

Check the table below to see all the confirmed teams to date…

As hosts, Qatar receive automatic qualification to next year’s tournament, which consists of 32 teams in eight groups of four and will be held between November 21 and December 18.

What is the World Cup format and schedule?

The 2022 World Cup in Qatar will feature 32 teams in eight groups of four.

Four matches will be played each day during the group stage, which will run over a 12-day period and see winners and runners-up progress to the round of 16.

Matches will only be assigned to particular venues after the finals draw, so organisers can choose optimal kick-off times to suit television audiences in different countries, as well as supporters in Qatar.

The finals draw is scheduled to take place in April 2022, after the March window for international fixtures.

Unlike at Euro 2020, there will be a third-place play-off game on December 17.

Group stage: November 21- December 2
Round of 16: December 3-6
Quarter-finals: December 9/10
Semi-finals: December 13/14
Final: December 18

Di Maria helps Argentina close in on WC spot

Argentina closed in on a direct World Cup spot on Friday with a 1-0 win in Uruguay despite the absence of Lionel Messi for most of the match as he recovers from a knee injury. 

Veteran winger Angel Di Maria scored the only goal in the seventh minute with a powerful shot from the right corner of the penalty box, with Uruguay goalkeeper Fernando Muslera not even getting close to stopping the ball.

Second-place Argentina now have 28 points from 12 matches, with the top four teams in South America earning direct entry to the World Cup. The fifth-place team goes into an intercontinental playoff for a spot in Qatar next year.

“Winning today was a gigantic step. We deserve this, we have worked for this,” Argentina goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez said. “They needed points, playing here was hard. This Argentina has amazing courage, and when we don’t play well we have to win anyway.”

Argentina were less dominant in Montevideo in comparison with recent qualifying matches. Messi only came on in the middle of the second half, but did not make an impact. The absence of defensive midfielder Leandro Paredes, who has a hip injury, also affected the Copa America champions.

Uruguay’s Luis Suarez hit the post after Argentina’s goal and his team had the better opportunities in the second half, but they largely missed the target.

A number of Uruguay players missed the match due to injuries, including defenders Sebastian Caceres, Sebastian Coates and Matas Via, midfielders Federico Valverde, Nicols de la Cruz and Giorgian de Arrascaeta and forwards Edinson Cavani, Darwin Nez and Maximiliano Gomez.

This week’s round of games saw Brazil, with 34 points, become the first South American team to qualify for Qatar. Ecuador remain third with 20 points, while Chile, Colombia and Uruguay follow with 16 points, two ahead of Peru. Paraguay and Bolivia have 12 points and Venezuela has seven.

Argentina’s next match is against Brazil when they meet in San Juan on Tuesday. Their match in September was suspended after seven minutes of play because of concerns from authorities over breaches of COVID-19 protocols. FIFA has not yet decided whether it will be replayed.

Argentine coach shot by fans during third-tier match

The head coach of a third-tier Argentine football team was shot in the shoulder and players fled the pitch on Sunday as Huracan Las Heras fans fought among themselves during a match in Mendoza province.

Videos showed players from Huracan and opponents Ferro de General Pico running for cover and fans hiding behind walls as shots rang out at the ground.

Sports newspaper Ole said Ferro coach Mauricio Romero received a gunshot wound to the shoulder as organised fans groups linked to Huracan fought among themselves.

A video showed Romero being treated for a wound to his shoulder, with the club later saying he had gone to hospital.

“Romero is doing well and out of danger,” Ferro tweeted.

“After leaving the stadium he underwent tests in a local hospital and is now giving a statement to police.”

Huracan said the fighting was “ruining” the club.

“For years families have been chased from grounds,” they said in a Facebook post. “May all those that harm the club stay away so that the real fans can return.”

The match in the Federal A league was suspended late in the second half with Huracan leading 3-1.

CONMEBOL countries reject biennial World Cup plans

Brazil and Argentina are among the CONMEBOL members who have confirmed they would not take part in a World Cup every two years.

Former Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger, now FIFA’s chief of global football development, has been tasked with examining whether shortening the gap between the finals from four years to two is possible.

CONMEBOL, the governing body for football in South America, held an in-person meeting in Paraguay on Wednesday and its 10 member countries made it clear they would not give the green light to a biennial World Cup.

A CONMEBOL statement said: “There are no reasons, benefits or justification for the change promoted by FIFA.

“In view of this, the 10 countries that make up CONMEBOL confirm that they will not participate in a World Cup organised every two years.

“The project in question turns its back on almost 100 years of world football tradition, ignoring the history of one of the most important sporting events on the planet.

“CONMEBOL supports the World Cup currently in force, with its terms and classification systems, because it has proven to be a successful model, based on sporting excellence and that rewards effort, talent and planned work.”

Closing the gap between World Cups from four years to two has already been met with widespread opposition, including from the International Olympic Committee.

UEFA has said it would stand against them “until common sense prevails and they are dropped” while last week FIFA’s proposals to reshape the international calendar were firmly rejected by European Leagues.

The Premier League, EFL and SPFL are among its members and European Leagues managing director Jacco Swart said Wenger’s proposals created a “severe shift” in the balance between club and national team football in sporting terms and in economic value.

Meanwhile, FIFA is expected to hold a global summit in December aimed at reaching a consensus over its controversial calendar plans, which include biennial World Cups.

Brazil on verge of WC qualification after Uruguay thrashing

Brazil moved within one win of qualifying for next year’s World Cup by thrashing Uruguay 4-1 in Manaus, with Leeds’ Raphinha scoring twice.

Playing with fans in the stands for the first time since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, Brazil were intense from the first minute, much different from the two latest displays against Venezuela and Colombia.

Neymar opened the scoring in the 10th minute after being teed up by Manchester United midfielder Fred. The PSG forward took the ball around goalkeeper Fernando Muslera fired in from a tight angle, to register his 70th goal for Brazil, seven short of Pele’s all-time record.

Leeds winger Raphinha, making his first Brazil start, added a second in the 18th minute from close range, and later doubled his tally just before the hour mark.

Veteran forward Luis Suarez scored Uruguay’s consolation in the 77th minute with a free-kick, but their hopes of a late comeback were dashed six minutes later when substitute Gabriel Barbosa headed past Muslera from a Neymar cross.

Argentina flew out of the traps against Peru but were held to a 1-0 victory by their visitors, with Lautaro Martinez the sole goalscorer just before half-time.

Instead of turning their first-half chances into more goals, Argentina were nearly made to pay when Peru were awarded a penalty in the 65th minute after a foul by goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez, but Yoshimar Yotun hit the bar.

Chile rose to sixth position with 13 points after a 3-0 home win against bottom-of-the-table Venezuela. Erick Pulgar scored twice and Ben Brereton-Dias scored the third for the hosts.

Bolivia beat Paraguay 4-0 in La Paz, leading to losing manager Eduardo Berizzo being sacked after the game. Rodrigo Ramallo, Moises Angulo, Victor Abrego and Roberto Fernandez scored the goals. Bolivia rose to seventh place with 12 points, moving ahead of Paraguay in eighth.