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.

Messi nets record-breaking goal; Brazil held

Lionel Messi was among the scorers as Argentina beat rivals Uruguay 3-0 on Sunday, hours after Brazil’s run of consecutive wins in South American World Cup qualifying ended in a goalless draw with Colombia.

Brazil lead the qualifying competition with 28 points from nine wins and the draw, six points clear of second-place Argentina after 10 matches.

Brazil’s tally so far would have been enough to qualify for all World Cups since 2002.

Ecuador remain in third spot with 16 points, just ahead of Uruguay based on the number of victories. Colombia are in fifth place with 15 points. All three sides have already played 11 matches.

The top four teams earn direct entry to the World Cup in Qatar next year. The fifth-place team can still qualify via an inter-continental playoff.

All teams in South American World Cup qualifiers will play again on Thursday.

Messi’s record-breaking strike

Argentina were preparing for a long, tense night at the Monumental Stadium in Buenos Aires. Uruguay coach Oscar Tabrez picked a back five tasked with stopping Argentina’s powerful attack and his team created most of the best early opportunities, with Luis Surez hitting the post.

But a stroke of luck helped Argentina in the 38th minute when Messi tried to find Nico Gonzalez, who failed to collect his pass, only for the ball to gently pass by goalkeeper Fernando Muslera into the net as the PSG forward became the first South American to score 80 international goals.

Rodrigo de Paul then doubled Argentina’s lead just before half-time, before the hosts scored again. Messi found de Paul on the right flank, and the midfielder sent a low cross into the penalty box, with Lautaro Martinez scoring from close range.

“I think we are growing a lot in the level of our game”, Messi said. “We are now used to having the ball. Tonight was a tough match and we had to win it. It all came out perfectly.”

Argentina’s next game is against Peru, while Uruguay travel to Brazil.

Brazil held by Colombia

Brazil had the best opportunities of the encounter and forced Colombia goalkeeper David Ospina to make three key saves, the most important coming in the 84th minute from a close-range finish by substitute Antony.

Neymar returned to the Seleo line-up after a suspension, but was off the pace, missing several passes and running with apparent difficulty. The PSG forward left the pitch immediately after the final whistle.

“He is an exceptional player because he makes exceptional plays, he does it exceptionally and not ordinarily”, said Brazil’s coach Tite.

“He is a special player, we know it. And he was also well marked, sometimes by two players.”

WCQs: Raphinha inspires Brazil comeback, Argentina held

Leeds’ Raphinha made two of Brazil’s comeback goals on his international debut as they recovered to win 3-1 in Venezuela.

Venezuela had never beaten Brazil in a World Cup qualifier in 17 previous attempts but their hopes rose after taking an early lead through Eric Ramirez, who converted Yeferson Soteldo’s cross after defenders Fabinho and Marquinhos slipped at the vital moment.

However, Brazil got back on level terms when Marquinhos headed home a corner in the 71st minute before Gabriel Barbosa scored a penalty six minutes from time and debutant Antony made it 3-1 in stoppage time.

Antony celebrates after scoring his side's third goal
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Antony celebrates after scoring his side’s third goal

Raphinha opened up space and hit the corner that led to Marquinhos’ goal, while Vinicius Jnr was instrumental in the build-up that led to Barbosa’s penalty.

Raphinha also set up fellow substitute Antony to tap home just before the final whistle and score on his debut.

South American qualifying

Position Team Points
1 Brazil 27
2 Argentina 19
3 Ecuador 16
4 Uruguay 16
5 Colombia 14
6 Paraguay 12
7 Peru 11
8 Chile 7
9 Bolivia 6
10 Venezuela 4

Argentina failed to score for the first time since June 2019 but a 0-0 draw at Paraguay maintained their unbeaten record in the 2022 World Cup qualifiers.

Messi was mobbed by a pitch-invader at the final whistle
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Messi was mobbed by a pitch-invader at the final whistle

Argentina have gone 23 games without defeat under coach Lionel Scaloni and are second in the qualifying group with 19 points.

The top four teams qualify automatically for Qatar next year and the fifth-placed side goes into an inter-regional play-off. Argentina were without Lautaro Martinez in attack and with Lionel Messi quieter than usual, the game lacked excitement, especially in the first half.

Lionel Messi featured in Argentina's draw with Paraguay
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Lionel Messi featured in Argentina’s draw with Paraguay

The visitors had the better of the opening exchanges but Paraguay grew into the game in the second half and tested Emiliano Martinez in the Argentine goal more often.

Substitute Alejandro Gomez brought out a superb save from Paraguayan keeper Antony Silva with 12 minutes remaining and then at the other end Carlos Gonzalez blazed a cutback over the bar three minutes from time.

Euro champions Italy to play Copa America winners Argentina

European champions Italy will face Copa America winners Argentina next June, UEFA has announced.

The match between the continental champions is the latest step in closer co-operation between European football’s governing body and its South American equivalent CONMEBOL.

UEFA said the exact date and venue for the match were still to be confirmed. The Stadio Diego Armando Maradona in Naples – named after the Argentina and Napoli star who died last year – is reportedly a contender.

messi
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Argentina beat Brazil in the Copa America final

The continued co-operation between the two confederations comes at a time when both have come out against FIFA’s proposals to reform the international calendar, which include biennial World Cups.

UEFA said an agreement had been reached for this intercontinental match plus two further editions.

Leonardo Bonucci
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Leonardo Bonucci scored the equaliser against England in the Euro 2020 final

A joint office will also be opened in London to work on future projects, UEFA said.

“By reaching this agreement, UEFA and CONMEBOL express their commitment to the development of football beyond their geographical zones, as a bridge uniting people, countries, continents and cultures,” a statement read.

“The UEFA executive committee and the CONMEBOL Council also expressed a strong willingness to continue collaborating on other issues of mutual interest going forward.”

The confederations signed a renewed Memorandum of Understanding in February 2020.

Argentina call up Martinez, Romero, Lo Celso despite travel ban

Aston Villa goalkeeper Emi Martinez and Tottenham duo Cristian Romero and Giovani Lo Celso have been called up by Argentina for October’s World Cup Qualifiers despite the country remaining on the UK’s red travel list.

Premier League club’s agreed not to allow South American players to travel to represent their countries for last month’s international break due to quarantine rules.

As of Friday, all three players are allowed to enter Argentina if they are fully vaccinated and return a negative Covid test.

However, should they return to the UK, they would have to quarantine for 10 days upon their return.

Tottenham's Cristian Romero and Giovani Lo Celso, right, react after Pacos de Ferreira score the opening goal
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Romero and Giovani Lo Celso were punished for disobeying Spurs’ order not to join up with Argentina last month

Argentina have named the trio in their 30-man squad for World Cup Qualifiers against Paraguay, Uruguay and Peru, with the final match being played on October 15.

Villa are due to return to Premier League action against Wolves on October 16, while Spurs head to Newcastle on October 17.

During the previous international break, Villa allowed Martinez and compatriot Emi Buendia to join up with Argentina.

Meanwhile, the two Spurs players were not released for international duty, but ignored their club’s wishes and travelled to meet up with the squad regardless.

The Spurs duo are understood to have received hefty fines for disobeying the club’s orders.

Last month’s World Cup Qualifier against Brazil in Sao Paulo was called off after health officials entered the field of play to stop the match in a row over Covid rules.