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WC Qualifiers: Colombia hold Brazil; Argentina win

A round-up of Sunday’s action in the World Cup qualifiers.

Colombia held Brazil to a 0-0 draw in an engrossing game at home on Sunday, ending Brazil’s nine-match winning run in the South American qualifiers for the 2022 World Cup Finals.

Brazil had never lost to Colombia in 12 previous World Cup qualifiers but Colombia came into the game unbeaten in six qualifiers under coach Reinaldo Rueda, their longest such run since 2008.

That form book played out in the Caribbean heat with both teams playing an open game but neither creating many goalmouth chances, particularly in a stunted first hour.

The gave came alive in the last 30 minutes as both teams pushed for a winner, forcing both goalkeepers to make excellent saves to keep the game scoreless.

The top four teams qualify automatically for Qatar and the fifth-placed side go into an inter-regional play-off.

Brazil are still unbeaten after 10 qualifiers but their short passes in and around the box were met with a resolute Colombian defence, especially in the first half in front of a passionate crowd in Barranquilla.

Brazil’s Alisson was the busier of the two keepers, thwarting long-range efforts from Mateus Uribe and Juan Fernando Quintero, while at the other end, substitutes Antony and Raphinha breathed life into the Brazilian attack and forced vital saves from David Ospina.

At the bottom of the table, the two teams that started the day in last and second last both won, with Venezuela beating Ecuador 2-1 and Bolivia overcoming Peru by a single goal.

Bolivia’s victory, only their second of the qualifiers, came thanks to a late goal by Ramiro Vaca in La Paz.

Vaca scored with eight minutes remaining just minutes after the home side were reduced to 10 men following the sending off of Henry Vaca.

Venezuela also recorded their second win thanks to goals from Darwin Machis and Eduardo Bello.

Opponents Ecuador started the day in third place in the 10-team table and took the lead with an Enner Valencia penalty after 37 minutes.

However, Venezuela fought back to move on to seven points.

Messi scores unusual goal as Argentina beat Uruguay

Two goals in the minutes before half time, one of them an unusually fortunate counter from Lionel Messi, helped Argentina on their way to a comfortable 3-0 win over Uruguay in a World Cup qualifier on Sunday.

Eight minutes before the break Messi floated a 35-metre pass into the area but it was missed by both advancing striker Nicolas Gonzalez and goalkeeper Fernando Muslera and somehow sneaked into the net.

Six minutes later Lautaro Martinez swung and missed at a chance on the edge of the box but the loose ball fell into the path of Rodrigo De Paul who made no mistake.

Martinez made up for the miss when he converted a low cross from De Paul 17 minutes into the second half.

“We played a great game,” said Messi. “Everything worked out perfectly.”

“Uruguay wait for you and they generate danger. Once we got the first goal we started to find space and the goals appeared.”

The win, combined with Brazil’s 0-0 draw at Colombia earlier in the day, narrows the gap between leaders Brazil and second-placed Argentina to six points at the top of the 10-team South American qualifying group.

The top four teams qualify automatically for Qatar and the fifth-placed side go into an inter-regional playoff.

Uruguay, who ended the day fourth in the 10-team table, were unbeaten in eight matches coming into Sunday’s match.

They took the game to their rivals, with Luis Suarez coming close on three occasions in the first half hour, including one thunderous shot that came back off the post.

Argentina grew as the game went on, though, and Giovani Lo Celso missed a golden chance to open the scoring when he rounded the goalkeeper but delayed before striking a shot that hit the underside of the bar and the goal line before rolling to safety.

After the home side drew first blood they never looked like losing an unbeaten run that now stands at 24 games.

Edinson Cavani came on in the second half for Uruguay but it was Argentina who had the better chances in an entertaining game that featured only 15 fouls and no cautions.

Messi came close to getting his second and substitute Angel Di Maria could have made it four on two occasions only to twice see Muslera parry his goalbound shots.

Elsewhere, Chile won for the first time in eight qualifying matches to keep their slender hopes of qualifying for Qatar alive.

Ben Brereton and Mauricio Isla scored in the 68th and 72nd minutes to lift the Chileans, who missed out on Russia in 2018, on to 11 points, just five behind fifth-placed Colombia.

Charles Aranguiz was sent off two minutes later for the home side but Paraguay could not make their late advantage count and they had their own player sent off in the final minute when Omar Alderete saw red.

Panama stun United States

Panama won their first-ever World Cup qualifying match against the United States in Panama City on Sunday, picking up a 1-0 victory in CONCACAF qualifying for the 2022 World Cup.

The US side couldn’t find its rhythm and a header from midfielder Anibal Godoy following a corner kick in the 54th minute gave Panama the advantage to roars from the home crowd.

Godoy was taken off on a stretcher in the 67th minute with an injury and a collision between American Kellyn Acosta and Panamanian Armando Cooper late in the second half led to an extended stoppage of play as medical trainers tended to each on the pitch.

Moments later, Panama midfielder Christian Martinez was also taken off the field with an apparent leg issue.

“It was clear we didn’t have our best stuff,” coach Gregg Berhalter told reporters. “I think we came up short in a number of areas.”

Berhalter said the focus would pivot now to “regrouping” for Wednesday’s match against Costa Rica.

“Overall, we performed below the expectations we have for ourselves,” he added.

The match took place four years to the day since the United States suffered a humiliating 2-1 defeat to Trinidad & Tobago that caused them to miss the 2018 World Cup, the first time they failed to reach the tournament since 1986.

The loss on Sunday dropped the United States to second in the qualifying table, after opening the round with two draws and beating Honduras and Jamaica.

The top three teams qualify automatically for Qatar 2022 with the fourth-placed finisher going into an intercontinental playoff for another spot.

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