Colombia 5 (Torres 21, Valdes 50, Gutierrez 62, Falcao 87, Armero 90)
Colombia continued their qualifying campaign strongly by defeating Bolivia 5-0 before 42,000 fans gathered in Metropolitano stadium in the northern city of Baranquilla. The Colombian goals were scored by Macnelly Torres, Carlos Valdes, Teofilo Gutierrez, Radamel Falcao and Pablo Armero.
Colombia, who are revelling under the guidance of former Argentina coach Jose Pekerman, now look perfectly poised to reach next year’s finals in Brazil, their first appearance at the tournament since 1998.
“El Tigre”, as Falcao is known, hailed Pekerman’s decision to call the same players. Falcao added the team is studying how to face Venezuela, the next team Colombia will face on March 26. During the game, a minute of silence was held for late Miguel Calero, former goalkeeper of Colombia, who died last December in Mexico.
VIDEO HIGHLIGHTS – with tremendous commentary
Uruguay 1 (Suarez 82)
Paraguay 1 (Benitez 86)
Uruguay’s hopes of a vital victory against rivals Paraguay were dashed after they conceded a late equaliser in a bruising game which finished 1-1 in Montevideo. Liverpool striker Luis Suarez looked to have settled a niggly encounter when he volleyed home a Nicolas Lodeiro cross on 82 minutes.
But Paraguay, who had rarely threatened during a stop-start game scarred by some rugged tackling throughout, plucked an equaliser against the run of play four minutes later when substitute Edgar Benitez slotted home.
Argentina 3 (Higuain 28, 58, Messi 44P)
Two goals from Real Madrid striker Gonzalo Higuain were the key for Argentina as the South American giant took another big leap towards Brazil 2014, The Madrid man combining expertly with Barca’s Lionel Messi to take down Venezuela 3-0 at home.
Both of ‘Pipita’s’ strikes were laid on by Messi, who also found his way onto the scoresheet with a powerful penalty during the first half. Playing in front of its own fans for the first time in 2013, Argentina came out in the Monumental looking for early goals, with Lionel Messi looking to make the difference. The Barcelona wizard had the crowd on its feet in the first few minutes when he skipped in on goal in the opening minutes, but his shot was palmed away by Dani Hernandez.
The Albiceleste, still on a high after an unbeaten previous 12 months, looked confident throughout the first half; pushing men forward and looking to stretch a timid Venezuela. Hernandez again saved well from Messi after ‘La Pulga’ played a fluid one-two with Gonzalo Higuain, and Ezequiel Lavezzi just failed to pounce on the rebound with the net gaping. It was not long, however, before the hosts took the initiative.
Walter Montillo had gained a place in the first team thanks to Angel Di Maria’s suspension, and the Santos man was determined to grab it with both hands. A quick pass to Messi was followed with a ball that cut through the away defense, and the beneficiary was Higuain as the striker slotted home clean through against Hernandez. Argentina was now in complete control, Venezuela reduced to spoiling play, with plenty of fouls, to keep a handle on its rival.
Alejandro Sabella’s men were to go into the break two goals up, albeit thanks to more than a stroke of good fortune. Gabriel Cichero misjudged a ball under pressure in his own box and instinctively threw out an arm to control, an act which immediately led to a penalty in the final minutes of the half. There was no doubt over who would take the kick: Messi placed the ball on the spot, and blasted an unstoppable effort past Hernandez to send Argentina into the break in a comfortable position.
The Vinotinto keeper was beginning to loathe the sight of the little No. 10, and he again had to stop Messi minutes after the restart. Showing incredible balance and control, Messi weaved through the defense and tried to lift the ball over Hernandez, who managed to get enough of his body in the way to prevent a third. Montillo also went close after a fantastic turn from Fernando Gago, his shot floating just wide of the right-hand post.
Just before the hour mark, the two goalscorers combined again to end the game as a contest. Messi made space in the middle and showed his vision to release a perfect pass. Even if there was more than a suspicion of offside surrounding Higuain when the ball was played, there was no doubt about a supremely cool finish that put the Madrid man out in front as top scorer in the qualifiers.
Venezuela still chased a consolation, and went close thanks to a great individual move from Cichero. The fullback was keen to redeem himself and blasted his way to the byline, but his low cross was spooned over by substitute Romulo Otero with the defense disheveled and the goal gaping. It was all to no avail, however; Argentina was already on the way to victory, and the Albiceleste continue their seemingly unstoppable march to the World Cup in just over 12 months time.
The win puts Sabella’s men four points clear of Colombia at the top of CONMEBOL’s standings.
Peru 1 (Farfan 87)
Peru beat Chile 1-0 in on Friday night, during their qualifying match played at Lima’s Estadio Nacional. The red-and-white struggled in the first half, with a series of intense attacks by Chile, but was able to hold off Barcelona’s Alexis Sanchez, and go into the first-half tied at 0-0.
Peru managed to pressure Chile’s defense during the second half of the match, generating several opportunities. Jefferson Farfan was finally able to score for Peru at the eighty-seventh minute, giving the nearly 40,000 fans at the stadium a reason to celebrate. Peru managed to beat Chile despite missing key players such as Juan Manuel Vargas and Paolo Guerrero.
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