Friday and Saturday games in South America provided plenty of talking points, including a hard-fought battle between giants Argentina and Colombia. Here is Will Burns with a recap of all the action.
Bolivia 1-1 Venezuela: After picking up a draw away to Bolivia, fifth-placed Venezuela may feel they missed a fine opportunity to put some distance between themselves and their pursuers. Cesar Farias’ side currently occupy the region’s Intercontinental Play-off berth and took the lead in La Paz thanks to Juan Arango, whose 22nd senior international strike moved him level with Giancarlo Maldonado as La Vinotinto’s all-time leading marksman. With just four minutes from the end, however, the visitors hopes of a vital victory were dashed by an equaliser from Jhasmani Campos. Nor did the draw do Bolivia’s own cause much good, as Xavier Azcargorta’s charges remain six points behind Venezuela with only 12 to play for.
Argentina 0-0 Colombia: Despite leaving the World Player of the Year, Lionel Messi on the bench, qualifying group leaders Argentina arguably deserved more against Colombia. However, La Albiceleste were unable to overcome the brave resistance of Los Cafeteros keeper David Ospina and had to settle for a 0-0 draw, a result that moved the Colombians up into second place. Another factor was the sheer intensity of the encounter, underlined by a total of eight yellow cards as well as straight reds for both Argentine striker Gonzalo Higuain and Colombian defender Cristian Zapata.
Paraguay 1-2 Chile: Well aware of what was at stake, Chile coach Jorge Sampaoli sent out a side boasting no fewer than three out-and-out forwards – an ambitious approach that led to La Roja dominating proceedings from start to finish. The Chileans have now won their last three games against Paraguay, two of which took place in Asuncion. The victory moved Chile two points clear ahead of fifth-placed Venezuela, while also putting them within two of Ecuador and Colombia, both of whom must face Chile in October. Defeat for Paraguay, meanwhile, has practically written off their already slim chances of qualifying. This fact overshadowed a record-breaking strike from veteran striker Roque Santa Cruz – who is now La Albirroja’s 26-goal all-time leading scorer, one ahead of Jose Cardozo.
Peru 1-0 Ecuador: Unable to take advantage of Colombia’s result were Ecuador, who are still yet to win on the road in qualifying. On the back of two consecutive draws away from their Quito stronghold, Reinaldo Rueda’s charges were beaten 1-0 by Peru in Lima, where they had not tasted defeat since 1977, and thus slipped from second to third in the standings. The only goal of the game was struck by Los Incaicos’ veteran Claudio Pizarro, a winner that helped Peru bump Uruguay out of sixth spot and moved them within two points of Venezuela, who they visit in September.
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