Prospect of World Cup without Messi edges nearer to reality
South American roundup: Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay all draw as Chile go third
With one round of games remaining in South America’s qualifying tournament, Argentina are outside the qualification places.
The prospect of a World Cup without Lionel Messi edged nearer to reality on Thursday as Argentina struggled to a 0-0 draw with Peru which left their qualification hopes hanging in the balance.
Despite dominating possession in front of a raucous home support at Buenos Aires’ fabled La Bombonera stadium, Messi and Argentina once again drew a blank to the dismay of their fans.
The result left Argentina in sixth place in South America’s marathon qualification campaign for the 2018 World Cup finals in Russia.
The first four teams in the standings qualify automatically, with the fifth-placed side going into a playoff against New Zealand in November.
Argentina’s draw sets up a nail-biting finale next week, with only two points separating third-placed Chile and seventh-placed Paraguay. All could yet clinch an automatic qualification spot depending on results elsewhere.
The margin for error for Argentina however has narrowed dramatically after their latest stalemate, their third consecutive draw of a faltering qualification campaign.
Argentina’s final qualifier is a challenging away trip to Ecuador in the thin air of Quito. Argentina have a poor record in the Ecuadoran capital, losing two out of three of their last World Cup qualifiers there and drawing the other. The Argentines last World Cup qualifying win in Quito came in 2001.
Late goals lift Paraguay to stunning win
Colombia were on top throughout and Radamel Falcao’s 78th minute goal appeared to have cemented their place in Russia.
However, two late errors by Colombian keeper David Ospina, combined with a number of missed chances by the home side, allowed Paraguay to keep their own hopes alive with a 2-1 win in Barranquilla. Ospina spilled the ball from a hopeful punt with two minutes remaining, allowing Oscar Cardozo to latch on to the loose ball and fire home.
A minute into injury time the keeper failed to hold a low drive and Antonio Sanabria slotted home to give the visitors three points.
Chile keep World Cup hopes alive
Chile survived a late scare to beat Ecuador 2-1 on Thursday and keep alive their hopes of reaching the 2018 World Cup finals in Russia as they moved into third-place in the 10-team South American qualifying group.
The top four teams qualify automatically for Russia with the fifth-placed side facing Oceania champions New Zealand in a two-legged play-off.
With just one game remaining, Brazil are the only South American side to have guaranteed their spot, with Chile, Colombia, Uruguay, Argentina, Paraguay and Peru all dependent on results in Tuesday’s final round of matches.
Copa America champions Chile have perhaps the toughest task in their final match, against Brazil in Sao Paulo. The five-times world champions have never lost a World Cup qualifier at home.
Uruguay kept waiting after Venezuela stalemate
Uruguay failed to break down Venezuela in a 0-0 draw and must wait until Tuesday to seal what looks a certain World Cup place.
Óscar Tabárez’s team are second in the South American round-robin group with 28 points, behind only already qualified Brazil. Uruguay could secure their place in Russia when the latest round of Conmebol qualifiers is completed.
Despite the presence of Barcelona’s Luis Suárez and Edinson Cavani in their starting line-up, Uruguay were held to a stalemate in San Cristobal that confirmed their hosts will finish bottom of the 10-team group.
Semi-finalists in 2010, Uruguay face ninth-placed Bolivia at home in their final match, and expect to progress to a third successive World Cup tournament, this time without the need for an inter-continental play-off. Uruguay qualified for the 2002, 2010 and 2014 World Cup finals through play-offs, losing out to Australia in 2006.
Lampe shines to shut out Brazil
Brazil remained 10 points clear at the top of South American qualifying despite a 0-0 draw with Bolivia in La Paz. Home goalkeeper Carlos Lampe was the man of the match after denying Neymar three times at the Hernando Siles Stadium.
Both sides hit the woodwork in a lively encounter – Bolivia at the end of the first half and the visitors in the second. Bolivia have already been eliminated but both sides will play a significant role in the final round; Brazil host Chile on Tuesday, while Bolivia travel to Montevideo to face Uruguay. AP
Guardian and wire services