Argentina, Chile Stumble In World Cup Qualifiers
Reigning Copa America champions Chile face an even tougher task to qualify after their 1-0 loss to Bolivia in La Paz.
In other South American zone qualifiers on Tuesday, Uruguay and Peru moved closer to a berth in Russia with away victories over Paraguay and Ecuador, respectively, while Brazil drew 1-1 away to Colombia.
Needing a victory to move into CONMEBOL’s direct qualification places, the Albiceleste fell behind when John Murillo coolly lifted a 50th-minute shot over goalkeeper Sergio Romero after a counterattack.
The goal sparked the hosts into action and four minutes later they equalized when Venezuela’s Rolf Feltscher turned Marcos Acuna’s cross into his own net.
Five-time Ballon d’Or winner Lionel Messi was unable to assert his usual influence and often drifted deep to help his team’s faltering midfield.
The result left Argentina fifth in the 10-team standings, with 24 points from 16 matches. The two-time World Cup winners must win their last two qualifiers against Peru and Ecuador to at least secure a playoff berth.
“We have let slip an important chance but that’s football and we know that this can happen,” Argentina coach Jorge Sampaoli told a press conference after the match.
“We will analyze what happened and look at what we can do better in the next matches. If we repeat the way we played in the first half we will be closer to qualifying.”
In the Atlantic port city of Barranquilla, a second-half strike from Radamel Falcao earned Colombia a point against Brazil.
Chelsea midfielder Willian gave the visitors the lead just before halftime, combining with Neymar before curling a long-range shot past goalkeeper David Ospina.
The hosts levelled just after the restart when Falcao met Santiago Arias’s cross with a glancing header that flew into the top left corner.
The result at Estadio Metropolitano ended Brazil’s winning run in these qualifiers, which had extended to nine matches.
The Selecao, already guaranteed of a World Cup place, lead the standings with 37 points from 16 matches. Colombia, with 26 points, will all but secure a berth in their second consecutive World Cup if they win one of their remaining two qualifiers.
In Bolivian capital La Paz, Juan Carlos Arce struck a second-half penalty as the hosts completed a nightmare double-header of World Cup qualifiers for the reigning Copa America champions.
Veteran midfielder Arce calmly converted his spot-kick just before the hour mark after a Marcelo Diaz hand ball at Estadio Hernando Siles.
Bolivia were forced to play the final minutes with 10 men after Alejandro Chumacero was shown a second yellow card for hacking down Pablo Hernandez.
The result came just five days after Chile suffered a shock 3-0 home loss to Paraguay, and Juan Antonio Pizzi’s team are now in grave danger of missing out on a World Cup place.
They must win both of their last two qualifiers against Ecuador and Brazil next month to have some chance of going to Russia.
It was only the fourth win in 16 qualifiers for Bolivia, who are out of contention for a World Cup spot.
Midfielder Edison Flores scored his second goal for Peru in as many matches as his team overcame Ecuador 2-1 in Quito. Paolo Hurtado was also on the scoresheet for the visitors while Enner Valencia netted a late goal for Ecuador. The result lifted Peru to fourth with 24 points.
And in Asuncion, Uruguay defeated Paraguay 2-1 thanks to a Federico Valverde strike and an own goal from Gustavo Gomez. Angel Romero found the target for the hosts two minutes from time.
Uruguay moved to second with 27 points and need to win only one of their remaining matches against Venezuela and Bolivia.
The top four teams from the CONMEBOL group will automatically qualify for the World Cup while the fifth-ranked team will advance to an intercontinental playoff.