By JOEY SAMUEL
Different coach, same old inconsistency.
That was the story Tuesday night as Argentina slumped to a 1-0 defeat away to Venezuela in the second round of 2014 World Cup qualifying in South America. Despite replacing coach Sergio Batista after a poor performance at the 2011 Copa America, Argentina once again struggled against a lesser opponent under new coach Alejandro Sabella.
For Venezuela, meanwhile, the win was the first time in history that it defeated mighty Argentina. It also represented a continuation of the strong form seen at that same Copa America, where the Vinotinto surprised with their strong play en route to a fourth-place finish.
World Cup qualifying continued elsewhere across the world on Tuesday, including in Asia, where China were defeated 1-0 at home by Iraq. China, which was were expected to show big improvement this qualifying cycle, has now lost two straight games and its hopes of advancing to the next round are disappearing quickly.
In other World Cup qualifiers around the globe:
PANAMA ADVANCES IN CONCACAF
At the 2011 Gold Cup, Panama emerged as a strong contender, as it upset the United States in the group stage before finishing in a tie for third place.
The Panamanians continued to show why they could be a new force in CONCACAF on Tuesday as they sealed their place in the third round of qualifying by beating Nicaragua, 5-1. A hat-trick from Blas Perez and a brace from Luis Tejada were more than enough for Panama, which will now take its place in Group C of the CONCACAF semifinal round. Panama will join Honduras and Cuba in that group, as both received byes from the current round.
GUYANA, ANTIGUA & BARBUDA IN GOOD POSITION
The surprises so far in the second round of CONCACAF qualifying have been Guyana and Antigua & Barbuda. The two teams, who are great examples of the type of teams intended to benefit from the new qualifying format, find themselves in first place in their respective groups.
Guyana drew 1-1 away to Bermuda on Tuesday in a game played between two of the most geographically distant teams in CONCACAF. Actually part of South America, Guyana will play Trinidad & Tobago in their final two games in November and will advance if they can win either game or draw both. The winner of Group B joins Mexico and Costa Rica in the next round.
Meanwhile, Antigua & Barbuda continued their good form in Group F, destroying the U.S. Virgin Islands, 10-0. The nation of Caribbean islands will advance if it can beat Haiti in either of the next two matches. Drawing both games against Haiti will also do for Antigua & Barbuda. Whoever emerges from those two matches as Group F winner will compete against the United States and Jamaica in the next round.
CANADA EDGES CLOSER AFTER DRAW
Canada dropped points for the first time in this round of qualifying on Tuesday but still remains in excellent position to advance.
The Canadians were held to a scoreless draw at home by Puerto Rico; however, Canada simply needs a solitary point from either of the final remaining matches to move on. Both of the team's last two games will be played against St. Kitts & Nevis, who are currently in second place in Group D. The winner of the group will join Honduras, Cuba and Panama in the following round.
URUGUAY ON TOP, FOR NOW, IN SOUTH AMERICA
A draw between Uruguay and Paraguay meant that the former, led by a goal from Diego Forlan, moved into first place in South America. Paraguay's goal came from Richard Ortiz in a rematch of the 2011 Copa America final. Uruguay has four points from two games while Paraguay has only one. None of the teams that have played two games have won both of them in CONMEBO qualifying.
Actually, the two teams in the best position in South American qualifying are Colombia and Ecuador, the two teams who have only played one game. Colombia beat Bolivia, 2-1, on Tuesday. Ecuador, who won 1-0 on Tuesday in a friendly with the USA, won Friday against Venezuela. They are the only teams with perfect records so far.
ASIAN POWERS CLOSE TO ADVANCING
In Asia, the traditional powers played well Tuesday, especially Japan. The defending Asian Cup champions thrashed Tajikistan, 8-0, with both Shinji Kagawa and Shinji Okazaki netting two goals apiece. Japan will advance to the fourth and final round of Asian qualifying if it once again defeats Tajikistan and Uzbekistan beats North Korea on Nov. 11. The Uzbeks beat North Korea 1-0 on Tuesday.
Japan's rival South Korea won as well Tueday, defeating the United Arab Emirates, 2-1. The Koreans went up 2-0 before giving up a goal in stoppage time to UAE, but South Korea held on to remain in first in Group B. South Korea will all but seal its passage if they beat UAE again on Nov. 11.
Australia, meanwhile, took care of its own business by beating Oman, 3-0. The win meant that the Aussies will advance to the fourth round, which includes two groups of five, if they their next match. They could even advance with a draw in their next game, depending on other results.
What do you make of the latest World Cup qualifiers? Shocked at Argentina's loss? How do you see CONCACAF qualifying shaking out?
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