Photo by Reuters
By DAN KARELL
Venezuela stunned Colombia with a 1-0 win at home, highlighting a four-match night of CONMEBOL World Cup qualifying matches on Tuesday.
The win moves Venezuela into fifth place in the nine-nation group, meaning if everything ended today Venezuela would be in a playoff home-and-home with the fifth-place team from Asia.
Argentina settled for a 1-1 draw with Bolivia, having lost Fernando Gago and Gonzalo Higuain from the squad following last Friday’s win. Playing in the high altitude of La Paz is never easy for anyone, and the Group leaders should be happy with the road point.
Uruguay’s loss to Chile pushed them out of the qualification places for the time being, and life won’t get easier for the Uruguayans as they have to go on the road for the next two matches. In the final match of the foursome on Tuesday, Ecuador routed ninth-place Paraguay 4-1.
Here is a closer look at all four of Tuesday’s CONMEBOL qualifiers:
VENEZUELA 1, COLOMBIA 0
Venezuela’s rise into a respectable soccer nation continued with an excellent 1-0 win over Colombia in front of 41,000 fans in Puerto Ordaz.
Salomon Rondon’s strike put the hosts on top, but they could have won by more if not for Colombian keeper Davis Ospina. The 24-year-old made crucial stops on Miku, Rondon, and Juan Arango later in the match to keep Colombia’s chances alive.
The best chance of the match for the visitors came in the 79th minute, when a wide-open Radamel Falcao hit a volley that cannoned back off the crossbar. The loss for Colombia drops them down to third place in the qualification group, five points behind leaders Argentina.
BOLIVIA 1, ARGENTINA 1
Bolivia will need to get more than a point from future results if they want to qualify for their first World Cup since 1994.
The hosts, playing at an elevation of over 11,000 feet, drew with South American power Argentina 1-1, in a match that the visitors will definitely be happy with taking a point from. Brazilian based Marcelo Moreno hit the opener for Bolivia before Ever Banega equalized just before halftime.
The second half saw both sides struggle to convert chances, and a much weakened Argentina side was content, even with Lionel Messi on the field, to stay compact. For Messi, playing without Gago meant that his passing pipeline was cut off, and the Banega and Javier Mascherano midfield combination couldn’t reproduce the results seen last Friday.
CHILE 2, URUGUAY 0
Uruguay slumped to yet another World Cup qualifying defeat, losing to Chile 2-0 in Santiago. Estaban Paredes scored ten minutes in for the hosts, and Eduardo Vargas finished the match off for Chile with a goal 12 minutes from time.
The Uruguayan side have now played six matches without a win, with two draws and four losses during that stretch. Manager Oscar Tabarez tried changing his lineup—dropping Diego Forlan—but it was to no avail. Forward Luis Suarez found his way into controversy again, as video replays seem to show Suarez hitting Chilean defender Gonzalo Jara in the face.
Chile moves into fourth place and an automatic qualifying spot for the upcoming World Cup. Like Uruguay, Chile had not won in qualifying since June 2012, but the latest win has boosted the side and should give them confidence when they face Paraguay and Bolivia in the next two rounds.
ECUADOR 4, PARAGUAY 1
Paraguay’s hopes for qualifying for the World Cup took a direct hit on Tuesday, when Ecuador ran riot, defeating Paraguay 4-1. Forward Jefferson Montero scored two goals, including the match winner in the 50th minute.
The visitors actually took the lead in the 15th minute through Luis Caballero, but four straight from the Ecuadorians gave them not only a win, but second place in the group, just four points behind Argentina. Felipe Caicedo scored the tying goal for the hosts before Montero’s brace and a goal from Christian Benitez put Paraguay away.
Paraguay now sit in last place in the group, one point behind Bolivia, but still only seven points behind fifth place.
What did you make of the results? Which match stood out for you?
Share your thoughts below.