Lionel Messi was among the scorers as Argentina beat rival Uruguay 3-0 on Sunday, hours after Brazil’s run of consecutive wins in South American World Cup qualifying ended in a 0-0 draw with Colombia.
Brazil leads the qualifying competition with 28 points from nine wins and the draw, six points clear of second-place Argentina after 10 matches.
Brazil’s tally so far would have been enough to qualify for all World Cups directly since 2002. Ecuador remains in third spot with 16 points, marginally ahead of Uruguay based on the number of victories.
Colombia is in fifth place with 15 points. All three have already played 11 matches. The top four teams earn direct entry to the World Cup in Qatar next year.
The fifth-place team can still qualify via an inter-continental playoff. All teams in South American World Cup qualifiers will play again on Thursday. Messi’s team was preparing for a long, tense night at the Monumental Stadium in Buenos Aires.
Uruguay coach Óscar Tabárez selected a back-five tasked with stopping Argentina’s powerful offense and his team created most of the best early opportunities, with Luis Suárez hitting the post once. But a stroke of luck helped Argentina in the 38th minute.
Messi gave an overhead pass in an attempt to assist Nico Gonzalez, who failed to touch it. But the ball gently and unexpectedly passed by goalkeeper Fernando Muslera, into the right corner. Luck once more was on the Argentinian side in the 44th.
A series of passing mistakes by both teams gave a clear opportunity to Lautaro Martinez on the edge of the box.—AP