It was mixed fortunes for the major countries of South America during the final round of the World Cup qualifiers on Tuesday night.
Five-time champions Brazil continued their 100 percent record with a 2-0 win over Paraguay, while their bitter rivals – and two-time winners – Argentina were held to a 2-2 draw in Colombia.
Neymar and Lucas Paqueta scored Brazil’s goals, marking the team’s first victory in Paraguay in World Cup qualifiers in 35 years.
Brazil (left) celebrated another World Cup qualifier win on Tuesday, while Argentina didn’t
Brazil hadn’t beaten Paraguay away from home since 1985, but they took the lead in the third minute when Neymar controlled a tricky cross from Gabriel Jesus and went home from close range on the side.
The Paris Saint-Germain striker came in this game with four goals and three assists in Brazil’s five qualifiers so far, the best streak in the tournament, and it was his 66th goal in 105 appearances for his country.
Wearing their substitution blue strips, Brazil were on top the entire time and should have added to their tally for the fourth minute of stoppage time when Paqueta scored with a superb left-hand shot into the bottom corner.
Paraguay were unbeaten in five games in South American qualifiers but rarely threatened the visitors, and even when they did they found Manchester City’s Ederson a surprising choice to replace Liverpool’s Alisson Becker in goal, equal to their efforts , with one flying save from Omar Alderete straight out of the top drawer.
The clean sheet was Brazil’s fifth in their six games and they are making their best start to a World Cup qualifying campaign since 1969, when they also won their first six games.
Neymar shot Brazil ahead of Paraguay with this close-range finish after just three minutes
The result puts them at the top of the South American qualifying group for Qatar 2022 with a maximum of 18 points.
“It was a game where we scored early in the first half and that really calmed us down and allowed us to play the ball around and Paraguay had to chase the game and we killed it in the end,” said the Brazilian defender Marquinhos.
“We knew how hard it is to get here,” Marquinhos said. “We are delighted to be closing a gap with the second-placed team in the rankings.”
Brazil has extended its lead to six points after Argentina squandered a two-nil lead that Colombia will hold.
Lucas Paqueta (left) celebrates after scoring Brazil’s second goal to confirm Tuesday’s win
Argentina, captained by Lionel Messi, scored twice in the first eight minutes, but were unable to withstand the pressure of Colombia’s second half as the hosts tied for a 2-2 draw in a thrilling World Cup qualifier on Tuesday.
Argentina manager Lionel Scaloni made five changes from the team that tied 1-1 with Chile last week and his side got the best possible start as Cristian Romero, who just played his second international, scored from a free kick home within three minutes. headlined.
Leandro Paredes made it 2-0 five minutes later as he dribbled through a pack of Colombian defenders and the ball slid past the keeper.
Argentina controlled the first half, but their dominance waned just before half-time after Aston Villa goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez was stretched off the field with a possible head injury following a goalmouth clash.
Cristian Romero celebrates after giving Argentina an early lead against Colombia
Leandro Paredes doubled Argentina’s lead with this fine individual effort just five minutes later
Argentina struggled to contain Colombia’s Juan Cuadrado as the hosts started creating more chances, with Luis Muriel and Duvan Zapata both missing opportunities.
But they came on the board five minutes into the second half after Argentine defender Nicolas Otamendi used an arm to flatten Mateus Uribe and Muriel converted the penalty.
Argentina also had opportunities, but found Colombia goalkeeper David Ospina in inspired form, twice with great saves to thwart Lionel Messi.
Just when it looked like Argentina would hold out, substitute Miguel Borja grabbed the deserved equalizer as his header squirmed under substitute goalkeeper Agustin Marchesin deep in stoppage time.
Luis Muriel (center right) pulled one back for Colombia from the penalty spot at 51 minutes
Miguel Borja slips into celebration after saving Colombia a point deep into stoppage time
“I think we had the chances,” said Argentine midfielder Rodrigo De Paul. “They have a great goalkeeper. We are not happy with a draw.’
His feelings were shared by Scaloni who said: ‘Unfortunately we leave with one point when we deserved all three.’
Elsewhere, Chile drew 1-1 at home to Bolivia, Peru beat Ecuador 2-1 and Venezuela played a scoreless affair with Uruguay.
The top four teams automatically qualify for Qatar (currently Brazil, Argentina, Ecuador and Uruguay) and fifth place (currently Colombia) goes to an intercontinental play-off.
It was a frustrating evening for Argentina captain Lionel Messi as they dropped more points