World Cup Qualifiers - CONMEBOL

World Cup Qualifiers - CONMEBOL (81)

Brazil turned on the style and piled on the goals as they continued their perfect home World Cup qualifying record with a comfortable 4-0 win over Paraguay in Belo Horizonte on Tuesday.

Leeds United forward Raphinha had a goal disallowed by the VAR early before netting the opener in the 28th minute, with new Aston Villa signing Coutinho adding a second on 62 minutes for his first international goal since 2020.

Brazil added two more in the dying minutes as Ajax forward Antony curled in the third, before Newcastle United addition Bruno Guimaraes laid off for Rodrygo to tap home.

The victory means Selecao, who have already clinched their spot at Qatar 2022, are unbeaten in 15 qualifiers and remain four points clear of rivals Argentina at the top of the CONCACAF standings.

Brazil have also won seven out of seven qualifiers on home soil, netting 18 goals and conceding only once, while Paraguay officially cannot qualify for Qatar 2022 due to the defeat.

Argentina has extended its unbeaten run to 29 games after Lautaro Martinez's 29th-minute strike earned them a 1-0 World Cup qualifying victory over Colombia in Cordoba.

Martinez netted his 19th international goal from Marcos Acuna's cross as already-qualified Argentina moved to 35 points from 15 qualifiers, with 13 wins from their past 15 games. 

La Albiceleste were missing talisman Lionel Messi but welcomed head coach Lionel Scaloni back to the touchline after COVID-19 and he would have been pleased with his side who were largely in control throughout.

Colombia, whose stuttering qualifying campaign is in strife after seven games without a win nor a goal, struggled to retain possession and mustered few genuine chances on goal against a stubborn Argentine defence, who have kept five clean sheets from their past five home qualifiers.

Messi's Paris Saint-Germain teammate Angel Di Maria, who was dangerous throughout, curled a 16th-minute effort just wide of Colombia goalkeeper Camilo Vargas' goal.

In the 29th minute, Vargas could not prevent Argentina going ahead when Inter forward Martinez trapped Acuna's cross inside the box and lashed home, squirming under the goalkeeper's grasp.

Out of nowhere, Colombia almost levelled on the stroke of half-time, with Luis Diaz setting up Miguel Borja who was denied by Emiliano Martinez. The new Liverpool signing's follow-up effort was cleared off the line by German Pezzella.

Acuna forced a good save from Vargas early in the second half, while the Colombian goalkeeper made a better block with his outstretched right arm to deny Di Maria from range in the 65th minute.

Giovani Lo Celso, who left Tottenham for Villarreal on loan on deadline day, flashed a chance over the bar as Argentina survived a late scare from Johan Mojico's shot which almost caused a Nicolas Gonzalez own goal, although that would not have counted due to offside.

Argentina should have grabbed a second in the 94th minute when Gonzalez broke in behind but opted to square for Paulo Dybala allowing the Colombian defence to clear.

Colombia continued their wretched goalscoring run on Friday as their bid to qualify for the 2022 World Cup took another blow.

Reinaldo Rueda's side were stunned by Peru in Barranquilla as an 85th-minute goal from Edison Flores secured a 1-0 win for the visitors.

Colombia had 30 shots to Peru's four, with 2.35 expected goals to their opponents' 0.36, and had more than five times as many touches in the opposition box. Somehow, they failed to make their dominance count.

The result means Colombia have now gone six games in a row without scoring, with Paraguay also enduring the same barren run. It is the second-longest run of matches without a goal in the history of South American World Cup qualifying.

It also leaves them in sixth place in the standings after 15 games, with Uruguay two points ahead and Peru three above them. Only the top four – presently Brazil, Argentina, Ecuador and Peru – will automatically qualify for the finals in Qatar.

Colombia, whose only goals since September 10 last year came in a 2-1 friendly win over Honduras this month, will face Argentina, Bolivia and Venezuela in their final qualifying matches.

Rodrigo De Paul claims Argentina were subjected to some rough off-field treatment from hosts Chile before their World Cup qualifier.

The midfielder said the Albiceleste were prevented from using the bathroom on arrival, had no air conditioning or water and were made to suffer the sound of sirens during their stay in Calama. 

It did not appear to derail the visitors, already safely through to Qatar 2022, as they secured a 2-1 win despite the COVID-enforced absences of Lionel Messi and coach Lionel Scaloni.

"They didn't even let us go to the bathroom when we got off the plane," De Paul told reporters. "They cut off our air conditioners, we had no water and they made sirens sound throughout the stay.

"I'm not saying it's right or wrong, but, as an Argentine, every team that comes to my country, we have to make them feel as comfortable as possible and we have to win on the playing field where it belongs."

Angel Di Maria and Lautaro Martinez netted first-half goals around Ben Brereton-Diaz's looping header as Argentina extended their unbeaten run to 27 games.

The victory improves second-placed Argentina's CONMEBOL World Cup qualifying campaign to 32 points from 14 games, while Chile are battling to reach Qatar 2022.

After a solid if unspectacular showing, assistant coach Walter Samuel was pleased to see how well the team coped despite being without talisman Messi.

"Sure there are things to improve, but the team showed character in a difficult environment," he said.

"Messi is the leader of this team, but we were able to do very well without him. We lacked other guys because of Covid that we wanted to be there, but the team made a great effort and I want to thank them for that.

"The character of the boys is moving. All the players start from scratch and want to earn a place in the World Cup. There is healthy competition here."

Brazil head coach Tite has criticized the decision to appoint a Colombian referee for Thursday's chaotic 1-1 World Cup qualifying draw with Ecuador.

Colombian referee Wilmar Roldan handed out four red cards throughout the game, including two to Brazilian goalkeeper Alisson which were both rescinded by the VAR, along with two overturned penalty awards for Ecuador.

Trailing 1-0 to Casemiro's first-half strike, Ecuador had a 55th-minute penalty awarded by Roldan overturned when it was determined Pervis Estupinan had dived in the box as opposed to being fouled by Raphinha.

In stoppage-time, the hosts again thought they had a penalty which could have led to the winner after a foul from Alisson but the award was overturned by the VAR, offering the Liverpool goalkeeper and Brazil a late reprieve.

Tite was critical of Roldan's "impulsiveness" but also the decision to appoint a referee from Colombia, who came into this matchday fourth in CONMEBOL World Cup qualifying behind Ecuador.

“Today there was no point in appointing a referee from the fourth country in the table, when the third and first were playing," Tite said at the post-game news conference.

"Roldan is a good referee, but it gives for interpretations. The designation took a bit of sensitivity."

Tite added: "It was a difficult game. The number of fouls was exaggerated, 20 fouls by Ecuador and 12 by us.

"The circumstances happened, it wasn't evil, it was impulsive. Incorrect, yes. And it needs to be corrected, yes. It needs to be mature, yes. But it wasn't evil."

Already-qualified Argentina flexed their muscle without Lionel Messi with a 2-1 away win over Chile leaving their 2022 World Cup qualification hopes at major risk on Thursday.

Angel Di Maria and Lautaro Martinez netted first-half goals around Ben Brereton-Diaz's looping header as Albiceleste extended their unbeaten run to 27 games.

The victory improves second-placed Argentina's CONMEBOL World Cup qualifying campaign to 32 points from 14 games, while Chile are battling to reach Qatar 2022.

La Roja, who suffered their second straight home defeat, have 16 points from 15 games and are seventh in the standings, three points behind Uruguay in the fourth automatic qualification spot after they won 1-0 in Paraguay.

Paris Saint-Germain winger Di Maria silenced the home Calama crowd in the ninth minute when he curled home a trademark left-foot strike from outside the box for his 23rd international goal.

Blackburn Rovers attacker Brereton-Diaz leveled the game up in the 20th minute when he precisely headed over Argentina goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez from Marcelino Nunez's diagonal cross.

Argentina restored their lead, just as Chile goalkeeper Claudio Bravo had gestured to be substituted due to injury, with the veteran stopper unable to hold Rodrigo De Paul's long-range strike allowing Martinez to fire home the rebound in the 34th minute.

The visitors weathered Chile's late pressure, with Brereton-Diaz forcing a good low save from Martinez with an 84th-minute header.

Alisson was given a stoppage-time VAR reprieve after conceding a penalty as Brazil somehow clung on to a 1-1 draw against Ecuador in a chaotic World Cup qualifying classic.

Felix Torres equalised with 15 minutes to go and Ecuador looked set to grab the win that would put them on the brink of qualification when awarded a last-gasp penalty, but that opportunity was taken away in an ending that befitted the remarkable 90 minutes that preceded it.

The first half saw the red card brandished three times – the first two, for Ecuador goalkeeper Alexander Dominguez and Brazil right-back Emerson Royal, were decisions that remained, but Alisson's was overturned.

All the controversy somewhat overshadowed Casemiro's early goal, which looked likely to be the winner given Ecuador had a goal wiped out and a penalty decision reversed soon after the restart, before Torres headed in.

Alisson was then sent off again, but for the second time his dismissal was overturned and Ecuador were denied their late spot-kick.

Brazil head coach Tite is bullish that Philippe Coutinho can help replace the injured Neymar in his first appearance in national colours for more than 12 months.

Coutinho, who earlier this month joined Aston Villa on loan from Barcelona, is set to line up for Selecao in place of the suspended Lucas Paqueta in Thursday's World Cup qualifier away to Ecuador.

The 29-year-old has not played for Brazil since October 2020 having undergone knee surgery in January 2021.

Coutinho's return coincides with the absence of Neymar who is out for the upcoming qualifiers with an ankle injury.

"People always want Neymar, but at times things don't happen the way you want," Tite told reporters.

"We feel sorry that Neymar can't be here, but we have other options. I'm talking about Coutinho. He is a player that can play in that role and I believe in his quality.

"Coutinho is an important player and he's been recovering to his best level."

He added: "From a social and human standpoint, I know how much time he has invested and the challenges he has faced to recover from injury."

Ex-Liverpool forward Coutinho has started life at Villa brightly, netting the equalizing goal in the 2-2 draw with Manchester United on debut.

Brazil have already clinched their spot at Qatar 2022, but Tite wanted to push his players in the qualifiers against Ecuador and also Paraguay on Tuesday.

"I thought the emotions and feelings would be lighter but no, we have the same emotions and anxieties," Tite said.

"I want to test players in the upcoming qualifiers. I still have the same pressure."

Tite confirmed that he will field Real Madrid's Vinicius Junior against Ecuador along with Raphinha and Matheus Cunha.

Argentina coach Lionel Scaloni will miss their upcoming World Cup qualifier against Chile due to a positive COVID-19 test.

The Albiceleste have already qualified for Qatar 2022 with five matches to play in the CONMEBOL section.

Scaloni explained at a news conference on Wednesday he had "completed the isolation" but had not received the negative test he required to enter Chile.

With assistant Pablo Aimar also absent as a close contact, coaches Walter Samuel, Roberto Ayala and Diego Placente are set to lead Argentina on Thursday.

"Both Aimar and I are not going to be able to be part of the delegation," Scaloni said. "Pablo has been in his house for several days due to [being a] close contact.

"I completed the isolation several days ago, but I continue to test positive. To enter Chile you need a negative [test result].

"Walter Samuel, Roberto Ayala and Diego Placente are going to be present as part of the coaching staff."

Scaloni also confirmed players Alexis Mac Allister and Emiliano Buendia will miss the game, with the former testing positive for COVID-19 and the latter a close contact.

After their trip to Chile, Argentina are due to play at home to Colombia on Tuesday.

Uruguay striker Luis Suarez "cannot understand" why players are being forced to play so many fixtures in such a congested period.

South American nations are playing two World Cup qualifiers over the coming days, after FIFA inserted an extra international break into the calendar.

European countries are not in action, but CONMEBOL are attempting to catch up on fixtures missed due to the coronavirus pandemic and last year's Copa America.

Uruguay are one of five teams separated by just two points in the qualification standings, but have lost their past four games by an aggregate of 11-1.

They travel to Paraguay on Thursday, before hosting Venezuela on February 1. However, that second game comes just two days before a crucial Copa del Rey tie for Real Madrid, and Federico Valverde is set to travel back to Spain for that match.

Three other players, Getafe trio Mathias Olivera, Damian Suarez and Mauro Arambarri, could well have to be involved in a LaLiga match on February 4, while Suarez's Atletico Madrid are in action against his former club Barcelona on February 6.

It is a situation that leaves Suarez frustrated.

"I have to speak about the physical part of being a human being as well as a sportsman," he told reporters.

"We cannot understand how it is that we will compete in a World Cup qualifier next Tuesday and that Pajarito [Valverde] in this case, will have to compete in a Copa del Rey match.

"That my colleagues from Getafe, Mauro, Damian and Mati, will have to play that Friday in a LaLiga match. The schedule is quite tight, but we have to adapt to it.

"We are professionals and will do our job on the pitch because that is demanded from us, but sometimes the players are not in other people's thoughts.

"It happened before when we played three qualifiers in 10 days, with long trips of more than 12-15 hours, and obviously fatigue then has an influence."

Suarez, however, insists the squad's full focus is on arresting their dismal form and pushing on to qualify for the World Cup in Qatar this year.

He said: "There are players who go through different stages of both winning and losing streaks. But when you come into the national team, the games that you have been playing suddenly do not matter.

"What matters is the hunger to compete, the wish to live and feel what I feel with this shirt on and to keep demonstrating that I am prevailing and that I want to keep competing and have the burning ambition to make it to the World Cup.

"I've been lucky enough to have played in three World Cups already and now, at 35 years old, I want to continue with that same ambition and I wish to keep playing World Cups and to have the chance to play at my fourth World Cup. Because of that, I am here."

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