Argentina joined Brazil in qualifying for next year's World Cup in Qatar despite the arch-rivals playing out a goalless draw in San Juan on Tuesday. Defeats for Uruguay (3-0 to Bolivia) and Chile (2-0 to Ecuador) ensured Argentina booked their spot.
Bolivia scored twice in the first half then missed a penalty and had a man sent off in a 3-0 win over Uruguay, as they joined Peru and Ecuador in recording wins that boosted their chances of qualifying.
Uruguay's defeat marked the first time they had lost four qualifiers in a row and further tightens the South American race for a place in next years finals.Ecuador took a huge step closer to securing their spot with a 2-0 win in Chile.
Pervis Estupinan scored the opening goal after nine minutes and Chile, who had Arturo Vidal sent off with just a quarter of an hour gone, conceded a second to Moises Caicedo in second-half stoppage time.The result means Ecuador are third in the 10-team qualification table with 23 points, six points clear of Colombia and Peru with only four games remaining. Uruguay now have 16 points, the same as Chile. Bolivia and Paraguay are a point behind. Second-bottom Paraguay have 13 points and Venezuela have seven.
Earlier, Argentina and Brazil drew a tense and end-to-end match 0-0, meaning both teams retained their unbeaten record in the South American World Cup qualifiers. The top four teams qualify automatically for Qatar, and the fifth-placed side go into an inter-regional play off.
Neither side was able to impose themselves in an entertaining match with Freds second half shot for Brazil that clipped the top of the bar the closest either team came to breaking the deadlock.The goalless draw in San Juan means Argentina are now 27 matches unbeaten, a run stretching back more than two years .The last time these teams met the action lasted just five minutes when officials invaded the pitch to serve Argentine players they accused of not following the proper COVID-19 quarantine rules.
The match this time was hotly anticipated and while it lacked goals it did not lack action. Alongside Vinicius Jr and Raphinha up front, Brazil started with Matheus Cunha in place of Neymar, their top goalscorer who did not travel to Argentina amid concerns about a thigh injury.
Vinicius Jr only had the goalkeeper to beat after 17 minutes but his attempted chip went wide and Cunhas ambitious lob from his own half flew over just moments later.
At the other end, Alisson got down to save well from Rodrigo De Paul five minutes before half-time. The game opened up even further in the second half with Fred and Vinicius Jr coming close for Brazil.But the game was still there for the taking and inevitably Lionel Messi was involved before the 90 minutes were up. Messi was back to full fitness to start his first game since October but the Paris St Germain striker was quiet until the final seconds of the match when he forced Alisson to get down to save a rasping shot from 20 meters. "I gave it all I could," Messi said. "This was a very intense game...Its been a while since Ive been out (injured) and its not easy to play in a game that demands this kind of pace." "We knew it was going to be like this, a match that was tough and hard to perform in."