The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Colombia humbled at home

Rio de Janeiro: Colombia hit a new low in the 2006 World Cup qualifiers on Saturday as a home defeat against outsiders Venezuela left them bottom of the South American group without a point after three games.

Argentina gave a performance which is unlikely to rekindle public interest as they beat Bolivia 3-0 at a half-empty River Plate Stadium while Paraguay and Uruguay made home advantage count in 2-1 wins over Ecuador and Chile, respectively.

Paraguay’s Jose Cardozo and Uruguay striker Javier Chevanton both scored their fourth goals in three qualifiers.

Argentina went top of the single South American group with seven points from three games, though they could lose that place when Brazil — who have six from two — face Peru in Lima later.

Paraguay and Uruguay also have six points, Chile four while Venezuela, Bolivia, Peru and Ecuador have three apiece.

Beleagured Colombia coach Francisco Maturana was under pressure even before the defeat against opponents who had only ever previously won one qualifier away from home and who come from a country which prefers baseball to soccer.

Mexico-based Juan Arango did the damage with a rasping 25-metre left-footed drive in the eighth minute. After that, Colombia attacked desperately but could not make the breakthrough.

Argentina, still treated with suspicion by the public after last year’s first-round exit at the World Cup, struggled for 57 minutes to break down a packed Bolivian defence before Andres D’Alessandro, Hernan Crespo and Pablo Aimar scored in quick succession.

Aimar brightened up a wet, windy night at the River Plate Stadium with a cheeky backheel into the net.

But Argentina’s performance, in a niggly game full of flying tackles, was still disjointed and they clearly missed suspended Juan Sebastian Veron in midfield.

Chile, unbeaten in their first two games, took a 21st-minute lead against Uruguay in Montevideo but the ‘Charruas’, who started without Alvaro Recoba because of a hamstring injury, equalised with a stunning free-kick from Chevanton.

Half-time substitute Marcelo Romero headed the winner four minutes after the break as Chile goalkeeper Nelson Tapia was slow off his line.

Bayern Munich striker Roque Santa Cruz scored the first and set up the second for Cardozo, who last year broke the Mexican championship scoring record by hitting 36 goals in 25 games, as Paraguay once again proved difficult to beat in Asuncion.

Edison Mendez replied for Ecuador who were happy with their performance, if not the result. (Reuters)

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