| Ronaldo beats Uruguay custodian Diego Lopez to net one of his two goals in Brazil’s World Cup qualifier in Rio de Janeiro on Wednesday. (AP)
Rio de Janeiro: World champions Brazil squandered a 2-0 lead as they were held 3-3 at home by Uruguay in an amazing World Cup qualifier on Wednesday while an unusual defensive mix-up helped Argentina to a 1-1 draw in Colombia.
Ecuador and Peru played out a goalless draw in Quito as Paraguay, who beat Chile 1-0 away on Tuesday, sat proudly at the top of the South American qualifying group after four of the 18 rounds of matches.
Brazil needed an 87th-minute equaliser from Ronaldo, his second goal of the game, to preserve an unbeaten home record in World Cup qualifying matches after their second-half slump against a team who have always caused them problems.
Uruguay’s flamboyant coach Juan Ramon Carrasco, who has promised to consign his team’s dour, defensive reputation to the dustbin of football history, boldly fielded three attackers for the tie in Curitiba.
The irrepressible Carrasco also made five changes to the side which beat Chile 2-1 on Saturday and dropped leading scorer Javier Chevanton.
But, resplendent in a 1970s-style cream suit, Carrasco’s face dropped as Brazil ripped his team to shreds in the first half.
Kaka bundled home the first of what promised to be a hatful of goals from a Ronaldo cross after 20 minutes before the Real Madrid striker added the second himself nine minutes later with a typically innovative piece of skill. Set clear by Ze Roberto, Ronaldo flicked the ball past goalkeeper Gustavo Munua with his shoulder and scored into the empty net.
Rivaldo and Ronaldo missed more chances before halftime and Brazil paid the price.
Manchester United striker Diego Forlan scored two close-range goals to level before Brazil’s Gilberto Silva deflected a harmless-looking free kick with his head to send it looping over stranded goalkeeper Dida for Uruguay’s third. But his blushes were spared by Ronaldo’s late equaliser from an angled shot.
Brazil coach Carlos Alberto Parreira described his team’s second-half slump as a footballing accident. “In all of my career, this is maybe one of the most abnormal result I have witnessed,” Parreira told reporters after the match.
“We could have scored three or four goals but, due to circumstances which nobody can explain, Uruguay turned the scoreline around and we could have lost. It was just one of football’s accidents,” he maintained.
“We were a bit apathetic after halftime,” Brazil captain Cafu later said. “We could have won by a big score in the first half.”
Colombia goalkeeper Oscar Cordoba was also red-faced in Barranquilla after his 28th-minute blunder.
His attempted quick goal kick hit a teammate on the back of the head and rebounded straight to Argentine marksman Hernan Crespo, who scored his third goal in successive qualifiers.
Aston Villa’s Juan Pablo Angel equalised early in the second half as Colombia picked up their first point of the qualifiers but stayed rooted to the bottom of the group.
Their poor campaign is expected to lead to the resignation of coach Francisco Maturana.
Argentina and Brazil both have eight points, one behind leaders Paraguay, followed by Uruguay (seven points), Venezuela (six), Peru (five), Ecuador and Chile (both on four) and Bolivia (three).
Ecuador dominated against Peru, who were missing midfielder Nolberto Solano through suspension, but poor finishing from Qatar-based striker Carlos Tenorio cost them the chance to win. Coach Hernan Dario Gomez made no bones about his team’s problem.
“There are moments when goalscorers are fundamental and today we didn’t have one,” he said.