Brazil qualify for World Cup with lot of time to spare
Brazil beat Colombia 1-0 in a World Cup qualifier in Sao Paulo on Thursday to become the first South American team to qualify for Qatar 2022. Lucas Paqueta got the vital goal 72 minutes into the match with a shot that goalkeeper David Ospina got a hand to but could not stop.
The result means Brazil top the 10-team South American group with 34 points from 12 games, nine clear of second-placed Argentina.
“Colombia sometimes play it very tight so we needed to use all the tools we had at our disposal,” Brazilian defender Marquinhos said, highlighting their improvement in the second 45 minutes.
“Our team was intelligent and we were able to take advantage of spaces when they opened up in the second half and so create more chances.”
The win extended Brazil’s home run in the qualifiers to 11 consecutive victories, a record in the South American region. The game also marked their 10th consecutive home qualifier without conceding a goal, another record.
The match in Sao Paulo was a feisty one with neither side imposing themselves in a physical game on a rainy surface that produced 44 fouls and seven yellow cards.
In the first half, Wilmar Barrios and Duvan Zapata both saw shots flash over the bar for Colombia while at the other end Danilo saw a deflected shot come off the side of the post and Marquinhos watched a header go inches wide.
Brazil made a series of attacking changes in the second half, introducing Matheus Cunha, Vinicus Jnr and Ajax winger Antony, but it took a moment of magic from Paqueta to decide the game, when he took a pass from Neymar and fired home from just inside the box. The result puts Brazil, who have won 11 of their 12 matches so far, in an unassailable position.
Special for Alisson
Goalkeeper Alisson Becker shaid qualifying for Qatar will give Brazil time to prepare but it will not change the way they approach matches between now and the November 2022 kick-off. The Liverpool keeper won his 50th cap on Thursday.
“It’s very gratifying, the first objective that we had (was to qualify),” Alisson said. “We’ve had a great campaign and we’ve qualified ahead of time and for me it was very special to do it in my 50th match.”
“What changes is that we’re qualified but every game will be the same, in the spirit of the World Cup.”
“This is just a stage,” he added. “The earlier you qualify the better, it allows the coach to prepare better, to give everyone a chance. But we will not change what we do. The next game is always the most important one.”
That next game has a special meaning because it is a South American marquee match against Argentina, the team that beat Brazil in Rio in July to win the Copa America.
Who goes with Brazil to Qatar is still an open question after a night of fascinating results that left almost all the other teams believing they could still secure one of the places alongside Brazil.
The top four teams qualify automatically for Qatar 2022 and the fifth-placed side goes into an inter-regional playoff.
Earlier in the evening, an own goal by goalkeeper Antony Silva got new Paraguayan manager Guillermo Barros Schelotto off to a losing start at home to Chile.
Ecuador remain in third place in the group thanks to a 1-0 home win over Venezuela.
Peru kept their qualification hopes alive with a 3-0 win over Bolivia in Lima.