World Cup Qualifiers: Neymar fires in Brazil win, Lionel Messi’s Argentina slip to a draw
A Neymar goal and an assist ensured Brazil beat neighbours Paraguay 2-0 in the South American World Cup Qualifiers on Tuesday. Neymar is now one touch away from levelling the legendary Pele’s record of 47 assists for Brazil. In his 105 outings with the Selecao, the PSG striker has amassed 66 goals and 46 assists. This victory is special for Brazil as it marks their first triumph at Paraguay in World Cup qualifiers in 35 years.
The atmosphere in the Brazil camp has been heavy ever since last Friday’s win over Ecuador. Players did not speak publicly amid a possible revolt against Copa America in their home nation. And coach Tite didn’t answer questions as to whether he would remain in the job despite tensions with the management of the Brazilian soccer confederation.
On Sunday, the president of the confederation, Rog rio Caboclo, was suspended from office after an accusation of sexual harassment emerged.
But none of that affected the team’s mentality for the match against Paraguay.
Neymar opened the scoring in the 4th minute after a cross from Gabriel Jesus. And Lucas Paquet closed the deal in added time with a classy touch that hit the right post before finding the back of the net.
“We know how difficult it is to win here. It hasn't happened to Brazil since 1985,” defender Marquinhos said.
“We are glad we have this advantage on the table. It was a match of details. And scoring early on gave us the tranquility we needed. It forced Paraguay to come at us,” he added. Paraguay are now in sixth position with seven points.
The Brazilians are now six points clear of second place Argentina, who were held to draw by Colombia after squandering a two-goal advantage. Earlier, Miguel Borja scored an equaliser for Colombia in the last seconds of added time against Argentina in one of the best matches yet in South American qualifying.
The top four teams in South American qualifiers will advance automatically to Qatar 2022. The fifth-place team will go into an inter-continental playoff. The current standings show Brazil leading the 10-team competition with 18 points, followed by Argentina (12), Ecuador (9) Uruguay and Colombia (8).
Lionel Messi’s Argentina held by Colombia
Lionel Messi is probably carrying forward his poor run of luck at Barcelona to the international squad. Argentina scored twice in the first eight minutes as Cristian Romero headed past David Ospina in the third minute and Leandro Paredes doubled the lead in the eighth after dribbling through the middle of Colombia’s defense and gently sliding a shot into the back of the net.
But Colombia found their mojo in the second half, as Argentina were either failing at the finish or being stopped by Ospina. Argentina’s Nicolas Otamendi conceded a penalty and Luis Muriel scored from the spot at the 51st. But just when it appeared Argentina would take another step closer to the World Cup with an away win, Borja's header triggered wild celebrations for the hosts.
“We had a great first half, we pressured and scored twice," Argentina's Lautaro Martinez said after the match. “In the second we could not keep our pace, we were tired. What matters is that we got a point,” he added.
It was Colombia’s second match under coach Reinaldo Rueda, who took over after Portuguese coach Carlos Queiroz was fired. Last week the team beat Peru 3-0 in Lima.
The next matches in South American World Cup qualifiers will be played in September and October.