photo by ISIphotos.com
By FRANCO PANIZO
Argentina knew that a win would put them in the driver's seat in CONMEBOL World Cup qualifying for Brazil 2014, and they took care of business with a relatively easy win over Paraguay on Friday.
The Argentines jumped into first place in the South American standings after taking a 3-1 home victory against underperforming Paraguay in a match in which they never trailed. Angel di Maria netted three minutes into the encounter at Estadio Mario Alberto Kempes, but the visitors made things interesting when Argentine-born Paraguay midfielder Jonathan Fabbro converted on a penalty kick following a handball in the box.
Los Guaranies had other opportunities to find the back of the net, but the superior side was Argentina. Gonzalo Higuain scored the winner at the half-hour mark and Leo Messi netted an insurance goal in the second half off a picture-perfect free kick to move into the top spot in the standings and further Paraguay's problems.
The albiceleste were not the only ones to put forth an impressive performance at home, either. Colombia cruised to a surprising 4-0 demolition of Uruguay at Estadio Metropolitano Roberto Melendez to move into fifth place in the table. Red-hot Radamel Falcao scored two minutes in, Teofilo Gutierrez added a brace and Juan Camilo Zuniga capped the scoring in front of the ecstatic Colombian fans with a quality goal that included a nutmeg on Alvaro Pereira. Philadelphia Union centerback Carlos Valdes started and played 90 minutes in defense as Los Cafeteros recorded their second cleansheet of the qualifying campaign.
Here are the other results from Friday's CONMEBOL World Cup qualifiers as well as the current standings:
FARFAN INSPIRES PERU TO COMEBACK VICTORY OVER VENEZUELA
Peru was in dire need of three points after having lost four straight matches in qualifying, and Jefferson Farfan helped them do just that with a two-goal performance that saw the Peruvians bounce back after initially going down. La Blanquirroja went down at Estadio Nacional Lima courtesy of a free kick goal from Juan Arango just before halftime, but Farfan pulled Peru level two minutes after the intermission before netting the winner near the hour-mark. Former New York Red Bulls defender Gabriel Cichero added to La Vinotinto's misery as he was sent off with a second yellow card late in the match.
ECUADOR SQUEAKS BY BOLIVIA THANKS TO PENALTY KICK
Ecuador made sure all the home teams would win in the seventh round of CONMEBOL qualifying, but they did so by the slimmest of margins. Felipe Caicedo converted on a 74th-minute penalty kick to give La Tri a 1-0 win over lowly Bolivia at Estadio Olimpico Atahualpa. La Verde are now in eighth place with only 4 points from six matches while Ecuador has 12 points and sits in third.
CONMEBOL 2014 World Cup Qualifying (through seven rounds)
1. Argentina (4-1-1, 13 points, +9 GD)
2. Chile (4-2-0, 12 points, +1 GD)
3. Ecuador (4-2-0, 12 points, +1 GD)
4. Uruguay (3-1-2, 11 points, +4 GD)
5. Colombia (3-2-1, 10 points, +4 GD)
6. Venezuela (2-3-2, 8 points, -3 GD)
7. Peru (2-4-0, 6 points, -4 GD)
8. Bolivia (1-5-1, 4 points, -5 GD)
9. Paraguay (1-4-1, 4 points, -7 GD)
What do you think of these results? Which team/players impressed you the most? Surprised Uruguay was so easily dismantled?
Share your thoughts below.