The day’s biggest match was postponed because of weather, and yet there was still plenty of drama, intensity, and goals on display.
CONMEBOL’s third round of World Cup qualifying took place on Thursday, and arguably the biggest story aside from the Superclasico between Argentina and Brazil being pushed back a day because of heavy rainfall was Ecuador remaining perfect after edging Uruguay. Ecuador and Uruguay entered their encounter with identical 2-0 records, but it was the hosts who prevailed in an entertaining game that came down to a couple of plays in the second half.
Elsewhere, Bolivia overwhelmed Venezuela in an exciting, six-goal affair that gave La Verde its first win of the qualifying campaign while Colombia grabbed a valuable road point vs. a Chile side that got a taste of its own physical medicine.
Here is a closer look at Thursday’s matches:
ECUADOR STAYS PERFECT WITH NARROW WIN
Ecuador improved to a perfect 3-0 start in qualifying by picking up a 2-1 home victory over Uruguay in an intense game at Estadio Olimpico Atahualpa in Quito. The decisive goal in the match-up of undefeated nations came in the 59th minute when Fidel Martinez pounced on a rebound, but the strike stung even more for Los Charruas because of a golden chance that they had at the other end just minutes earlier.
Edinson Cavani had a scoring opportunity served on a platter in the 53rd, but smacked his effort off the crossbar despite being unmarked and eight yards from goal. The miss came back to haunt Uruguay, as Martinez capitalized on his chance near the hour-mark to push Ecuador to nine points.
Cavani, who is helping make up for the absence of suspended striker Luis Suarez, had made a game of it when he found the equalizer shortly after halftime. Cavani nodded home a free kick from Nicolas Lodeiro four minutes into the second stanza, canceling out Felipe Caicedo’s 23rd-minute goal.
La Tricolor ultimately had the last laugh, as its defense did just enough to ensure that Martinez’s strike stood as the winner.
BOLIVIA ATTACK PROVES TOO MUCH FOR VENEZUELA
Led by a sterling performance from midfielder Alejandro Chumacero, Bolivia cruised to a 4-2 win against Venezuela. The two teams entered the fixture at Estadio Hernando Siles in La Paz as the worst teams in the CONMEBOL table, but two goals inside the first 23 minutes and a three before halftime were enough to sink Venezuela.
Rodrigo Ramallo opened his account for La Verde with a brace that included the 19th-minute opener, but it was Chumacero that Venezuela had no answers for. The diminutive midfielder was an active part of Bolivia’s steady dose of attacks, and set up Ramallo’s winner a minute into first-half stoppage time.
While La Vinotinto‘s defense was overmatched and out of sorts, it made things interesting when Mario Rondon netted in the 31st minute. Chumacero found Ramallo for a header just before halftime to reestablish the two-goal lead for Bolivia, and Rudy Cardozo’s 48th-minute rebounded effort sealed the deal.
Venezuela got a late consolation prize in the 55th minute with Richard Blanco’s potent shot inside the penalty area, but the frustrated visitors lost the plot late in the game and lost Luis Seijas to a red card.
Juan Arce scored Bolivia’s other goal midway through the first half on a penalty kick.
RODRIGUEZ GOAL, PHYSICAL PLAY HELP COLOMBIA TIE CHILE
James Rodriguez pushed past a largely forgettable individual outing by scoring a second-half equalizer to give Colombia a hard-fought 1-1 road draw with Chile. Rodriguez found the back of the net at Estadio Nacional in Santiago in the 68th minute, turning and firing an open shot into the net after a feed from the left from Luis Muriel.
The strike negated Arturo Vidal’s headed opener just before halftime, and the Cafeteros‘ physical style of play throughout the closing 45 minutes helped thwart Chile. La Roja had come out guns blazing in front of its rowdy crowd in the first half, but Colombia took a page out of Chile’s playbook by defending aggressively and slowing the game down with several fouls.
The start-stop nature disrupted the reigning Copa America champions’ rhythm, and star attacking duo and joint-leading scorers Alexis Sanchez and Eduardo Vargas struggled to make the kind of impact that they had in the previous two qualifiers.
Rodriguez also was not at his best, playing a bit too selfishly at times and making a number of poor decisions in the final third, but he made amends with his calm finish.
STANDINGS (Round 3)
1. Ecuador (9 points | 3-0-0 | 6 Goals For | 1 Goals Against)
2. Chile (7 points | 2-0-1 | 7 Goals For | 4 Goals Against)
3. Uruguay (6 points | 2-1-0, 6 Goals For | 2 Goals Against)
4. Paraguay (4 points | 1-0-1 | 1 Goal For | 0 Goals Against)*
5. Colombia (4 points | 1-1-1 | 3 Goals For | 4 Goals Against)
6. Brazil (3 points | 1-1-0 | 3 Goals For | 3 Goals Against)*
7. Bolivia (3 points | 1-2-0 | 4 Goals For | 6 Goals Against)
8. Argentina (1 point | 0-1-1 | 0 Goals For | 2 Goals Against)*
9. Peru (0 points | 0-2-0 | 3 Goals For | 6 Goals Against)*
10. Venezuela (0 points | 0-3-0 | 3 Goals For | 8 Goal Against)
*Have yet to play in this round
What do you think of Ecuador’s red-hot start? Surprised to see Bolivia overpower Venezuela like that? Did Colombia lay out the blueprint for slowing down Chile?
Share your thoughts below.