Argentina, Brazil win World Cup qualifiers; Colombia draws
Leaders Brazil and second-place Argentina won their away matches in South American World Cup qualifiers on Thursday ahead of their superclasico. Neither Lionel Messi nor Neymar had great performances for their teams.
Brazil topped Chile 1-0 in Santiago in a tense match despite the absence of nine of its England-based players, including five starters, who were not released by their clubs due to COVID-19-related quarantine restrictions.
The only goal of the match was scored by substitute Everton Ribeiro. Brazil now has 21 points with seven wins after seven matches. Chile is seventh with six points.
Brazil’s arch rivals Argentina defeated Venezuela 3-1 at the Olimpico Stadium in Caracas. Lautaro Martinez, Joaquin Correa and Angel Correa scored for the visitors. Jeferson Soteldo netted from the spot for the hosts seconds before the final whistle.
Argentina is second on the table with 15 points. Venezuela is on the bottom of the 10-team round robin with four points.
This round of South American qualifiers has seen several England-based players not travel due to COVID-19 restrictions imposed by the British government to countries of the region. Argentina, though, did not lose any of the four it called in.
The first four teams will automatically qualify to play in Qatar next year. The fifth-place team will take part in an international playoff.
In its 1-0 victory over Chile, Brazil was without five frequent starters for the match. Goalkeeper Ederson, defender Thiago Silva, midfielder Fred, and strikers Richarlison and Gabriel Jesus did not travel to South America.
Coach Tite decided to change the team's formation to use four men up front; Lucas Paquetá, Vinicius Junior, Gabriel Barbosa and Neymar.
His substitute goalkeeper Weverton was the best player of the first half in Santiago, making key saves in a free kick taken by Arturo Vidal and the rebound headed by Eduardo Vargas.
The second half had a more proactive Brazil. Vinicius Jr. left for Everton Ribeiro and Bruno Guimaraes was replaced by Gerson. Chile had fewer opportunities to score and ran the risk of offering more dangerous counters to the visitors.