South American qualifying for the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia continued on Tuesday with all 10 of the region's teams in action.
That meant continental powerhouses Argentina and Brazil, who are currently ranked in the world's top six, had opportunities to catch the top two teams in the table, Ecuador and Uruguay.
Playing Bolivia and Paraguay, respectively, on Tuesday looked like it would help their chances by putting pressure on the top teams of qualifying.
Here are the results and the updated standings after Tuesday's results:
This is the last South American World Cup qualifying action until August as 12 matches remain for each team until 2017:
|7||Sunday, Aug. 28|
|8||Tuesday, Sept. 6|
|9||Monday, Oct. 3|
|10||Tuesday, Oct. 11|
|11||Monday, Nov. 7|
|12||Tuesday, Nov. 15|
|13||Monday, Mar. 20, 2017|
|14||Tuesday, Mar. 28, 2017|
|15||Monday, Aug. 28, 2017|
|16||Tuesday, Sept. 5, 2017|
|17||Monday, Oct. 2, 2017|
|18||Tuesday, Oct. 10, 2017|
Colombia 3, Ecuador 1
Colombia's win in the first match of the day ensured that Ecuador wouldn't extend its lead atop the qualifying table.
The three points were vital for Colombia as well, as it hopped from seventh place to third before the rest of the teams played played their matches. It dropped to fifth after Chile defeated Venezuela and Argentina took care of Bolivia.
Host Colombia made its intentions clear quickly at Estadio Metropolitano Roberto Melendez in Barranquilla as it dominated the first half. Los Cafeteros launched 12 shots in the first 45 minutes, while Ecuador recorded just two.
The Colombians' breakthrough came in the 15th minute after a brilliant passing move from James Rodriguez found Carlos Bacca in the box, who twirled and fired the go-ahead goal, via Gol Caracol's Alejandro Pino Calad:
Three minutes after halftime, Sebastian Perez doubled the lead with a flying boot to redirect home a cross. The highlight-reel goal, via TyC Sports Play, was the first of the midfielder's international career:
Colombia didn't take its foot off the pedal either, and it was Bacca once again who ended any doubt of the game's result with his second of the night in the 67th minute.
With Ecuador pushing to pull one back, Colombia—led by 2014 World Cup hero James Rodriguez—broke through on the counterattack, which set up an easy chance for Bacca to convert.
Ecuador found its consolation in the 90th minute on just its second shot on target as Michael Arroyo found the back of the net.
Such a decisive win over a team that had already taken down Argentina and Uruguay during qualification showed just how dangerous Colombia can be moving forward.
With Rodriguez as the motor of this attack and Bacca's added finishing ability, Los Cafeteros have the pieces they need to get back to the world's biggest stage and make some noise once again.
Uruguay 1, Peru 0
The first half of Tuesday's match hardly suggested that Uruguay began the day in second place while Peru was down in eighth.
A goalless first 45 minutes saw Uruguay squander three good chances within 10 yards of goal while Peru had one golden opportunity of its own, a shot Paolo Guerrero that was saved from the left of goal.
The halftime break looked like it woke Uruguay up, who found the match's only goal in the 53rd minute via Edinson Cavani.
The striker entered the left of the box and unleashed a left-footed screamer that was destined for the back of the goal and made it there, via TyC Sports Play:
¡GOL DE URUGUAY! Cavani pone el 1-0 ante Perú a los siete del complemento. https://t.co/8Ku4lAX7dv— TyC Sports Play (@TyCSportsPlay) March 30, 2016
Uruguay's defense remained strong throughout the night. Of Peru's eight attempts on goal, five of them came from over 20 yards out and only two of them were on target.
Uruguay's offense on the other hand just overwhelmed its opponents. After outshooting Peru 6-4 in the first half, Uruguay unleashed nine attempts on goal in the second half.
The stellar second half ensured that Uruguay moved into first place past Ecuador on goal difference. With five months until the next qualifying matches, that's a huge psychological boost to have over the long break.
Argentina 2, Bolivia 0
Lionel Messi scored his 50th career goal with Argentina and set up another one in Argentina's two-goal victory over Bolivia. Don't let the scoreline fool you though, it wasn't even that close.
Argentina outshot Bolivia 23-3 in the match and held 80 percent of possession as it moves to within two points of Uruguay and Ecuador at the top of the table.
Gabriel Mercado was the beneficiary of Argentinan playmaking that began when Messi lofted a ball right to the path of Gonzalo Higuain in the Bolivian box. Higuain lofted the onrushing keeper, but his effort was cleared off the line.
The clearance came right back to Higuain though, who played a simple pass right to the charging Mercado, who converted on an empty net, via TV Publica Canal 7:
Less than 10 minutes later, Messi was called to the penalty spot after Éver Banega was taken down by Ronald Eguino in the box. As cool as ever, Messi slotted the historic 50th goal, only the second Argentine to do so.
That was all the scoring Argentina managed to muster despite its domination as it moved into third place in the table.
Chile 4, Venezuela 1
Chile took full advantage of its draw against bottom-dwelling Venezuela on Tuesday with a convincing 4-1 victory.
But it didn't look so well in hand after nine minutes after Venezuela took an unlikely lead through Romulo Otero's ambitious and brilliant free kick, via TyC Sports Play:
¡GOL DE VENEZUELA! Rómulo Otero pone el 1-0 ante Chile con un gran tiro libre. https://t.co/gQeibfgpY6— TyC Sports Play (@TyCSportsPlay) March 29, 2016
Mauricio Pinilla surged Chile into the lead with a pair of goals in the 33rd and 52nd minutes.
TyC Sports Play showed his first of the match, a thunderous header off of a corner:
¡GOL DE CHILE! Pinilla pone el 1-1 ante Venezuela a los 33m del primer tiempo. https://t.co/gJ6UJvxhqM— TyC Sports Play (@TyCSportsPlay) March 30, 2016
His second came in the form of a right-footed shot that was well placed into the bottom-left corner of the goal.
Arturo Vidal put the match away with two goals of his own, one in the 72nd minute and the other two minutes into second half stoppage time.
While the goals seemed like insult to injury, they were actually vital as it moved Chile ahead of Colombia for fourth place in qualifying based on goal differential.
Paraguay 2, Brazil 2
With the way things played out on Tuesday, Brazil had an opportunity to make the jump up to third place ahead of Argentina with a win over Paraguay.
The problem was, Brazil's dreadful start forced it to scramble for a single point.
Paraguay's Darío Lezcano provided the opener in the 40th minute after poor Brazilian defending saw a cross by Edgar Benitez bounce tantalizingly untouched through the box right to the striker.
With an onrushing Filipe Luis, who had fallen down, Lezcano managed to find the back of the net despite not getting all of it, as TyC Sports Play showed:
¡GOL DE PARAGUAY! Lezcano puso el 1-0 ante Brasil a los 40m del primer tiempo https://t.co/C2JwrbGvh4— TyC Sports Play (@TyCSportsPlay) March 30, 2016
Four minutes after the break, Benitez turned into the scorer after taking down a hard pass from Richard Ortiz brilliantly. He touched it further into the box and beat Alisson Becker to double Paraguay's lead.
Brazil pulled one back in the 79th minute when Hulk's shot was parried straight into the path of Ricardo Oliveira, who finished off the rebound.
The six-time World Cup winners continued to press in the final minutes and rescued a point in the second minute of second half stoppage time through defender Dani Alves.
Alves weaved his way into the box, showing the skill that has made him such a valued asset with Barcelona over the years, and sent a curling effort with the left foot into the bottom-left corner of the goal, via TyC Sports Play:
¡GOL DE BRASIL! Sobre el final, Dani Alves pone el 2-2 ante Paraguay. La bronca de Ramón... https://t.co/JTj3jwYXAx— TyC Sports Play (@TyCSportsPlay) March 30, 2016
Paraguay and Brazil remain level on points with nine apiece in the table, just one back of fifth-place Colombia, but Brazil is ahead on goal differential.
Through six games though, two wins from a Brazil team that made the semifinals of the World Cup before being thrashed by Germany is surprising. Luckily, it has more than a year to figure things out to ensure it is one of the South Americans representatives in Russia.