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Diaz and Nunez Sparkle as Colombia and Uruguay Slay Giants

Luis Diaz rebounded from the worst moment of his personal life with the arguably the greatest performance of his professional one. The winger transformed defeat into victory over Brazil to climb Colombia to third in South American qualifying for FIFA World Cup 26™. Uruguay pulled off an even bigger upset. With Darwin Nunez sizzling and scoring, they stunned Argentina at La Bombonera to go second and end their hosts’ 100-per-cent record. Elsewhere, Bolivia kick-started their campaign with a deserved victory over Peru, while the Venezuela-Ecuador and Chile-Paraguay games finished goalless. FIFA reflects on Round 5.

The Vacas give Marcelo a memorable send-off

Marcelo Moreno was is floods of tears as he heard the Bolivian national anthem – it was the final home appearance of his supreme international career – but it was La Blanquirroja who finished the game downhearted. The 36-year-old striker set up Henry Vaca’s rasping drive before going off to an unforgettable standing ovation. A fine finish from Ramiro Vaca made sure of Bolivia’s first points of the campaign, on Antonio Carlos Zago’s debut at their reins, and left Peru bottom on just one.

Antonio Carlos Zago: “The players left all their love for Bolivia on the field. We’re very pleased with the performance and the result, but we’re already thinking about Uruguay. We will try to play with the same determination.”

  • Peru became the first team in CONMEBOL qualifying history to fail to score in their first five games.
  • The result ended Bolivia’s run of eight successive losses in the World Cup preliminaries.
  • Thirty-four years have passed since La Verde conceded a goal but won a World Cup qualifier at home to Peru. They have kept clean sheets in all five of their victories since.

Spoils shared in Maturin

Almost 52,000 packed into the Monumental, but they couldn’t roar La Vinotinto to victory. Jose Cifuentes thought he’d scored his first Tri goal after four minutes, but it was ruled out because Willian Pacho was marginally offside. The Venezuelans screamed wildly every time Yeferson Soteldo got the ball, and though the little sorcerer had his moments, Ecuador goalkeeper Alexander Dominguez wasn’t properly tested.

  • Tomas Rincon won his 130th cap, outranking Juan Arango and becoming Venezuela’s record appearance-maker.
  • Thirty-three games in all competitions is what it took for the first goalless draw between Ecuador and Venezuela to transpire.
  • Venezuela have kept clean sheets in their three games in Maturin in these World Cup preliminaries. They conceded in their last six home qualifiers for Qatar 2022.

Uruguay silence La Bombonera

It was the occasion on which Argentina fans would celebrate the unveiling of a spectacular new tribute to Lionel Messi and Angel Di Maria’s farewell home appearance for the national team. Uruguay, however, didn’t approve the script. Ronald Araujo’s first international goal suggested the upset was on and, after Messi had hit the crossbar with a brilliant free-kick, Darwin Nunez’s breakaway goal made sure it happened.

Lionel Messi: “It’s normal [to lose] this type of game in qualifying. It’s always like this with Uruguay. I prefer not to say what I think, but the youngsters have to learn from the older players to respect this derby. It’s always intense, tough. They have to learn from it a little.”

  • Argentina had scored the first goal in 41 consecutive games in all competitions until Araujo broke the deadlock. It was the first goal La Albiceleste conceded since Kylian Mbappe equalised for France for the second time in the Qatar 2022 final.
  • Just 10 seconds after Messi had the ball on the edge of Uruguay penalty area, Nunez had rippled the Argentina net following a devastating counter-attack.
  • The defeat ended Argentina’s 25-game unbeaten run in World Cup qualifying.
  • 103 years had passed since Uruguay won away to Argentina by more than a goal. La Celeste triumphed 3-1 in Buenos Aires in 1920.

Diaz heightens Brazil worrie

It was all going to plan for Brazil. Gabriel Martinelli had collaborated sumptuously with Vinicius Junior to put them ahead. Then the Real Madrid winger went off with a thigh injury and two Luis Diaz goals within four minutes – both uncharacteristic headers – speedily swung the contest in Colombia’s favour at ‘El Metro’. The result lifted Los Cafeteros to third, and left the Seleção with only one point from their last three matches and down in fifth.

  • Endrick went on in the 82nd minute to become the fourth-youngest Brazil debutant of all time behind Coutinho, Edu and record-holder Pele.
  • At the 15th attempt, Colombia registered a first win over Brazil in the World Cup preliminaries.
  • Brazil, beaten 2-0 by Uruguay in October, lost back-to-back World Cup qualifiers for the first time ever.

Los Guaraníes grab precious point

Chile were at a numerical advantage for almost a half, but failed to make it count. Following Robert Rojas’s red card, Gustavo Gomez and Paraguay defended impeccably. La Roja substitute Victor Mendez was dismissed minutes before the referee’s whistle concluded a 0-0 draw that will satisfy the visitors far more than their hosts.

Daniel Garnero: “It was very difficult to find our rhythm once we were at a numerical disadvantage. Chile have very dangerous attackers like Alexis Sanchez, who often makes you pay. However, we were very organised and got a good point.”

  • Forward Damian Pizarro, at 18 years and 234 days, was the second-youngest player to start a World Cup qualifier for Chile this century. His strike partner Alexis Sanchez was the youngest in 2008.
  • Rojas became the first Paraguayan sent off in the first half of a World Cup qualifier in 30 years. Celso Ayala got his marching orders before half-time against Argentina in 1993.
  • No team has conceded fewer goals than Paraguay in South American qualifying for World Cup 26.

Source : FIFA