Friday night saw the Argentine national team return to Buenos Aires for the first time since last June, and yet another comfortable win for Alejandro Sabella’s side. Two goals from Gonzalo Higuaín – both brilliantly set up by Lionel Messi, even if his second (Argentina’s third) was fractionally offside – and one from Messi from the penalty spot gave Argentina a 3-0 win which cements their place at the top of the South American qualifiers. More importantly, they now sit nine points clear of fifth-placed Chile, so with six games to play have taken a big step towards securing qualification for Brazil 2014. The goals are right here.
Argentina 1 – 0 Venezuela: Gonzalo Higuaín (28 mins)
Argentina 2 – 0 Venezuela: Lionel Messi (44 mins)
Argentina 3 – 0 Venezuela: Higuaín (58 mins)
Elsewhere in South America, results generally favoured Argentina as well. Uruguay and Paraguay, the finalists in the last Copa América, continued to flatter to deceive, drawing 1-1 with both goals coming in added time; Colombia thrashed Bolivia 5-0, and Peru beat Chile 1-0 with a Jefferson Farfán goal in the clásico del pacífico. That Peru win, bizarrely, apparently means Jorge Samapoli has still never won in his first match in charge of a team; Chile are the ninth team he’s managed. (Note: I saw this stat online on Friday afternoon and can’t remember the source, so it might be bollocks.)
These results mean Argentina have 23 points from ten games, Colombia have 19 from nine games, Ecuador have 17 from nine games, and everyone else has played ten, like the leaders; Uruguay have 13 points, Chile and Venezuela 12 each, Peru 11, and Bolivia and Paraguay 8 each. Don’t forget, the top four qualify for the World Cup automatically, whilst fifth place enters a playoff. In short, anyone can still make it.
In the next round of matches, on Tuesday, Argentina visit Bolivia. The other matches are Ecuador v Paraguay, Chile v Uruguay and Venezuela v Colombia.