Sports Desk, Oct 12 (EFE).- Nicolás Otamendi’s three-minute strike helped Argentina beat Paraguay 1-0 and maintain its 100 percent record in the World Cup 2026 qualifying campaign, while Brazil gave up the honor after being held 1-1 by Venezuela on Thursday night.
Eduard Bello (L) of Venezuela celebrates after scoring during a FIFA 2026 World Cup qualifiers soccer match between Brazil and Venezuela at Arena Pantanal stadium in Cuiabá, Brazil, 12 October 2023. EFE-EPA/Andre Borges
With the win, Argentina now have nine points from three matches, while Brazil slipped to second place with seven points.
Colombia maintained their third place with five points after a 2-2 draw against Uruguay during the same evening.
Two-time world champions Uruguay are in fourth place jointly with Chile and Venezuela, with all three teams collecting four points.
Ecuador, who began the qualifying campaign in the negative after FIFA docked it three points for falsifying the birth information of a player, made up for some of the lost ground with a 2-1 win over Bolivia.
In an evenly contested match at Barranquilla, Colombia, James Rodriguez gave the hosts the lead in the 35th minute before Mathias Olivera equalized for Uruguay one minute into the second, having just entered the game.
Mateus Uribe restored the lead for Colombia five minutes later, but goalkeeper Camilo Vargas’s red card late into the contest allowed Uruguay to snatch a draw.
Vargas fouled Maximiliano Araújo for his second bookable offense, and Darwin Núñez converted the resulting penalty in the 90th minute.
At Buenos Aires, Lionel Messi came on as a substitute in the 53rd minute for Julián Álvarez and had two balls hit the posts, but it did not matter in the end as Otamendi’s early goal ensured Argentina won their third consecutive match in the 2026 World Cup qualifiers.
The win also means Lionel Scaloni’s side has now gone eight matches in a row without conceding a goal at home in the qualifiers and are one match away from equaling Brazil’s record in this tournament between 2016 and 2021.
Ecuador showed this Thursday that the 3,650 meters of altitude in La Paz, which used to be the biggest fear of Bolivia’s rivals, is just a myth with a 2-1 win.
Kendry Páez finished with his left foot from the center of the area after a pass from Moisés Caicedo to give the visitors a lead.
Bolivia equalized in the 83rd minute thanks to a shot by Rodrigo Ramallo, and when a draw seemed inevitable, Kevin Rodríguez scored from the right in injury time to ensure three points for Ecuador.
Chile, led by Argentine Eduardo Berizzo, beat Peru 2-0 in the so-called Pacific Classic, thanks to a goal from Diego Valdés in the 74th minute and an own goal by Marcos López in injury time.
At Cuiaba’s Arena Pantanal Stadium, Brazil ended up being booed by some 40,000 local spectators after a stunning bicycle kick goal from Eduard Bello in the 85th minute cancelled out a Gabriel Magalhaes opener.
Arsenal center back Gabriel Magalhaes scored from a header in the 50th minute, but Venezuela defended well to prevent the hosts from scoring further before their shock equalizer earned the visitors their only second draw against Brazil ever in 19 qualifiers.
The first was in 2009, when they scored 0-0 in Campo Grande. Brazil went on to win the 17 other games. EFE