SANTIAGO – Lionel Messi scored again in Argentina’s 2-1 victory over Chile on Tuesday, which kept the favourites atop the standings in South America’s World Cup football qualifying.
Messi has scored three goals over two games in four days, which has yielded six key points for Argentina. In other qualifying matches on Tuesday, Ecuador drew 1-1 with Venezuela, Paraguay defeated Peru 1-0, and Bolivia beat Uruguay 4-1. Argentina have 20 points atop the standings, three ahead of Ecuador and four up on Colombia. Uruguay, Chile and Venezuela have 12 each, with the top four to qualify for the World Cup and the fifth team to face a further playoff. Peru and Bolivia have eight and Paraguay have seven.
“It was a good couple of days for us,” Messi said. “Six points against difficult teams like Uruguay and Chile. But when this resumes in March, it will be just as difficult. But obviously six points help us relax.”
Messi has 31 goals for Argentina, two behind Diego Maradona on Argentina’s career scoring list. Gabriel Batistuta leads the all-time list with 54. The Barcelona star has 12 goals in eight games this year for Argentina, the main reason that the South Americans are looking as one of early favourites to win the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.
South American qualifiers resume on March 22. In the match in Santiago, Chile, Messi scored in the 28th minute and Higuain added another in the 31st. Felipe Gutierrez scored for Chile in second-half stoppage time. In Puerto La Cruz, Venezuela, Segundo Castillo scored in the 24th minute to help Ecuador secure a hard-earned 1-1 draw with Venezuela.
Juan Arango opened the scoring in the sixth minute for Venezuela.
The draw provided a valuable point for Ecuador, which improved to 17 points. Venezuela, who have 12 points from nine games, are the only team in the South American confederation that has never qualified for the World Cup finals. In Asuncion, Paraguay, defender Pablo Aguilar scored early to give Paraguay a 1-0 victory over Peru. Aguilar scored from a centering pass from Julio Dos Santos in the 52nd minute.
In La Paz, Bolivia, the host team, took advantage of the thin air in La Paz to beat Uruguay 4-1. -Reuters