x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

World Cup 2014 qualifying round-up: Argentina open lead in South American race

A quick-fire double from Lionel Messi and Gonzalo Higuain gave Argentina a 2-1 win over Chile, as the World Cup qualifying campaigns in Asia and the Americas step up a gear.

Argentina's Gonzalo Higuain celebrates with Lionel Messi after scoring against Chile
Argentina's Gonzalo Higuain celebrates with Lionel Messi after scoring against Chile

Lionel Messi and Gonzalo Higuain scored a quick-fire double against Chile to give Argentina a three-point lead in their South American World Cup qualifying campaign.

The duo took their personal tallies to seven, with Chile pulling one back through substitute Felipe Gutierrez in added time at the end of the game.

Argentina have 20 points from nine matches, three more than Ecuador, who drew 1-1 away at Venezuela, and four ahead of Colombia, who have a game in hand.

"We have forwards of huge standing who normally never forgive (mistakes). Argentina were sharper with their finishing," Argentina coach Alejandro Sabella told reporters.

"We knew Chile would take the ball from us a lot and we had to be very concentrated in defence."

Uruguay, the top South American team at the 2010 finals in South Africa where they finished fourth, lost 4-1 to Bolivia in La Paz, where striker Carlos Saucedo bagged a hat-trick.

The Uruguayans, renowned for their strong defence, have conceded 11 goals in their last three away matches and taken one point out of a possible 12, yet are in fifth place.

Venezuela returned to action after a bye on Friday and were held to a 1-1 draw by Ecuador in Puerto La Cruz but the point was enough to enter the top four who qualify directly for the 2014 finals in Brazil.

Honduras were one of five teams to book a place in the final round of the World Cup's CONCACAF qualifying zone with a tremendous 8-1 home win over Canada.

In the last round of fixtures in the third stage, Honduras moved top of Group C and eliminated Canada.

The United States, Jamaica, Costa Rica and Panama also progressed to the final round, with Mexico already qualifying two rounds ago.

Also in Group C, Panama qualified with a 1-1 draw in Cuba.

The United States finished top of Group A after a 3-1 home win over Guatemala in Kansas City.

Guatemala took an unexpected lead in the fifth minute through Carlos Ruiz, but Clint Dempsey set up Carlos Bocanegra for the equaliser five minutes later.

Dempsey then struck in the 18th and 36th minute to secure the win.

Guatemala missed out on the final stage on away goals as Jamaica hammered Antigua & Barbuda 4-1 in Kingston.

Dane Richards recorded a brace and Demar Phillips and Nyron Nosworthy added one each for the Reggae Boyz, while Quinton Griffith scored for Antigua & Barbuda, who ended the stage winless.

In Group B, Costa Rica sealed their place by thrashing 10-man Guyana 7-0.

Randall Brenes and Alvaro Saborio each scored twice, while Cristian Gamboa, Cristian Bolanos and Celso Borges were also on target.

Guyana defender Walter Moore was sent off five minutes after the break.

Mexico beat El Salvador 2-0 through goals from Oribe Peralta and Javier Hernandez.

A Doha double bill yesterday produced defeat for Qatar and a crucial win for Australia in the fight to seal tickets for the 2014 World Cup in Asian Zone qualifying.

First up were Qatar who lost a golden opportunity to move closer to the finals in Brazil after a 1-0 defeat to Uzbekistan at the Jassim bin Hamad Stadium.

Sanjar Tursunov producing the match winner in the 13th minute, the 25-year-old forward turned well and smashed a volley into the net from an Akmal Shorakhmedov cross.

The victory briefly moved Uzbekistan into second place but Iran's 1-0 win over Group A leaders South Korea at the Azadi Stadium in Tehran saw Carlos Queiroz's men move level on points with the Koreans on seven. Iran held on despite having a man sent off in the second half to move into one of the two automatic spots for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.

Uzbekistan are third with five points, one ahead of Qatar, who are now last, tied with Lebanon with one win, one draw and two losses.

It was a scrappy affair, played under hot conditions, with Qatar earning two yellow cards and the Uzbeks three, but Paulo Autuori's team were not able to make inroads into the Uzbekistan defence after a bright start.

Later, at Doha's Grand Hamad Stadium, Australia moved up to second in Group B with a 2-1 victory over Iraq.

The Socceroos, who were stunned 2-1 by Jordan recently, desperately needed a win to move up the table to increase their chances of appearing at their third successive World Cup.

Tied at two points each with Iraq going into yesterday's tie they now have five points to go level with Oman, who defeated Jordan 2-1 earlier in Muscat.

Iraq are now at the bottom of the table with two losses and two draws.

Japan, beaten 4-0 in a friendly against Brazil in Poland, lead the group with 10 points from their four matches.

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