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Argentina, Uruguay score four in World Cup qualifiers

BUENOS AIRES (Reuters) -- Argentina lifted the gloom from a poor Copa America by routing Chile 4-1 in their opening 2014 World Cup qualifier on Friday, while Uruguay also scored four to get their campaign off to a good start.

Gonzalo Higuain scored a hat-trick and Lionel Messi ended a 30-month goal drought for his country in competitive internationals, while Uruguay captain Diego Lugano scored twice in a 4-2 home victory over Bolivia.

Striker Paolo Guerrero got a double as Peru beat Paraguay 2-0 in Lima while Ecuador beat Venezuela by the same score in Quito, Colombia had a bye and Brazil, exempt from qualifying as tournament hosts, played Costa Rica in a friendly in San Jose.

Argentina got off to a fast start when the defence cleared a poor free kick by Waldo Ponce and Angel Di Maria raced down to the other end where he passed to Higuain to open the scoring.

Higuain laid on the 25th-minute second goal for Messi, who had last scored for Argentina in a competitive match against Venezuela in Buenos Aires in March 2009, a 30-month period during which he went goalless in five World Cup matches and four in the Copa America.

Higuain added two more in the second half for his hat-trick and midfielder Matias Fernandez pulled one back on the hour for Chile, who had beaten Argentina for the first time in their previous meeting in Santiago in October 2008.

"We were orderly and solid, with power from the middle forward and good finishing. The team gave me security in containing (the opposition)," Argentina coach Alejandro Sabella told reporters.


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South American champions Uruguay, playing in a half-empty Centenario on a cold and rainy evening, ran up a 3-1 halftime lead after a third-minute opener from striker Luis Suarez.

"Uruguay benefited from one of their strengths, which is aerial balls, to win the game," said Bolivia coach Gustavo Quinteros.

Rudy Cardozo stunned Uruguay with a 17th minute equaliser before Lugano headed the home side back in front from Diego Forlan's 25th-minute free kick.

Edinson Cavani headed Uruguay's third from Maxi Pereira's cross and Lugano tapped in the fourth in the 71st when goalkeeper Carlos Arias could not hold Forlan's shot.

Bolivia striker Marcelo Martins pulled another goal back with a late penalty.

Guerrero, top scorer at the Copa America in which Peru finished third, scored in the 47th and 73rd minutes as he combined with fellow striker Claudio Pizarro, back in the side after missing the tournament in Argentina through injury.

With Ecuador winger Antonio Valencia inspirational, strikers Jaime Ayovi and Cristian Benitez scored in the opening half hour at the Atahualpa, nearly 3,000 metres above sea level, against a Venezuela side lacking several first choice players kept fresh for the home clash with Argentina on Tuesday.

In Tuesday's other matches, Colombia travel to play Bolivia at high altitude in La Paz, Uruguay visit Paraguay in Asuncion for a repeat of July's Copa America final and Chile host Peru.