Brazil beats Argentina 3-0, helps lift mood at Mineirao
BELO HORIZONTE, Brazil (AP) Memories of the biggest humiliation in Brazilian football and the return of Lionel Messi to Argentina were not enough to stop the five-time World Cup champions from beating their archrivals Thursday in South American qualifying for the World Cup.
The Brazilians won at Mineirao stadium, and they won comfortably - 3-0. There were no Brazilians in tears this time, unlike at the World Cup in 2014.
The victory over Argentina extended Brazil's successful streak under new coach Tite to five matches, giving the qualification leaders 24 points from 11 matches. Argentina has 16.
Argentina coach Edgardo Bauza finds himself in an even tougher position after the lackluster performance in Brazil. His team is remained in sixth place, outside the continent's four automatic spots at the 2018 World Cup in Russia.
Copa America champion Chile held third-place Colombia to a 0-0 draw away, despite the absence of Arsenal striker Alexis Sanchez due to injury.
Second-place Uruguay beat an Ecuador side filled with reserves by only 2-1 in Montevideo. The Uruguayans have 23 points, just one behind Brazil.
Elsewhere, Peru producing a shocking 4-1 win at Paraguay and is now back in the race for a place in Russia 2018. The Peruvians remain in eight spot with 14 points, one behind seventh-place Paraguay.
In a match between the two worst teams in South American qualifiers, Venezuela trashed Bolivia 5-0 at home. Venezuela now is ninth place with 5 points, one ahead of Bolivia.
BRAZIL 3, ARGENTINA 0
The chants of the Brazilian crowd at the Mineirao stadium showed that most Brazilians fans prefer to forget the 7-1 defeat against Germany in the same venue during the 2014 World Cup, and instead savor this victory over Argentina.
''The champions are back!'' the crowd chanted. ''Messi doesn't have a World Cup, the one that does is Vampeta!''
Brazil was so dominant it could have won by a bigger margin, but settled for a 3-0 result with goals from Philippe Coutinho (26), Neymar (46) and Paulinho (58).
It could have been a different story if the referee had given a penalty to Argentina when the game was 0-0 and Neymar touched the ball with his hand in the box.
The most impressive of the three goals was the opener from Liverpool midfielder Coutinho from the edge of the box.
Coach Tite said that the impressive result comes after a sleepless night for him. The sleeping problem wasn't because of the memories of Brazil's 7-1 loss to Germany, but because of his days at Atletico Mineiro in 2007. The club was relegated to Brazil's second division with him in charge.
''I know that I didn't do a nice job then. I still think a lot about that,'' he said.
Messi and his Barcelona teammate Javier Mascherano, who came to Brazil in Neymar's jet, were below par during the whole game.
''Messi likes to float on the back of the defensive midfielder, but we didn't let him play. We have a lot of merit not only in offense, but also defending,'' Brazil midfielder Renato Augusto said.
Argentina, the 2014 World Cup finalists, remain under heavy pressure in qualifying, with its next match against Colombia. Messi used an expletive to define his team's current situation, while coach Bauza defined the defeat in Brazil as the worst in his career.
''We have to change,'' an upset Messi said.
Because of the high ticket prices only 53,000 of the 62,000 seats were taken at the stadium in Belo Horizonte, located 350 kilometers (220 miles) north of Rio de Janeiro.
URUGUAY 2, ECUADOR 1
Uruguay struggled and Luis Suarez wasn't anywhere near his best, but coach Oscar Tabarez' lineup managed to hold off Ecuador 2-1 at home. Sebastian Coates (12) and Diego Rolan (45) gave Uruguay a 2-0 lead before Felipe Caicedo reduced the margin for Ecuador in the 46th.
The win should give Uruguayan players some ground in their dispute over image rights. This week they wore shirts without sponsor names and prohibited banners with sponsors in their press conferences.
Uruguay will next play Chile, and fourth-place Ecuador will face Venezuela.
COLOMBIA 0, CHILE 0
In the return of Falcao Garcia and in the absence of Sanchez, neither Colombia nor Chile managed to score in a quiet match in Barranquilla. Injury-prone Garcia entered in the second half, but didn't have any chances to score.
Colombia, in third spot with 18 points, travels to Argentina.