Colombia close in on Argentina with fine win

Colombia ate into Argentina’s lead, Chile notched a second successive win and Uruguay revived their hopes in South American World Cup qualifying on Tuesday.

Radamel Falcao’s early penalty, taking his tally to seven in the competition, put Colombia on the road to a 2-0 home win over Peru that leaves them three points behind leaders Argentina with a game in hand.

Edison Cavani struck a fine goal as Uruguay beat Venezuela 1-0 away for their first win in seven qualifiers, lifting the 2010 World Cup semifinalists up to fifth in the nine-nation group, which would earn them a playoff should they maintain the position.

Uruguay leapfrogged Venezuela on goal difference with four matches remaining.
Chile benefited from the revived goal instincts of Alexis Sanchez and the return after eight years of 33-year-old midfielder David Pizarro in a 3-1 home win over Bolivia that consolidated fourth place behind Ecuador on goal difference.

Ecuador will rue their poor finishing after failing to take more than one goal from an endless string of corners and free-kicks in a 1-1 draw with an Argentina side missing Lionel Messi for an hour and struggling in the thin air in Quito.

In two qualifiers this month, Ecuador have picked up only one point and slipped in the standings while Chile, equal on 21 points, are breathing down their necks and Uruguay and Venezuela pose a latent threat.

Ecuador’s run of six home victories in as many matches was halted by Argentina, who took an early lead with a Sergio Aguero penalty, and they now have only one fixture at high altitude, Uruguay in October, out of their four remaining qualifiers.

Argentina, who have drawn their last three matches albeit two at high altitude, have a bye in the next round on September 6 when Colombia can catch them at the top if they beat Ecuador at home.

Mexico falter

Mexico were booed off the field by a boisterous crowd after being held to a 0-0 draw at home to Costa Rica in the CONCACAF qualifying for the 2014 World Cup on Tuesday, their third successive goalless draw at the Azteca Stadium.

The United States took control of the six-team qualifying group with an impressive 2-0 win over Panama, while Honduras kept alive their hopes of making it to the finals in Brazil next year with a 2-0 win over bottom team Jamaica.

The United States lead at the halfway stage of the qualifying round on 10 points from five games followed by Costa Rica on eight points from the same number of games while Mexico are also on eight points having played an extra game.

Honduras have seven points from five games, Panama have six points (five games) and Jamaica two points (six games).

Japan shine, Iraq exit

Asian champions Japan finished their World Cup qualifying campaign with a 1-0 win over Iraq in Doha on Tuesday that ended the West Asian nation’s slim hopes of joining them in Brazil.

Iraq enjoyed plenty of possession but could not find a way through and Japan made them pay with an 89th-minute goal on the counter from Shinji Okazaki.

The result leaves Japan on 17 points from their eight Group B games with Iraq bottom on five ahead of their eighth and final fixture away to Australia next week.

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