Colombia will need a miracle to play in the next World Cup after its 1-0 loss to Argentina in South American qualifiers on Tuesday.
Lautaro Martínez scored the only goal of the match in Córdoba in the 29th minute after two Colombian defenders left him alone in the penalty area. Goalkeeper Camilo Vargas made several important saves, including three shots from veteran Angel di Maria.
Argentina was without superstar Lionel Messi, who is still recovering from COVID-19. But the team _ and Brazil _ have already secured their places in the World Cup.
Colombia is in seventh place with 17 points. Peru, currently in fifth place with 20 points, will play Ecuador later in Lima. If the Peruvians win, the closest rival to Colombia in a qualifying position will be Uruguay, with 22 points.
Uruguay has two games left: Peru at home and Chile away. Colombia’s last rivals are less dangerous, Bolivia at home and Venezuela away.
“This is not over, we want to go to the end,” Colombian coach Reinaldo Rueda said at a press conference.
“Maybe we need more clarity in midfield and also in our finishing. We miss that energy.”
South America has four direct places in the World Cup. The fifth position will play an international playoff against an Asian team for a place.
Leader Brazil thrashed Paraguay 4-0 at home with goals from Raphinha, Philippe Coutinho, Antony and Rodrygo. Coach Tite didn’t count on Neymar playing injured, and he also took advantage of the game to try out other players, as Argentine coach Lionel Scaloni did.
Earlier, Chile beat Bolivia 3-2 at the height of La Paz thanks to two goals from Alexis Sánchez and another from Marcelino Núñez. The result kept the Chileans in contention in sixth place with 19 points and almost ended the chances of the hosts, who remain with 15 points. The Bolivian goals came from Marc Enoumba and Marcelo Martins.
“This was a reward for our efforts, but it doesn’t end here,” Chilean striker Sánchez said.
Chile’s final challenges will be in Brazil and at home against Uruguay.
The Uruguayans gave new coach Diego Alonso his second straight win on the job _ a 4-1 drubbing of Venezuela. Rodrigo Betancur, Giorgian de Arrascaeta, Edinson Cavani and Luis Suárez scored for Uruguay. Venezuela’s only goal was by Josef Martínez.
Third place Ecuador could secure their direct place with a victory in Peru.
The final two rounds of the South American qualifiers will be played at the end of March.