World Cup qualifier: Martinez extends Argentina’s unbeaten run, Brazil thrash Uruguay

Argentina’s Lionel Messi (L) and Peru’s Raziel Garcia vie for the ball during their South American qualification clash for the 2022 World Cup at the Monumental stadium in Buenos Aires, Argentina, October 14, 2021. /CFP

Argentina’s Lionel Messi (L) and Peru’s Raziel Garcia vie for the ball during their South American qualification clash for the 2022 World Cup at the Monumental stadium in Buenos Aires, Argentina, October 14, 2021. /CFP

Argentina took their unbeaten run to 25 matches and moved a step closer to qualifying for the World Cup with a hard-fought 1-0 win over Peru on Thursday night.

Lautaro Martinez scored the only goal of the game two minutes before the break with a powerful header while Yoshimar Yotun missed a second half penalty for Peru.

On his first start for his country, Raphinha scored a brace as Brazil all but mathematically booked their place at the World Cup with a 4-1 thrashing of Uruguay.

Neymar and Gabriel Barbosa scored the other goals while Luis Suarez notched Uruguay’s consolation.

Brazil top the single South American qualifying group by six points from Argentina, who have a nine-point gap to those that could deny them a berth at Qatar 2022.

Argentina last lost in the 2019 Copa America semi-finals 2-0 against Brazil. Since then the South American giants have been unstoppable, beating Brazil twice on their run, including earlier this year in the 2021 Copa America final.

Lautaro Martinez of Argentina celebrates during their South American qualification clash with Peru at the Monumental stadium in Buenos Aires, Argentina, October 14, 2021. /CFP

Lautaro Martinez of Argentina celebrates during their South American qualification clash with Peru at the Monumental stadium in Buenos Aires, Argentina, October 14, 2021. /CFP

In the early stages in windy Buenos Aires, Peru looked capable of causing an upset, their approach was industrious and crude, with Lionel Messi subjected to several rash challenges. But Argentina took the lead two minutes before half-time as Lautaro Martinez sent a bullet header from Nahuel Molina’s cross straight over goalkeeper Pedro Gallese’s head.

Peru were given a lifeline 20 minutes into the second half after bringing on the pacey Jefferson Farfan, who almost immediately broke clear of the Argentina defense before Emiliano Martinez brought him down in the box. But Yotun’s wild penalty clipped the top of the bar to give Martinez a huge let-off.

Argentina had the ball in the net for a third time two minutes from the end but Guido Rodriguez’s header was ruled out for a push on Marcos Lopez.

Brazil got off to a blistering start in sweltering Manaus when defensive midfielder Fred chipped a ball over the defense for Neymar to latch onto, round goalkeeper Fernando Muslera and then fire home between the legs of a defender on the line.

The dominant hosts stretched their lead inside the first quarter as Lucas Paqueta crossed from the left to Neymar, whose deflected shot fell kindly for Raphinha at the back post to slot home.

Brazil’s Neymar (L) fights for the ball with Sebastian Coates and Joaquin Piquerez Moreira of Uruguay during their World Cup qualifying clash at Arena Amazonia in Manaus, Brazil, October 14, 2021. /CFP

Brazil’s Neymar (L) fights for the ball with Sebastian Coates and Joaquin Piquerez Moreira of Uruguay during their World Cup qualifying clash at Arena Amazonia in Manaus, Brazil, October 14, 2021. /CFP

Muslera was at times a one-man barrier preventing a humiliating scoreline as Brazil finished with 13 shots on target.

His most telling contribution was a double save in a matter of seconds to prevent either Gabriel Jesus or Raphinha from extending Brazil’s lead, but a diving one-handed stop to repel a Barbosa shot was his most spectacular intervention.

Brazil put the game to bed just before the hour mark on a rapier counter-attack with Neymar teeing up Raphinha to thrash home a shot off the far post.

Uruguay, who earlier had an Edinson Cavani strike ruled out for offside, scored a consolation 13 minutes from time through Suarez’s brilliant low free-kick.

Source(s): AFP

Author: Keith Hughes