Chris Swanson / ISH
September 11th, 2013 - Argentina, Costa Rica and the United States earned berths in June’s World Cup in Brazil, while Honduras, Panama, Colombia and Uruguay took major steps on Sept. 10 toward solidifying spots in soccer’s biggest tournament.
Lionel Messi scored twice on penalty kicks and Sergio Agüero, Ángel di María and Maxi Rodríguez each added a goal to power Argentina to a 5-2 win against Paraguay in Asunción to keep La Albiceleste atop the CONMEBOL standings.
“Qualification was the goal we’ve been looking for a long time and achieving that with two games remaining is very important,” Messi told Fox Sports. “We have achieved our goal and now we are hoping to keep winning and progressing. We are on the right path but there is a long way to go yet in order to reach the World Cup tournament in the best form.”
Brazil automatically qualified as the host country, while Australia, Iran, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands and South Korea have earned berths through qualification.
In CONMEBOL, Argentina (8-5-1) has 29 points, three more than Colombia (8-2-4, 26 points), which will have to wait at least another game to clinch a spot in the World Cup after Los Cafeteros fell to Uruguay, 2-0, in Montevideo.
Chile (8-0-6, 24) remained in third place, as La Roja didn’t have a World Cup qualifier on Sept. 10. Instead, Chile tied top-ranked and defending World Cup champion Spain, 2-2, in a friendly in Geneva, Switzerland. However, Chile, behind two goals by Eduardo Vargas, led 2-1 before giving up the tying score in stoppage time.
Ecuador (6-4-4, 22) remained in fourth place after a 1-1 draw against Bolivia. Uruguay (6-4-4, 22), received goals from Edinson Cavani and Christian Stuani late in the second half in its win over Colombia. Uruguay is in fifth place because its zero goal differential is worse than Ecuador’s plus-four.
The top four teams qualify automatically for the World Cup, and the fifth-place team faces Jordan in a two-game playoff for one of the final spots.
Venezuela (5-4-6, 19) remained in sixth place after a 3-2 win over seventh-place Peru (4-2-8, 14).
Paraguay (3-2-9, 11) and Bolivia (2-5-8, 11) are at the bottom of the standings with an identical minus-13 goal differential.
Qualification continues on Oct. 11, when Colombia hosts Chile, Ecuador welcomes Uruguay, Paraguay heads to Venezuela and Argentina hosts Peru. Qualification wraps up on Oct. 15, when Uruguay welcomes Argentina, Chile hosts Ecuador, Colombia travels to Paraguay and Peru hosts Bolivia.
“We have two games left and we hope to finish this competition as well as possible,” di María said. “If we are champions, it would be great. We have to go step by step. A great group has been built by coach Alejandro Sabella and we are very happy.”
In CONCACAF, the United States moved atop the group with a 2-0 win over Mexico (1-5-2, 8), which fell to fifth place.
The United States (5-1-2, 16) qualified for its seventh straight World Cup, while second-place Costa Rica (4-3-1, 15), which tied sixth-place Jamaica (0-4-4, 4), 1-1, is back in the field after failing to qualify for the 2010 event in South Africa.
“Obviously, this is a huge, huge evening for all of us,” U.S. coach Jürgen Klinsmann told reporters. “They’re enjoying the moment. It’s a huge milestone when you make it to the World Cup, the biggest event in the sport.”
Panama (1-5-2, 8) moved up to fourth after a 2-2 draw against third-place Honduras (3-2-3, 11).
The top three teams automatically qualify for the World Cup, with the fourth-place finisher in CONCACAF facing New Zealand – the winner of the Oceania qualifier – in a two-game playoff for a spot in Brazil.
Qualification resumes on Oct. 11, when Honduras hosts Costa Rica, Mexico welcomes Panama and Jamaica visits the United States. Qualification concludes on Oct. 15, when Costa Rica hosts Mexico, Jamaica welcomes Honduras and the United States visits Panama.