CONMEBOL/CONCACAF WCQ Recap: Brazil Heads to Russia, Mexico Takes Control of the Hex

Lead Photo: Photo: Getty
Photo: Getty
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It took almost three years, but it sure looks like Brazil is over the 7-1 humiliation of the 2014 World Cup. Following their 3-0 defeat of Paraguay in São Paulo, the Seleção became the first team (outside of automatic qualifiers Russia) to officially qualify for the 2018 World Cup. The comprehensive win was yet another episode in what is becoming a regular series of blowouts for Brazil under new coach Tite; since his appointment, they are undefeated with a goal difference of +23.

Regular though it might have been, it also featured an incredible solo goal from Neymar, who took the ball way behind midfield before dribbling all the way into the box, where his deflected shot into the goal sealed the three points up for the hosts:

Elsewhere in CONMEBOL, Argentina felt both the altitude of La Paz and the suspension of Lionel Messi, tiring out in a 2-0 defeat to Bolivia that leaves them in a rough spot heading into the last 4 games. The Albiceleste probably need 6 points out of a possible 12 to safely book passage to Russia.

They got some help elsewhere, however, as Peru surprisingly knocked off Uruguay 2-1 in Lima, and Colombia took care of business against Ecuador by the tune of 2-0. In the final South American qualifier, Chile raced out to a 3-0 lead at home vs. last-place Venezuela, before giving up a meaningless goal on the way to grabbing 3 key points. With 4 games left, seven of the ten teams in the continent are within 4 points of a qualification spot.

In CONCACAF, not much changed on Tuesday, as points were grabbed where expected and the table held steady. The big winners were Mexico, as El Tri dispatched Trinidad & Tobago 1-0 to move top of the group. Diego Reyes’s winner ensured that Mexico grabbed a full 6 points from this week’s games, which also caused coach Juan Carlos Osorio to shave his head after losing a bet with Chicharito Hernandez.

Mexico’s win was further helped out by their nearest challengers for the top of the Hex, as Costa Rica dropped points on the road by drawing Honduras in San Pedro Sula. For their part, the United States grabbed a point from one of the tougher fixtures in the Hex, as Christian Pulisic’s magic assist gave the Americans the goal they needed to draw Panama in Panama City.

The U.S. might have been in crisis entering this week’s slate of games, but following their demolition of Honduras on Friday and the draw in Panama, the Americans should be feeling happy about two things. First, they sit in fourth place with most of their tough fixtures behind them. Second, Pulisic was directly responsible for 6 of the 7 goals they scored in the two games, and he might just be the best American player already, at the tender age of 18.