Ecuador Flies High and Argentina Makes a Comeback

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That’s it! The final CONMEBOL qualifying matchday of the calendar year has come and gone, and this is where the table stands:

Who would’ve guessed that Ecuador would sit in first at this stage in the game? Or that Argentina would have just one win and three points after four games? Not me, that’s for sure.

Argentina produced its very first win of the 2018 World Cup qualifying campaign last night, a 1-0 win over Colombia in Barranquilla. Take a deep breath, Tata. You’re off the hook for now.

Lazio midfielder Lucas Biglia scored the lone goal of the match, taking advantage of Colombian goalkeeper David Ospina’s run out to the middle of nowhere in an attempt to close down the Argentine attack.

This was a huge result for Argentina, but don’t let it fool you into thinking that Tata Martino has it all figured out. La Albiceleste could have easily been up 3-0 at half, but a lack of proper finishing kept Colombia in the game.

Los Cafeteros registered their first shot on target in the 69th minute. Damn. A dismal performance in front of the home crowd, to be sure. Will Colombia ever return to playing à la 2014 World Cup?

The second match of the day was a 3-1 drubbing, Ecuador over Venezuela. ECUADOR! La Tri is flying high, looking ready to qualify for Russia with a couple of years in hand. La Vinotinto is another story entirely.

Fidel Martínez opened up the scoring in the 15th, followed by a cool Jefferson Montero finish just eight minutes later. In the 60th, Felipe Caicedo made history as only the second South American player (after Chile’s Jorge Aravena) to score in five consecutive qualifiers with a fantastic header. He also became his country’s second-highest all-time goalscorer in qualifying games. Talk about an out-of-this-world conversion rate.

Another moment worth mentioning? Dorados’ midfielder Walter Ayoví rocketed the most powerful shot off the post I’ve seen in a very long time. Maybe ever. Casi golazo.

Bolivia traveled to Paraguay last night carrying a couple of miserably long records: the side had not won as a visitor in Paraguay since 1957, nor had it managed to produce an away win in qualifying action for over 22 years. Yasmani Duk’s 60th minute strike from deep gave El Verde hope that that might change.

Unfortunately, that hope was short lived, as Dario Lezcano was quick to equalize in the 62nd. Lucas Barrios finished the thing three minutes later. The ultimate turn of events.

Uruguay – Chile was what most of us were probably waiting for, and it didn’t fail to entertain. Despite some terrific passing from La Roja in the early going, Diego Godin and company sent a message with a 3-0 goleada at home: this team will never back down, never stop fighting. Tremendo.

Two things to note about Uruguay: they freaking love headers (which speaks to their determination to get to every single ball first, and perhaps to Chile’s poor aerial defending), and they might just love defenders with goalscoring abilities even more. Of the side’s nine qualifying goals, five have been scored by the back line, including three from Godin and two from Martín Cáceres, who scored the third and final goal of the night after Álvaro Pereira made it 2-0 in the 61st:

This just about sums it up:

The fifth and final game was Brazil 3-0 over Peru, otherwise known as the Douglas Costa show.

His first contribution? The opening goal in the 21st.

Then, Pep’s Bayern boy did something truly magnificent to assist Renato Augusto for the second in the 57th.


He wasn’t done yet. Filipe Luís’ strike in the 77th was off a rebounded shot from – you guessed it! – Douglas Costa.

The win bumped Dunga’s squad up to third place to end the year. Now comes the long wait for matchday five at the end of March.