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Messi guides Argentina to World Cup

ESPN staff
September 11, 2013 « Live County Championship coverage | Chartbeat test »
Lionel Messi was on target from the spot twice in Asuncion © AP
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Two Lionel Messi penalties helped Argentina become the first team from South American qualifying to secure their place at next summer's World Cup finals with a comprehensive victory over Paraguay in Asuncion.

Jose Nunez cancelled out Messi's early opener, but further goals from Sergio Aguero, Angel Di Maria and Messi again put Argentina firmly in control.

Roque Santa Cruz grabbed a second goal in the 86th minute, but Maxi Rodriguez swiftly restored the visitors' three-goal cushion in the final minute to ensure Argentina qualified for next year's tournament in Brazil in some style - and with two games to spare.

The triumph moved Argentina onto 29 points in the Conmebol qualifying zone - three above Colombia who failed to secure their qualification on Tuesday night, going down 2-0 to Uruguay.

A draw in Montevideo would have earned the Cafeteros a place in next summer's finals in Brazil, but late goals from Edinson Cavani and Christian Stuani gave Uruguay the victory. The result boosted Uruguay's hopes of qualifying as it kept them in fifth place - the position that will face a play-off against Jordan for a World Cup finals spot.

Colombia dominated in the opening stages at the Estadio Centenario but Uruguay snatched victory through Cavani's 76th-minute header and a Stuani strike four minutes later.

Uruguay moved level on points with fourth-placed Ecuador - but behind on goal difference - thanks to bottom-placed Bolivia holding the Ecuadorians to a 1-1 draw in La Paz.

The hosts dominated a goalless first half before taking the lead two minutes into the second period through substitute Jaime Arrascaita. Felipe Caicedo got the visitors back on level terms from the penalty spot 10 minutes later after Ronald Raldes had fouled Jefferson Montero in the box.

Sixth-placed Venezuela remained three points behind Uruguay courtesy of a 3-2 win against Peru in Puerto la Cruz. Paolo Hurtado put the visitors ahead in the 19th minute, only for Salomon Rondon to restore parity nine minutes before the interval.

Cesar Gonzalez's penalty edged the Vinotinto ahead just after the hour mark and Romulo Otero stretched their advantage in the 76th minute. Carlos Zambrano gave Peru a glimmer of hope by reducing the deficit three minutes from time, but they could not find an equaliser.

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