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Buenos Aires (AFP)
Argentine star Lionel Messi and his former Barcelona teammate, Uruguayan Luis Suarez, led their national teams to beating Ecuador and Chile 1-0 and 2-1, respectively, at the start of the South American qualifiers for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.
The Kunmebol region qualifiers began after a delay of six months due to the outbreak of the new Corona virus. 10 teams will participate in the qualifiers, 4 of which will qualify directly for the finals, with the fifth-placed team participating in the supplement.
At the famous “La Bombonera” stadium in Boca Juniors’ Buenos Aires, and in front of empty stands, Messi scored the game’s only goal from a penalty kick in the 13th minute after winger Lucas Ocampos was blocked in the area by Estobinian. Messi raised the number of his international goals to 71 in 139 matches with his country.
Messi said after the match, “We were aware that things would be complicated, but the most important thing is that we started the qualifiers by winning and now we have to continue working in order to improve our level.”
He added, “The World Cup qualifying matches are always difficult. There has been a long time in which we did not play any match for the national team, and therefore the mental anxiety factor increased the complexity of the match.”
“We hope that the victory has contributed to the return of a smile to the Argentine people in these difficult circumstances,” he added.
Argentina fell to Ecuador, 0-2 at home at the start of the World Cup 2018 qualifiers, and in the same qualifiers, they needed a hat-trick from Messi against Ecuador (3-1) in the final round of the qualifiers to reach the finals.
Despite the individual and collective titles he won with Barcelona, Messi was unable to lead his country to any title. He fought the Copa America final three times and lost all of them (twice against Chile and once against Brazil). He also lost the 2014 World Cup final to Germany with one goal after the extension. . The World Cup in Qatar will be the last opportunity for him to be crowned world champion, knowing that he will play in the event of his country’s national team at the age of thirty-five.
The Argentine national team acquired the ball with a high percentage, but failed to penetrate the organized Ecuadorian defense, which relied on the physical factor to stop the attacks of the owners of the land.
His most prominent opportunity in the second half was when the ball reached Inter Milan striker Lautaro Martínez, who passed the ball towards Ocampos, but the Ecuadorian goalkeeper blocked his attempt.
On the other hand, the Bolivia national team, led by Argentine coach Gustavo Alvaro in his first official match, did not pose any danger to Argentina, and his striker Werner Valencia appeared isolated and the offensive changes made by the team with the participation of Eduardo Salvio and Lucas Olario did not help in enhancing the efficiency in the front line of the guests.
-60 international goals for Suarez-
In Montevideo, new Atletico Madrid striker Luis Suarez led the Uruguay national team to a difficult 2-1 victory over Chile by scoring the opening goal from the penalty kick, boosting his record of international goals in the ranks of his country to 60 goals after Sebastian Vega handball inside the region.
Inter Milan striker Alexis Sanchez equalized for Chile with a creeping shot (54), but the last word was for Maxi Gomez, who fired a powerful shot from 18 meters into the net, giving the victory to his country.
And the Uruguay national team missed its veteran striker Edinson Cavani (33 years), who was recently transferred to the ranks of Manchester United, because he has not played any match in the last six months.
In a third match, Paraguay and Peru tied 2-2 in Asunción. Angel Romero scored the goals of Paraguay (66 and 81), and Andre Carrillo scored the goals of Peru (53 and 85).
Brazil will meet with Bolivia and Colombia with Venezuela at the end of the first round at dawn on Saturday.
© 2020 AFP