World Cup qualifiers: Neymar leads Brazil win, Argentina salvage draw, Uruguay score 4

Nicolas Otamendi saved Argentina from a huge embarrassment in World Cup qualifying, scoring in the 83rd minute Tuesday to salvage a 2-2 draw at last-place Venezuela.

Venezuela almost snatched the victory in the 89th when Mikel Villanueva hit the post to the right of beaten Argentina goalkeeper Sergio Romero.

Argentina played without Barcelona star Lionel Messi, who had a groin injury. Messi scored Argentina's only goal last week in the 1-0 win over Uruguay.

Venezuela is the perennial doormat in South American football. It had only one point from its first seven matches in qualifying, and it's the only team in the South American confederation to never have reached the World Cup finals.

Brazil's Neymar during a 2018 World Cup qualifying soccer match. AP

Brazil's Neymar during a 2018 World Cup qualifying soccer match. AP

Argentina lost the World Cup final two years ago against Germany, and has been the losing finalist in the last two Copa America tournaments — the South American championship.

Juan Anor gave Venezuela a 1-0 lead in the 34th. Working on the right side, he fired a left-foot shot high into the far corner from 20 meters (yards). Josef Martinez made it 2-0 in the 52nd. Lucas Pratto scored for Argentina in the 57th in a match played in on-and-off rain.

Argentina improved to 15 points in eight matches, and Venezuela has 2.

In Brazil, Neymar scored the winning goal as Brazil defeated Colombia 2-1 to maintain their 2018 World Cup qualifying resurgence.

Barcelona superstar Neymar swept home a 74th-minute strike at Manaus's Arena Amazonia to settle a pulsating encounter between the two rivals.

It was a sweet victory for Neymar, who has unhappy memories from recent encounters with Colombia.

The 24-year-old suffered a tournament-ending injury against Colombia during Brazil's ill-fated 2014 World Cup campaign. A year later Neymar was sent off in a stormy battle between the two sides at the 2015 Copa America in Chile, and subsequently banned for four matches.

Neymar's second-half winner came after Brazil had taken the lead in the second minute through Inter Milan defender Miranda, heading home his first ever international goal on his 31st birthday.

But Colombia fought back and forced an equaliser when Marquinhos headed into his home net nine minutes before half-time.

The win saw Brazil move into second place in the overall standings, just ahead of Argentina on goal difference in South America's marathon qualifying competition for the 2018 World Cup.

The five-time World Cup winners now have 15 points from eight games, one point behind leaders Uruguay who thrashed Paraguay in Montevideo earlier Tuesday.

Uruguay took over leadership in South American qualifying, improving to 16 points with the convincing win.

Edinson Cavani scored twice as Uruguay bounced back to rout Paraguay 4-0.

Paris Saint-Germain striker Cavani scored a goal in each half at the Estadio Centenario in a one-sided win for the two-time World Cup winners.

The victory was the response Uruguay coach Oscar Tabarez had demanded following the disappointment of Thursday's 1-0 defeat to Argentina.

Cavani opened the scoring on 18 minutes, brilliantly sweeping home a volley from close range after a determined run down the left flank from Barcelona star Luis Suarez.

Cristian Rodriguez made it 2-0 three minutes before half-time, heading in a corner from the right flank to leave Uruguay in control.

It got better on the stroke of half-time after Suarez once again tormented the Paraguay defence to win a penalty.

Suarez picked himself up and crashed home the spot-kick to make it 3-0.

Nine minutes after half-time, the Cavani-Suarez double act struck again.

Suarez wriggled into space down the left flank and chipped to the far post where Cavani was waiting to head in from point-blank range.

Paraguay stayed on 12 points.

Chile is winless in its last two matches. Chile has won the last two Copa America tournaments, beating Argentina each time on penalties in the final.

The Chileans have been the form team in South America over the past two years, winning the 2015 Copa America and this year's Centenary edition in the United States.

Yet their stalemate with Bolivia leaves them seventh overall with 11 points from eight game.

Ecuador meanwhile, the early pace-setters in qualifying with four wins in their opening four games, have slipped to fifth place after a 2-1 defeat in Lima against Peru.

With inputs from agencies

Updated Date: Sep 07, 2016 11:23 AM

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