Peru earn World Cup playoff spot as Colombia fall short

LIMA, March 29 (Xinhua) — Gianluca Lapadula and Yoshimar Yotun scored first-half goals as Peru secured a FIFA 2022 World Cup playoff berth with a 2-0 home win over Paraguay here on Tuesday.

Lapadula opened the scoring in the fifth minute by prodding a first-time effort past goalkeeper Antony Silva following Christian Cueva’s long-range pass.

Yotun doubled the lead just before halftime with a superb reflex volley after Fabian Balbuena failed to make clean contact with a headed clearance.

The result left Peru fifth in the 10-team South American zone with 24 points from 18 matches. Ricardo Gareca’s men will now meet either the United Arab Emirates or Australia in an intercontinental playoff, to be played over one leg in June.

Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay and Ecuador secured the four automatic qualifying places in the South American Football Confederation (CONMEBOL) group.

In a dramatic last day of qualifiers, Colombia secured a 1-0 away win over Venezuela but fell one point short of a playoff spot. James Rodriguez put the visitors ahead with a penalty on the stroke of halftime but it was not enough for the Cafeteros, who will miss football’s showpiece tournament for the first time since 2010.

Leaders Brazil completed their qualifying campaign with a 4-0 win over Bolivia in La Paz. Everton striker Richarlison scored twice while Lucas Paqueta and Bruno Guimaraes were also on target for the hosts.

The five-time world champions finished the qualifiers with an all-time high 45 points, beating the previous South American record of 43 set by Argentina in the 2002 campaign. The tally is even more impressive given that Brazil and Argentina still have a game in hand because of their suspended qualifier last September.

In Santiago, Luis Suarez and Federico Valverde netted late goals as Uruguay signed off with a 2-0 win over Chile. Suarez’s strike – a spectacular overhead volley inside the six-yard box – made him the highest scorer in the history of South American qualifiers with 29 goals, one ahead of Lionel Messi.

Meanwhile, River Plate’s Manchester City-bound striker Julian Alvarez scored on his full international debut as Argentina drew 1-1 with Ecuador in Guayaquil. Alvarez put the visitors ahead with a low effort in the 24th minute before Enner Valencia equalized in second-half stoppage time, firing home from close range after his penalty attempt was palmed away by Geronimo Rulli.