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Eye on CONMEBOL: Messi inspires Argentina

Argentina's Lionel Messi. FIFA via Getty Images

Argentina have bounced back into the top five of FIFA World Cup qualifying in South America yesterday beating Colombia 3-0 at home to move into the intercontinental playoff spot.

Lionel Messi scored La Albiceleste’s first – a superb free kick – and set up the other two as Argentina leapfrogged Colombia into fifth place and a potential playoff against the OFC Stage 3 winners should they stay in that position.

Showing just how tight the race in South America is, the defeat sees Colombia slide from third place to sixth, one point behind Argentina with six matches remaining.

Chile were one of the beneficiaries of Colombia’s loss, moving up to fourth with a 3-1 win over second placed Uruguay thanks in no small part to a brace from Alexis Sanchez.

Ecuador have also climbed, rising to third place with a 3-0 win over bottom placed Venezuela in Quito.

In the Peruvian capital, Lima, Brazil pulled further ahead at the top of Eliminatoria stretching the lead to four points with a 2-0 win over their hosts.

Meanwhile, Paraguay are in danger of falling out of the race for the top five losing 1-0 to ten man Bolivia in La Paz.

The top four teams in the ten-team qualification race qualify directly for the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia with the fifth placed team entering a home and away playoff against the winner of OFC Stage 3.

New Zealand have the early lead in Group A of Oceania qualifying ahead of New Caledonia with Solomon Islands and Tahiti level in Group B. Fiji (Group A) and Papua New Guinea (Group B) join the race in the March window for match days three and four.

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