Argentina have slipped back into the frame for a FIFA World Cup Qualifying intercontinental playoff against the eventual OFC Stage 3 winner after a 2-0 defeat to Bolivia dropped them to fifth place in South American qualifying on match day 14.
Without the iconic Lionel Messi – who received a four-match suspension just hours before kick-off – the Albiceleste slumped to defeat to the team second from bottom in the 10 team standings with Juan Arce and Marcelo Martins providing the home side’s goals in La Paz.
Colombia and Chile took advantage of Argentina’s slip up to move to second and fourth respectively, increasing their chances of securing automatic qualification for Russia.
Colombia secured a crucial 2-0 away win in Quito as Ecuador continued their slide down the Elimatoria table, falling out of the top five for the first time in this cycle with just four matches remaining.
Chile dispatched bottom-placed Venezuela 3-1 at home with Alexis Sanchez opening the scoring before an Estaban Peredes brace effectively sealed the result within the first 25 minutes. A Second half Solomon Rondon goal and a missed Sanchez penalty proved academic as Chile moved out of the playoff place.
Meanwhile, Brazil became the first South American side to book their ticket to Russia next year with a 3-0 win over Paraguay in Sau Paulo.
Their qualification was confirmed when Uruguay slipped to a 2-1 defeat to Peru despite opening the scoring through Carlos Sanchez. They finished the match with ten men but by then goals to Paolo Guerrero and Edison Flores had sealed the points for the home side.
With Brazil through to Russia on 33 points from 14 games, six points separate the next seven teams.
Colombia (24), Uruguay and Chile (both on 23) round out the automatic qualification spots, Argentina (22) sit fifth while Ecuador (20), Peru and Paraguay (both 18) cannot yet be counted out.
Bolivia (10) and Venezuela (6) prop up the table.
The fifth-placed CONMEBOL team will meet the winner of OFC Stage 3 in a two-legged intercontinental playoff later this year.
New Zealand have already booked their place in the OFC Stage 3 final as Group A winners while any of the three Group B teams – Tahiti, Papua New Guinea or Solomon Islands could yet claim the other spot.