Paraguay claimed a crucial 1-0 away win over Argentina in the latest FIFA World Cup qualifying action in South American to move within a point of the intercontinental playoff spot, just behind the Argentines.
A win at home in Cordoba would have pushed Argentina firmly into one of the four automatic qualification places but faced with the prospect of losing touch of their own qualification hopes, Paraguay found an 18th minute lead through Derlis Gonzalez and hung on to close the gap on the top five.
Argentina’s Sergio Aguero missed a penalty in the second half as the two-time World Cup winners suffered their second defeat of the campaign.
Copa America champions Chile also righted their faltering campaign and moved to within two points of Argentina with a 2-1 home win over Peru thanks a Arturo Vidal double, including an 85th minute winner.
Meanwhile Ecuador and Colombia edged away from the playoff spot ever so slightly with draws against Bolivia and Uruguay respectively.
Third placed Ecuador fought back from two goals down at halftime at altitude in La Paz to earn a share of the points despite playing the final 11 minutes with 10 men. They left it late though with Enner Valencia completing his brace with an 89th minute equaliser.
Colombia moved a point ahead of Argentina by holding previous Eliminatoria leaders Uruguay to a 2-2 draw.
Meanwhile, Brazil leapfrogged Uruguay into top spot with a 2-0 win over Venezuela that was hampered by torrential rain and a lengthy floodlight failure in the second half.
The fifth-placed team From CONMEBOL faces the winner of OFC qualifying in a two-legged intercontinental playoff in November 2017.
Stage 3 of OFC qualifying for the 2018 FIFA World Cup begins next month with Solomon Islands and Tahiti locking horns in Group A (Nov 7 and 13) and OFC Nations Cup winners New Zealand squaring off against New Caledonia (Nov 12 and 15). Papua New Guinea (Group A) and Fiji (Group B) are waiting in the wings.
Stage 3 continues through FIFA windows in 2017 with the group winners meeting home and away in August and September for a place in the intercontinental playoff – the final hurdle to a place in Russia 2018.