SAO PAULO: Brazil are celebrating as the first South American team to qualify for the World Cup in Qatar with several matches in hand and more than a year before the tournament begins.
Neymar set up Lucas Paqueta in the 72nd minute to give Brazil a 1-0 win against Colombia in Sao Paulo. Thursday’s victory was the Selecao’s 11th in 12 matches of qualifiers, putting them top the 10-team South American group with 34 points, nine clear of second-placed Argentina and 18 points ahead of Chile and Colombia in fourth and fifth.
Chile and Colombia can add only 15 points from their five remaining games. The top four teams in South America earn direct entry to the World Cup.
Celebrations at the NeoQuimica Arena were discreet on the pitch after a hard-fought match with little inspiration from both sides. But they gained traction in the Brazil dressing room as players waved a Qatari flag and chanted, with FIFA and South American body CONMEBOL joining to congratulate the first team from the region to secure their place in next year’s World Cup.
Hosts Qatar, Germany and Denmark had already done that.
Paqueta’s goal came after Marquinhos found Neymar in the middle of the Colombia defense. Neymar quickly passed to Paqueta, who beat goalkeeper David Ospina with a low crossed shot that goalkeeper David Ospina got a hand to but could not stop.
Asked about the team’s future now that the spot in Qatar is sealed, Brazil coach Tite said he will seek solidity, creativity, goals and victories until the World Cup begins.
“That is excellency. That is what moves us. We need to get as close to that as we can,” Tite said in a press conference. “We will celebrate a little tomorrow to mark this moment.”
Who goes with Brazil to Qatar is still an open question after a night of fascinating results that left almost all the other teams believing they could still secure one of the places alongside Brazil.
Earlier in the evening, an own goal by goalkeeper Antony Silva got new Paraguayan manager Guillermo Barros Schelotto off to a losing start at home to Chile. Silva fumbled a corner from Alexis Sanchez into his own net after 56 minutes.
After winning just one of their first 10 qualifiers, Chile have now won their last three and Thursday’s victory lifted them into equal fourth on 16 points, the same as Colombia and Uruguay, who play Argentina on Friday.
Ecuador remain in third place in the group thanks to a 1-0 home win over Venezuela with a goal by Piero Hincapi lifting them on to 20 points.
Peru boosted their qualification chances as goals from Gianluca Lapadula, Christian Cueva and Sergio Pina gave them a 3-0 win over Bolivia in Lima to move two points behind Chile.
Bolivia and Paraguay sit a further two points behind, with only Venezuela adrift at the bottom of the table with seven points.
Published in Dawn, November 13th, 2021