Qualifying for the 2026 World Cup in the CONMEBOL region is picking up steam, although the usual suspects were on the receiving end for a change.
Argentina and Brazil have been raining down terror on their continental rivals in recent World Cup qualifying cycles, establishing a reign of dominance unmatched in other confederations.
Both nations steamrolled to qualifications for the Qatar showpiece without losing, with Lionel Scaloni’s side building on their impeccable qualifying campaign with a long-overdue title last year.
Coming into round five, La Albiceleste sat comfortably at the top of the standings as the only South American side to have won all four opening qualifiers.
Having won all eight internationals without conceding since lifting the trophy in the Middle East, Scaloni’s team seemed destined for success in the 198th edition of the famous Clásico del Río de la Plata.
But the reigning world champions came to regret letting Taylor Swift stage her concert at El Monumental as Uruguay stunned Boca Juniors’ La Bombonera into silence.
A change of venue played into Marcelo Bielsa’s hands. His side posted their first victory against Argentina since 2013, with Barcelona and Liverpool stars running the show in Buenos Aires.
Ronald Araujo is not a goalscorer, yet he became the first player since Kylian Mbappe to beat Emiliano Martinez after Matias Vina teed him up on the stroke of half-time.
Lionel Messi and co went all-out attack in pursuit of an equaliser in the second half but couldn’t find a way through Bielsa’s water-tight defence.
Uruguay had a fragile lead going into the final stretch when Darwin Nunez continued his stellar international form.
After scoring in a 2-0 win against Brazil last time out, Mohamed Salah’s partner in crime sealed Argentina’s fate with a routine finish through the legs of Martinez to kill the game off in the 87th minute.
Meanwhile, interim Brazil manager Fernando Diniz hoped to turn his nation’s fortunes around following a brace of winless World Cup qualifiers in October after a historic Copa Libertadores triumph with Fluminense.
When Arsenal forward Gabriel Martinelli struck home in the fourth minute following an intricate build-up play, resulting in Vinicius Junior serving him up on a plate, the Selecao looked poised to return to winning ways.
However, on his return to his homeland for the first time since the kidnapping of his parents, Liverpool ace Luis Diaz delivered a talismanic performance to inspire Colombia to a 16th consecutive unbeaten game.
In a four-minute blitz, the lightning-fast winger first headed home an inch-perfect cross from Cristian Borja in the 75th minute before flying through mid-air to get on the end of James Rodriguez’s delivery to complete the turnaround.
Diaz’s arguably best display for his national team extended Colombia’s sterling undefeated streak stretching back to March 2022 while condemning Brazil to a third straight World Cup qualifier without winning for the first time since 2004.
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