Giorgian de Arrascaeta sent Uruguay to the World Cup with the only goal of the game against Peru on Thursday, a result that also booked Ecuador’s ticket to Qatar, with a helping hand from Brazil. Ecuador slumped to a 3-1 defeat in Paraguay but still qualified for a World Cup for the just the fourth time — all this century — thanks to Uruguay’s victory and already-qualified Brazil’s 4-0 win over Chile.
Nineteen teams have now qualified for the finals in Qatar later this year, with 13 spots still available.
With Argentina, who play Venezuela on Friday, also already qualified, Peru and Chile will now vie for the fifth-place intercontinental play-off spot from the single South American qualification group alongside Colombia, who emphatically ended a seven-match goalless streak with a 3-0 win over Bolivia.
It has been a remarkable turnaround for Uruguay since a disastrous spell at the end of last year when they lost four matches in a row, conceding 11 goals, scoring just one and slipping to seventh in the 10-team group.
That spelled the end for iconic coach Oscar Tabarez, who spent a record 15 years at the helm and guided the “Celeste” to a World Cup semi-final in 2010 and Copa America title a year later.
But his successor Diego Alonso has won three out of three and taken Uruguay — winners in 1930 and 1950 — to a fourth straight finals.
Ecuador’s qualification owed more to a solid campaign than Thursday’s shambolic performance in driving rain on a difficult pitch in Ciudad del Este.
The omens were poor before kick-off as Ecuador had already lost on all eight previous trips to Paraguay for World Cup qualifiers dating back to 1981.
Strikes from Robert Morales, a Piero Hincapie own goal and Miguel Almiron won the game for Paraguay before Jordy Caicedo’s late penalty consolation.
Neymar marked his return to the Brazil team by scoring a penalty while Vinicius Junior, a Philippe Coutinho penalty and Richarlison heaped misery on Chile, whose hopes of qualification hang by a thread.
Goals from Luis Diaz, Miguel Borja and Mateus Uribe kept Colombia’s chances alive.