Colombia 3-0 Uruguay
Ecuador 1-0 Bolivia
Argentina 3-1 Paraguay
Peru 2-1 Venezuela
CORDOBA - Lionel Messi was almost unstoppable again as Argentina posted their sixth victory in a row, swatting Paraguay aside 3-1 to take the lead in South America’s World Cup qualifiers on Friday.
Argentina, among the favourites to win the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, took over from Uruguay as the team to beat in the qualifying campaign.
Argentina ended a 39-year wait for another home win over the dogged Paraguayans in a World Cup qualifier and in securing it they sent their opponents to the bottom of the standings.
Messi might have had a third hat-trick in five internationals, hitting the woodwork twice, and his goal took his tally to 10 in six matches including friendlies.
“This is beautiful. It’s lovely when the crowd give you so much love,” Messi said. Messi brought the best out of the players around him with Angel Di Maria and Gonzalo Higuain scoring fine goals.
The nine-nation group without Brazil, who as hosts are spared the qualifiers, can be divided into two halves.
The top four will go to the Brazil finals, the fifth team will have a 50-50 chance, playing off against an Asian side, and the bottom four will miss out.
Colombia, who had played below potential in a poor start to the campaign that included the sacking 10 months ago of coach Leonel Alvarez, climbed into the top five with a 4-0 rout of Uruguay in steamy Barranquilla.
Colombia’s win pushed Venezuela, who are looking to reach the finals for the first time but were beaten 2-1 away to Peru, down to sixth place.
The Peruvians will be looking to confirm their improvement when they host Argentina in Lima on Tuesday.
The same day, previous leaders Chile, who had a bye on Friday, entertain the Colombians, while Uruguay will be looking to pick up the pieces against Ecuador.