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CONMEBOL World Cup qualifying wrap: Messi, James, Gabriel Jesus shine

APTOPIX Argentina Uruguay Soccer WCup

Argentina’s Lionel Messi celebrates scoring against Uruguay during a 2018 World Cup qualifying soccer match in Mendoza, Argentina, Thursday, Sept. 1, 2016.(c)


Argentina is back atop the CONMEBOL World Cup qualifying table thanks to a certain blonde-haired unretired superstar and a dogged defense, their 1-0 win over Uruguay one of five key results in South America on Thursday.

[ MORE: USMNT preview | Lineup projection ]

Argentina 1-0 Uruguay

Uruguay entered the day atop the table and ended it wishing Lionel Messi really did retire. The world’s best attacker pushed a deflected shot home before halftime, and Argentina dealt with a red card to Paulo Dybala for the second half.

Colombia 2-0 Venezuela

Real Madrid’s James Rodriguez scored in first half stoppage time and MacNelly Torres added a goal well into the second half as Los Cafeteros joined Ecuador with 13 points. Venezuela remains dead last with just a single point through seven matches.

Ecuador 0-3 Brazil

Those good Olympic vibes keep flowing for Brazil, who went to Ecuador and broke through with three goals in the final 20 minutes. Neymar broke the deadlock with a penalty before Man City’s Gabriel Jesus scored twice to seal the win. Brazil has 12 points, one shy of its hosts.

Ecuador Brazil Wcup Soccer

Brazil’s Gabriel Jesus, 9, celebrates with Neymar, 10, after scoring against Ecuador during a 2018 World Cup qualifying soccer match in Quito, Ecuador, Thursday, Sept. 1, 2016. (AP Photo/Dolores Ochoa)


Paraguay 2-1 Chile

The hosts looked nothing like the side the USMNT beat at Copa America, scoring twice in the first quarter hour against a stunned Chilean team. Oscar Romero (Racing Club de Avellaneda) and Paulo da Silva (Toluca) had it 2-0 by the 10th minute.

Arturo Vidal answered with a header off a free kick before halftime to set Chile up for a big second half, but an equalizer didn’t come. To add insult to injury, Gary Medel took a red card in stoppage time.

Paraguay has leapt into sixth place. That’s level with Brazil on points, and drops Chile to 7th.

Bolivia 2-0 Peru

Don’t sleep on the old guys. Thirty-eight year old Pablo Escobar opened the scoring in the first half before 35 year-old Ronald Raldes capped the scoring as Bolivia picked up its second win of qualifying to move past Peru and into 8th place. Next up: a trip to Chile.

Follow @NicholasMendola