FC Barcelona’s Lionel Messi scored on his return from international retirement as Argentina beat Uruguay 1-0 to go top of the South American World Cup qualifying group. The Spain-based forward decided to stop playing for his country in June, but reversed the decision two months later.
Brazil remain in fifth place, outside the automatic qualification spots, in spite of their 3-0 win over Ecuador.
Gabriel Jesus, the 19-year-old Manchester City summer signing, scored twice on his debut with Neymar netting the opener. Brazil have never failed to qualify for a FIFA World Cup, and are only two points behind Argentina with more than half of the qualifying campaign to go.
A top-four finish would secure automatic qualification for Russia 2018, with fifth place taking them into a two-legged play-off with a team from Oceania. This could be one of New Zealand, New Caledonia, Fiji, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands and Tahiti.
Ecuador’s defeat saw them slip from second to fourth following Colombia’s 2-0 victory over Venezuela. Real Madrid’s James Rodriguez scored the first, before assisting in the second for Los Cafeteros. Peru, the 2015 Copa America semi-finalists, are eighth out of nine teams, and have only a single victory from seven qualifying matches after losing 2-0 away to Bolivia.
In Thursday night’s other match, Paraguay beat Chile 2-1 and moved above them into sixth, four points behind Argentina.
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