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Argentina stays on top; Colombia, Ecuador closing

Associated Press Modified: September 11, 2012 at 11:47 pm •  Published: September 11, 2012

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (AP) — Argentina stayed atop South America's World Cup qualifying standings with a 1-1 draw against Peru on Tuesday, salvaging a point from a match the Gauchos deserved to lose.

Argentina has 14 points from seven matches but can't afford to relax as Colombia and Ecuador moved within a point. Colombia won 3-1 at ten-man Chile — four days after beating South American champion Uruguay 4-0 — and Ecuador drew 1-1 at Uruguay.

The big loser in Tuesday's games was Paraguay, which was beaten 2-0 at home by Venezuela. Paraguay reached the quarterfinals of the World Cup two years ago, but has only 4 points and is bottom of the standings. Venezuela, the only South American team never to have qualified for the World Cup, has 11 points and stayed in the mix.

The top four teams in South America advance automatically to the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. The fifth-place team faces a playoff against a team from Asia. Five-time champion Brazil advances automatically as the host nation.

Gonzalo Higuain scored in the 37th minute to help Argentina scratch out the draw. Carlos Zamorano scored in the 22nd minute for Peru, which could have had at least one more goal. Argentina keeper Sergio Romero stopped Claudio Pizarro's penalty in the 3rd minute. Peru also hit a post and was always more threatening against Argentina's frail defense.

"We knew it was going to be like this," Argentina midfielder Javier Mascherano said. "This is a tough place to play and the pitch wasn't that good. Everyone wants to beat Argentina."

Peru matched Argentina in the first half, with the attacking of Jefferson Farfan and Luis Advincula troubling Argentina's defense. Lionel Messi was held in check and Peru was more aggressive, getting away with several rough tackles.

The Gauchos knew they were in for a high-intensity match since Monday when the bus carrying Argentine players from practice was pelted with thrown objects, breaking several windows.

Colombia looks like a real contender after the 3-1 win at Chile.

"It was an excellent game by the entire team," Radamel Falcao said. "After falling behind we had the maturity and organization to turn the game around in the second half."

Matias Fernandez gave Chile a lead in the 41st, but Colombia came back with three second-half goals from James Rodriguez, Falcao and Teofilo Gutierrez.

Chile played with 10-men after Gary Medel was sent off in the 34th minute.

"They played well," Chile assistant coach Jaime Vera said of Colombia. "They came in after running up a big score against Uruguay and they were up for the match. We made too many mistakes and they took advantage."

Uruguay's Edinson Cavani scored in the 67th minute to salvage a 1-1 draw against Ecuador. Felipe Caicedo had given Ecuador a 1-0 lead with a 6th minute penalty.

Ecuador coach Reinaldo Rueda was happy with the point, particularly playing on an away pitch.

"We played a tough team that has lots of potential," Rueda said. "It was important to get a point as the visiting team. We had two or three chances to win the game."

Uruguay coach Oscar Tabarez was not as pleased.

"We didn't play well, except for during a few stretches," Tabarez said.

Jose Salomon Rondon scored both goals for Venezuela in the 2-0 win at Paraguay. Rondon scored in the 44th minute and again in the 67th to clinch the victory for Venezuela.


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