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Messi leads Argentina to topof 2014 World Cup qualifiers
Published in The Saudi Gazette on 04 - 06 - 2012

Argentina's decision to play its four world class forwards was fully justified in a crushing 4-0 win over Ecuador that put it top of the South American World Cup qualifiers Saturday.
Sergio Aguero, Gonzalo Higuain, Lionel Messi and Angel Di Maria all scored in the victory as the home side scored three goals in a devastating 11 minute period in the first half that settled the outcome.
Messi, replicating his Barcelona form more and more with each match for his country, was brilliant and may well have finally won over the crowd at the Monumental in Buenos Aires.
Argentina lead the South American group with 10 points from five matches, one more point than Chile, which beat Bolivia 2-0 in La Paz, and two ahead of Uruguay and Venezuela who drew 1-1 in Montevideo.
However, Argentina can be overtaken next weekend when it has a bye which it will spend playing arch-rival and 2014 World Cup host Brazil in a friendly in the United States.
Copa America holder Uruguay failed to end its Venezuela jinx, going a fifth World Cup qualifier in succession without beating the region's former whipping boys.
Diego Forlan put Uruguay ahead at the Centenario when he extended his national scoring record to 33 in the 39th minute.
But, with little more than five minutes left, a header by Venezuela striker Jose Salomon Rondon was helped into his own net by defender Diego Godin.
Chile served notice it is still a force despite initial problems that included coach Claudio Borghi suspending a quintet of players for breaking a curfew before a qualifier against Uruguay last November.
Borghi's side notched up a third win as Chile made it three successive qualifying victories.
Forward Charles Aranguiz put Chile ahead in first-half added time and Bolivia's hopes took a further dive when defender Luis Gutierrez was sent off early in the second half for a foul on Alexis Sanchez.
Midfielder Arturo Vidal, the only one of the five players disciplined in November to be pardoned and have his suspension reduced, made sure of the points with a second goal seven minutes from time netting a ball that came back off the post.
Nigeria wins, S. Africa held
In South Africa, Nigeria scored late to beat Namibia 1-0, while South Africa escaped with a home draw against Ethiopia in World Cup qualifying Sunday.
Libya claimed a 1-1 draw in Togo in the first round of group games, while Mali lost away to Benin in one of the surprises of the weekend.
Spain-based striker Ikechukwu Uche found the net in the 80th minute to give Nigeria a Group F victory over a resilient Namibia team.
South Africa, the last World Cup host, needed a 77th-minute equalizer to earn a point after Salahdin Said's powerful shot had put the Ethiopians ahead in the 30th in Rustenburg.
Mali couldn't recover after Razak Omotoyossi scored in Cotonou for a 1-0 win to take Benin to the top of Group H alongside Algeria.
In other matches Niger drew 0-0 with Gabon; Guinea beat Zimbabwe 1-0; and Angola drew 1-1 with Uganda.
On Saturday, Didier Drogba was again among the goals as the Ivory Coast led a list of former finalists in a winning start to World Cup qualification but new African champion Zambia lost to Sudan 2-0.
There was also a setback for Morocco, whose coach Eric Gerets' job is now under severe threat after a 1-1 draw away at lowly-ranked Gambia. Drogba and his Chelsea teammate Salomon Kalou scored for the Ivory Coast as it beat Tanzania 2-0 at home less than a week after changing their coach.
Algeria, Cameroon, Senegal and Tunisia also triumphed Saturday.
Both Senegal and Tunisia came from behind to win 3-1 at home in their respective group games.
Senegal overcame Liberia in Dakar while Tunisia beat Equatorial Guinea in Monastir.
Cameroon, which has been to an African record six World Cups, needed a second half penalty from Eric Choupo Moting in an unconvincing win over the Democratic Republic of Congo in Yaounde.
Striker El Arabi Soudani scored twice as Algeria had a routine 4-0 triumph over Rwanda in Blida.


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