Brazil qualifies for Qatar 2022 World Cup with a Colombian victory

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Lucas Paqueta’s instinctive strike gave Brazil a 1-0 World Cup qualifying win against Colombia on Thursday to reserve their place at Qatar 2022.

The five-time world champions join hosts and Europeans Germany and Denmark as early qualifiers for next year’s final.

They produced an almost perfect qualifying campaign, winning 11 of 12 matches – their only flawless pointless draw in Colombia last month – to qualify with six games to spare.

“This is the fruit of the work we have been building for some time,” said the match winner.

“Now I have to keep working to find my space” in the World Cup squad, he added.

Brazil were made to graft when Colombia had the better of the first half, but an attacking tactical change from coach Tite at halftime paid dividends as the Selecao dominated after the break.

Colombia’s defeat saw them fall out of the four automatic qualifying positions in the single South American group as Chile overtook them after a third consecutive win, 1-0 away to Paraguay.

Wilmar Barrios had the first chance of the match, hitting a half volley narrowly over the bar as Colombia made a brilliant start.

Typically a muscular run into Duvan Zapata’s box saw him get a shot that flashed past the post.

Colombia proved tough opponents and created the clearer opportunities.

William Tesillo should have done much better at the back post when picked from Juan Cuadrado’s deep cross but aimed at a crowd of players.

Brazil struggled to create any remarkable chances with Paqueta’s shot from outside the box easily collected by David Ospina and Neymar’s free kick blocked by the wall.

Colombia were always dangerous during the break and Luis Diaz whipped an effort from outside the box narrowly wide, but their failure to test Alisson Becker on the Brazilian goal was indicative of a team that came into the match on the back of three consecutive singles draws.

Brazil were unable to back Colombia’s organized defense and a deflected cross from defense Danilo, who hit the sideline, was as close as they came until Marquinhos headed inches away from the goal of a corner in first half stoppage time.

Smooth winner

Tite was unimpressed by what he saw in the first half and hooked Manchester United’s much-slandered midfielder Fred for Real Madrid’s exciting winger Vinicius Junior.

They were on the front foot with Gabriel Jesus, who failed to score for Brazil in 17 matches, trying Ospina with low effort, before the goalkeeper then overturned a Neymar free kick around the post.

Brazil turned the screw and substitute Matheus Cunha should have done better with an eight-yard header he sent off.

When the goal came in 72 minutes, it was beautifully directed when Marquinhos fired a pass from halfway into Neymar, whose first ball found Paqueta hit an immediate shot under pressure from two defenders who seemed to catch Ospina.

Vinicius should have sealed the victory two minutes from time but stumbled when he surrounded Ospina, who was also saved by Antony, another substitute, in injury time.

A month ago, Chile’s hopes of reaching Qatar ragged out after a 2-0 defeat against Peru, but three consecutive victories revived their chances.

An own goal from goalkeeper Antony Silva in 56 minutes gave them a 1-0 win away to Paraguay, which they also defeated last month to start their good run.

It was a third consecutive defeat and a fourth consecutive game without a goal for Paraguay, who last month replaced coach Eduardo Berizzo with Guillermo Schelotto, and whose hopes are quickly fading.

Peru boosted their qualifying chances when goals from Gianluca Lapadula, Christian Cueva and Sergio Pina gave them a 3-0 win over Bolivia to move two points behind Chile.

Defender Piero Hincapie scored the only goal of the game for 41 minutes to give Ecuador a 1-0 victory over rocky Venezuela and cement their hold on third place.

(AFP)

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