Argentina draw against Brazil

Thu 18 Nov 2021, 12:58:37
Sao Paulo: Argentina secured a place in next year's World Cup after a 0-0 draw against Brazil, giving Lionel Messi his fifth and possibly final shot at winning the only major trophy missing in his career.

Second-place Argentina qualified after Chile lost 2-0 at home to third-place Ecuador. With 29 points and four qualifiers remaining, Lionel Scaloni's Argentina squad cannot be overtaken by more than two rivals.

Competition-leading Brazil had already secured the first of South America's four direct entries to Qatar 2022. The fifth-place team goes into an intercontinental playoff for a spot in Qatar.

Brazil has 35 points, six ahead of Argentina. Both teams have completed 13 games, one fewer than scheduled because their encounter in September was suspended after seven minutes when Brazilian officials belatedly enforced COVID-19 restrictions. FIFA is yet to decide what to do with that match.

Ecuador has 23 points and is well established in the third position. And then, except for last-place Venezuela, there's a crush of candidates to qualify.

Colombia and Peru have 17 points and Chile is sixth with 16 points, narrowly ahead of Uruguay on goal difference. Bolivia is surprisingly competitive with 15 points in eighth position. Paraguay can't be ruled out with 13 points.

Few opportunities were available for Argentina and Brazil in a tense match marked by Messi's low key performance and Neymar's absence due to injury. Goalkeepers Emiliano Martinez and Alisson were just about spectators most of the match.

Messi, who played the entire match after recovering from a knee injury, said he felt well on the pitch. He played for only 15 minutes in Argentina's 1-0 win over Uruguay last week so he could recover to face Brazil.

Dutch head back to World Cup

The Netherlands will be back at the World Cup after an eight-year gap, forcing Norway star Erling Haaland to wait until at least 2026 to make his debut on the biggest stage.

The Dutch did just enough Tuesday with late goals in a 2-0 win in Rotterdam that eliminated the Norwegians who were missing Haaland, their injured 21-year-old forward. Turkey overtook Norway into second place in Group G, winning 2-1 in Montenegro to enter the European playoffs in March.

Ukraine also won away, 2-0 at Bosnia-Herzegovina, to join Turkey as unseeded teams who will be on the road again in the playoffs semifinals.

The unbeaten Ukrainians, who drew six of their eight Group D games, rose into second place above Finland, which was eliminated by losing 2-0 at home to table-topping France.

Kylian Mbappe set up Karim Benzema to score in the 66th before getting the second himself 10 minutes later after a speedy solo run down the left flank.

Wales and the Czech Republic started their Group E games Tuesday knowing both were heading to the playoffs, with leader Belgium already having claimed the direct qualification spot to the finals tournament in Qatar.

Algeria, Nigeria, Cameroon in WC playoffs

Algeria, Cameroon, Nigeria and Tunisia took their last chances and qualified for the World Cup playoffs in Africa, but Ivory Coast didn't seize the day and is the continent's biggest team so far to miss out on next year's tournament in Qatar.

African champion Algeria and Nigeria scraped through to the 10-team playoffs in March after both were held to home draws but clinched the point they needed to progress on the final day of the group stage.

Tunisia was more convincing, beating Zambia 3-1 to take the top spot and the playoff place in Group B, snuffing out Zambia's hopes.

Cameroon ended Ivory Coast's campaign with a 1-0 win in their much-hyped West African showdown in Cameroon. Karl Toko Ekambi's first-half goal settled the tense Group D decider as Ivory Coast lost the game and the lead of the group right at the end.

Ivory Coast, a two-time African champion, will miss its second straight World Cup after also failing to make it to Russia in 2018.

Only the 10 group winners progressed to the playoffs and Algeria, Cameroon, Nigeria and Tunisia took the last four spots. They joined Mali, Egypt, Ghana, Senegal, Morocco and Congo, which had already advanced, although there are two appeals brewing that may still have a say on who actually plays in the two-leg playoff ties to decide the final five African teams to go to the World Cup.

Australia draw with China

Australia slipped out of the automatic World Cup qualification spots after a 1-1 draw with China in Sharjah.

The Socceroos had been on course for a first win in three games thanks to Mitchell Duke's first-half header but Wu Lei's penalty, eventually given after a VAR review suggested defender James Jeggo handled the ball with 20 minutes remaining, earned China the draw on Tuesday.

“I don't think we did enough tonight,” Australia goalkeeper and captain Mathew Ryan said.

“We didn't create enough clear-cut chances. Obviously there's a controversial talking point but there are other moments throughout the game where we need to be better if we want to take away a result.”

Australia, seeking a fifth successive World Cup appearance, fell to third with 11 points from six games in Group B, one point behind Japan, which won 1-0 over Oman, in second. Saudi Arabia is the leader with 16 points after a 1-0 win over last-placed Vietnam and is on course to clinch its sixth berth.

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