An inspired performance from Douglas Costa helped Brazil to a 3-0 win over Peru on Tuesday and lifted them into third place in the South American qualifying group for the 2018 World Cup in Russia.
Costa scored the first after 21 minutes and then laid on the second for Renato Augusto 12 minutes into the second half. Filipe Luis grabbed a third in 76 minutes after the keeper parried Costa's ferocious drive from the right wing.
"It was very important to win after the draw in Argentina and we did well," said Luis, who scored his first international goal. "The team is growing and getting better every game and we are finding a style of play that we want."
Brazil, who made three changes from the side that were fortunate to draw 1-1 with Argentina in Buenos Aires on November 13, made a shaky start to the game.
Peru's Paolo Guerrero should have done better when he only had the goalkeeper to beat after just three minutes but goalkeeper Alisson got down well to smother his shot.
Brazil, however, opened the scoring after 21 minutes when Douglas Costa got on the end of a cross from Willian to bundle the ball home from close range.
The 25-year old was unlucky not to get a second after 39 minutes when his swerving cross bounced off the post and away to safety.
Peru's Christian Cueva had an overhead kick well saved by Alisson in the 53rd minute before Willian watched Diego Penny parry a 20-yard drive to safety a few moments later.
Brazil doubled their lead after 57 minutes when Costa laid the ball into the path of Renato Augusto, who stroked the ball home from 20 yards out.
Neymar, who was regularly fouled by the Peruvians, was unlucky to see his goal cruelly chalked off for offside midway through the second half.
Luis made it three with 14 minutes left when he was on hand to fire home the rebound from Costa's parried shot.
The result lifts Brazil into third in the 10-team table, one of three sides on seven points.
Ecuador punish blundering Venezuela to notch fourth win
Ecuador ruthlessly exposed Venezuela's defensive frailties on their way to a 3-1 win which kept them top of the South American World Cup qualifiers with a perfect record on Tuesday.
Jefferson Montero, scorer of the second goal, was at the heart of Ecuador's best moves as they pulled the hosts apart to make it four wins in as many games in the single 10-team group.
Venezuela, who have never qualified for a World Cup, are bottom of the table after losing all four games.
After a lively start by the home side, Fidel Martinez had the ball in the net in the 10th minute for Ecuador, but his effort was ruled offside.
Martinez made no mistake five minutes later, however, racing through to drill past goalkeeper Alain Baroja after Venezuela lost possession in midfield.
Ecuador, who fell at the group stage in Brazil last year, struck the knockout blow in the 23rd when a clearance by Baroja, under no pressure, was intercepted by Miller Bolanos.
Bolanos fed Montero and the pair exchanged passes before Montero wrong-footed Baroja with a clever dummy and fired into the net.
Venezuela took control in the second half and created several openings but every time they lost the ball, Ecuador, who have already beaten Argentina away, looked like scoring.
Felipe Caicedo crowned Ecuador's performance when he met Montero's cross with a powerful, looping header from just inside the penalty area to score the third on the hour.
Walter Ayovi was denied a fourth when his 35-metre free kick crashed against the bar, before Josef Martinez side-footed home to reduce the arrears for Venezuela in the 84th minute.
Biglia goal gives Messi-less Argentina vital win over Colombia
Argentina midfielder Lucas Biglia scored a 20th minute goal to kick-start their World Cup qualifying campaign with a 1-0 away victory over Colombia at the Metropolitano on Tuesday.
It was Argentina's first win in four qualifiers without injured captain Lionel Messi and leaves them with five points, still seven behind leaders Ecuador who beat Venezuela 3-1 away.
Surprise package Ecuador extended to 12 points their perfect start, which began with a 2-0 upset victory over Argentina in Buenos Aires last month.
Colombia, who began with a 2-0 home win over Peru, have four points following their 1-1 draw in Chile last week.
Biglia began an attack in the Argentina half, Ever Banega carried on the move with a pass out to Ezequiel Lavezzi on the right and his low cross beat David Ospina, allowing Biglia, following up, to tap into the unguarded net.
Argentina, also without forward Sergio Aguero, had chances to make the result safer but substitute striker Paulo Dybala had a goal disallowed and minutes later hit the post.
They had to overcome the heat and humidity and a noisy 45,000 crowd for a second successive victory in Barranquilla.
The Caribbean port city was where Argentina got their previous World Cup qualifying campaign off the ground with a 2-1 win in November 2011 on the way to last year’s final in Brazil.
Argentina wrested control from Colombia after withstanding early pressure and could have scored in the 12th minute but Gonzalo Higuain shot over from Angel Di Maria’s cross.
They survived a scare when goalkeeper Sergio Romero misjudged a backward header from central defender Rogelio Funes Mori and had to make a diving save.
Angel Di Maria had a chance just before the interval when he had only Colombia keeper David Ospina to beat but his shot skimmed the outside of the post.
Argentina’s midfield of Biglia, Banega and Javier Mascherano ensured the visitors had more territorial control in a tight second half, moving well to deny Colombia space to build moves.
Striker Luis Muriel played a key role in Thursday’s 1-1 draw in Santiago in a performance Colombia were unable to repeat in Barranquilla.
The top four at the end of the 10-team, 18-match South American group in two years' time will qualify for the 2018 Russia finals with the fifth-placed team going into an intercontinental playoff.
US, wins for Mexico and Costa Rica
The United States were held to a frustrating 0-0 draw by Trinidad and Tobago on Tuesday but the point was enough to keep them top of their World Cup group and on course for a place in the final round of regional qualification.
Gyasi Zardes hit the bar with a header shortly after the break and Jermaine Jones saw his shot parried onto the woodwork by keeper Jan-Michael Williams late in the second half as the US dominated possession and created the best chances.
"All in all, a draw on the road is okay," US coach Juergen Klinsmann told reporters. "It keeps us at the top of the group as we move towards Guatemala in March.
"As expected, it was a tricky game. There were chances on both sides, I think we had the better of them... We should have put one away."
The US went into the game in Port of Spain on the back of a 6-1 home demolition of St Vincent and although the draw kept them level on four points with Trinidad and Tobago at the top of Group C, they have a vastly superior goal difference.
Guatemala continued to pile on the misery for St Vincent with a 4-0 win, a result that leaves the tiny island rooted to the bottom of the four-team group, from which the top two will advance to a final six-nation 'Hexagonal' pool.
The US are considered one of the giants of the North, Central American and Caribbean (CONCACAF) region along with Costa Rica and Mexico, and will look to seal a berth in the next round with matches against Guatemala and St Vincent in March.
Mexico are also sitting pretty after they beat Honduras 2-0 to record their second win from as many matches under new coach Juan Carlos Osorio.
Substitutes Jesus Corona and Jurgen Damm scored second-half goals to lift El Tri clear at the top of Group A.
The result was a major setback for Honduras, who qualified as one of the four teams from the region for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil but are still pointless after losing their opening fixture to Canada.
Canada drew 0-0 with El Salvador in the other Group A game on Tuesday to sit second in the table on four points, three ahead of their opponents with Honduras rooted to the bottom.
The only other team to have won their opening two games is Costa Rica, who scored two goals inside three minutes midway through a rain-drenched second half in Panama on the way to a 2-1 victory.
The home side halved the deficit moments later but were unable to find an equaliser in a bad tempered match that had six minutes of injury time thanks to repeated stoppages.
Costa Rica are top of Group B, with Panama and Jamaica, who beat Haiti 1-0 in Port-au-Prince, equal second on three points each.
Sanchez hits out after flurry of cards in Chile defeat
Alexis Sanchez launched another fusillade in Chile's football feud with Uruguay after the South American champions were hammered 3-0 in Montevideo on Tuesday, saying the hosts were as bad winners as they were losers.
In a typically bad tempered encounter, four players from each side saw yellow and Chilean Jorge Valdivia was sent off after the final whistle, apparently for words said to Colombian referee Wilmar Roldan.
Arsenal striker Sanchez took to Instagram after the defeat, Chile's first since winning the Copa America in July, to congratulate the Uruguayans.
He somewhat undermined his comments, however, by criticising them for a lack of grace.
"You need to know how to win and how to lose and I speak when I win and when I lose," he wrote.
"But what annoys me about past and present and other Uruguayan players ... is that they speak without acknowledging that they've lost.
"Today we lost and I congratulate them ... it's goodbye from the champions of the Americas."
In spite of the niggles from both sides on Tuesday there was no repeat of the skullduggery that marked the Copa America encounter between the sides.
Chile won that game 1-0 on their way to lifting the title for the first time but the match was overshadowed by the red cards shown to Uruguayans Edinson Cavani and Jorge Fucile.
Cavani reacted in the most innocuous of manners when Chilean defender Gonzalo Jara stuck his finger up Cavani's bottom and was shown the red card. Fucile was sent off near the end for a tackle that was robust but not malicious.
Uruguay have harboured a grudge ever since, with centre half Diego Lugano threatening to teach Jara, who was also banned after an appeal, a lesson.
Lugano was left out the squad for the game and it was perhaps just as well as Uruguay's three goals all came from defenders.
Godin got the first midway through the first half, Alvaro Pereira scored with a header in 61 minutes and Martin Caceres sealed the victory with another header three minutes later.
The win helped Uruguay to nine points in four games and their best start to a World Cup qualifying campaign since 1989.
Uruguay sit second in the table behind the runaway leaders Ecuador, while Chile are fifth in the 10-team table with seven points.
Lacklustre Italy held at home by stubborn Romania
Italy conceded a late goal to draw 2-2 with Romania in an international friendly on Tuesday, as doubts remained about their title-winning credentials ahead of Euro 2016.
The home side fell behind to Bogdan Stancu’s eighth-minute opener during an uninspiring first half, but equalised after 55 minutes when Claudio Marchisio scored a penalty after Eder had been brought down by Dragos Grigore.
Despite going 2-1 behind when substitute Manolo Gabbiadini scored his first Italy goal with a close-range header in the 65th, Romania extended their unbeaten run when Florin Andone equalised in the 88th minute after an error from goalkeeper Salvatore Sirigu.
The visitors, urged on by pockets of Romanian supporters around the ground, poured forward in the dying stages as they looked to secure an unlikely victory, but a shell-shocked Italy held on to avoid their second defeat in a week.
Antonio Conte’s side were again uncertain from the start.
Gianluigi Buffon made a smart save to thwart Gabriel Torje early on but the Azzurri fell behind moments later when Stancu stole the ball after a defensive mix-up between Matteo Darmian and Andrea Barzagli on the edge of the box and rifled home.
Italy have often been drab and uninspiring under Conte’s leadership and, without midfielders Andrea Pirlo, Daniele De Rossi and Marco Verratti, they appeared to lack the tools to take control of the game and to fashion dangerous chances.
The contest was transformed in the frantic 10-minute spell at the start of the second half with Marchisio’s penalty and Gabbiadini’s maiden international goal.
However, Andone’s late equaliser -- coming after Sirigu had parried Vlad Chiriches’s header into the forward’s path -- was a fitting end to a troubling international week for Italy.
Cahill bags hat-trick as Australia thump Bangladesh 4-0
Tim Cahill scored his first international hat-trick in over a decade as Australia crushed Bangladesh 4-0 in their 2018 World Cup qualifier in Dhaka on Tuesday.
Already Australia's all-time leading scorer with 42 goals before Tuesday's Asian Group B clash, the evergreen Cahill took his career tally to 45 with three first-half strikes.
The Socceroos captain Mile Jedinak also found the net as the reigning Asian champions cruised to 4-0 lead by halftime then took their foot off the gas against a Bangladesh team ranked 120 places below them.
The Australian coach Ange Postecoglou said his team had not performed at their best but there were some extenuating circumstances because of security-related issues in the lead-up to the match.
Last month, Australia's world champion cricket team postponed their tour of Bangladesh after the Australian government advised them to stay at home because of potential militant attacks.
Australia's resounding win took them to the top of the standings with 15 points from six matches with their remaining two games at home in March.
Jordan are second, two points behind the Socceroos, after losing 1-0 in Kyrgyzstan later on Tuesday.
The eight group winners and four best runners-up will all progress to the next phase, which decide Asia's four automatic qualifiers for Russia in 2018.
Bottom-placed Bangladesh, with one draw from seven matches, are out of contention, along with Tajikistan, the other team in Pool B.
Cahill's only previous hat-trick for his country was against Fiji in 2004, the same year he made his international debut. The 35-year-old had scored two goals in a match on eight occasions but his long wait for another treble ended quickly on Tuesday.
Cahill opened the scoring after six minutes when he headed in a free-kick from the impressive Aaron Mooy. He made it 2-0 after 32 minutes when he volleyed in from close range then 3-0 when he slotted into empty net after Mooy broke free.
Mooy also laid on Australia's final goal, just before the halftime break, when the midfielder's free kick into the box was nodded back from Bailey Wright to Jedinak for the easiest of tap ins.
"It was a great result, it’s been difficult circumstances but overall I’m disappointed with the second half,” Cahill said.
"I felt we could have done a lot better if we had stuck to the game plan and been ruthless.
“In these games you come away to difficult places to get the right result but it’s always great to score goals because that’s what I do.”
Japan top in World Cup group after struggle to beat Cambodia
Japan edged closer to their sixth World Cup finals on Tuesday after a lacklustre 2-0 win over bottom side Cambodia that took an own goal to break the deadlock and a last-minute Keisuke Honda header to salvage some pride.
The four-times Asian champions struggled as Cambodia defended resolutely and put pressure on a Japanese team lacking their usual flair and unable to convert from their trademark set-pieces. That included a missed penalty by captain Shinji Okazaki two minutes after the restart.
The win leaves the Blue Samurai top of Group E with 16 points from six games in joint qualifiers for the 2018 World Cup and 2019 Asian Cup.
Japan went ahead on 51 minutes when Khoum Laboravy headed into his own net, dashing hopes of an upset before a home crowd that flocked to see players from the big European leagues.
AC Milan striker Honda nodded home a Hiroki Fujiharu cross from close range in the final minute to spare some embarrassment against a side with only one goal to their name in their seven straight defeats this round.
"They're fighters," Japan's coach Vahid Halilhodzic said of Cambodia, 133 places behind his side in the world rankings.
"They tried to counter-attack us. I'm not satisfied with the result. I saw some confusion in the first half ... We want more goals than this."
Japan were frustrated at the start but Fujiharu almost put them ahead near the break when his close-range volley from a chipped Shinji Kagawa pass struck the inside of the post.
Goalkeeper Um Sereyroth was in good form throughout but he was finally beaten by a teammate trying to clear a floating free kick from Yosuke Kashiwagi.
"The ability of Japanese players and our players is very different," Cambodia coach Lee Tae-hoon said.
"If we lost by many goals, our players would feel down."
Qatar first to qualify for Asian Cup, Iran win
Qatar became the first side to book a spot at the 2019 Asian Cup and the next round of 2018 World Cup qualifiers on a busy Tuesday that showcased the politicking and problems the sport faces in its largest region.
With the Asian Football Confederation reeling from Monday's news that one of its pillars, Nepal's Ganesh Thapa, had been banned for 10 years for taking money during FIFA elections, Asia's best tried to switch focus back to onfield events but other issues were evident.
Qatar, the 2022 World Cup hosts, were 3-0 winners over Bhutan at Changlimithang Stadium in the Thimphu mountains and they secured top spot in Group C when Hong Kong and China then played out a 0-0 draw in a politically tense clash.
Home fans booed during the playing of China's national anthem and held up defiant banners at the Mong Kok Stadium, where there was a heavy police presence with organisers wary of trouble following last year's pro-democracy rallies.
The draw left Hong Kong in position to grab second place in the group behind Qatar who have won all six matches.
The eight group winners and four best runners-up will qualify for the Asian Cup and the third round of World Cup qualifying in the continent and most of the fancied sides, bar China, look set to complete the straightforward task.
Syria kept pace in second spot, one point back, after they struck in the 93rd minute to beat Singapore 2-1 at the citystate's National Stadium, where security was increased because of the attacks in Paris on Friday.
Syrian coach Fajr Ibrahim opted for a traditional national team tracksuit during the post-match news conference after donning a white T-shirt of a smiling President Bashar al-Assad on Monday.
Tuesday's 14-match schedule in Asia was kicked off by Iran beating US territory Guam 6-0 away despite four of their players and two members of staff being refused visas to enter the tiny island.
East Timor were also shorthanded, with seven nationalised Brazilians absent after complaints from rivals about their eligibility. They were trounced 10-0 by Saudi Arabia in Dili as the West Asians stayed top of Group A.
United Arab Emirates remained on their tails in second place after they beat Malaysia 2-1 in an empty stadium in Kuala Lumpur as the hosts served out a punishment for crowd trouble in their previous home defeat by the Saudis.
Indonesia have been kicked out of competing in Group F, where Iraq kept up their pursuit of leaders Thailand with a 2-0 win in Taiwan.
Bahrain team lost 2-0 in North Korea which all but ended their bid to reach Russia 2018.
Top African sides reach group stage
Africa’s top sides all booked places in next year's decisive World Cup qualifying group phase after coming through their knockout ties on Tuesday.
Algeria, Cameroon, Ghana, Egypt, the Ivory Coast, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa and Tunisia, who have all played at previous World Cup finals tournaments, will be among 20 countries in the draw for the next round having won their two-legged ties.
Ghana and Nigeria both came through testing encounters against minnows while the north African trio of Algeria, Egypt and Tunisia enjoyed more comfortable results.
Ivory Coast's Giovanni Sio scored twice as the African champions beat neighbours Liberia 3-0, for a 4-0 aggregate success, while Senegal overcame Madagascar 3-0 for a 5-2 aggregate triumph with goals from Cheikhou Kouyate, Moussa Konate and Mame Biram Diouf.
Cameroon were held to a goalless draw at home against Niger but a 3-0 win in Friday’s first leg laid the platform for their success. An own goal gave South Africa a 1-0 victory over Angola in Durban for a 4-1 aggregate triumph.
Nigeria beat a spirited Swaziland 2-0 in Port Harcourt with goals from Moses Simon and Efe Ambrose after a goalless draw in the first leg.
Ghana also won 2-0 on aggregate after a testing encounter against the tiny ComorosIslands in Kumasi. A free kick from Mubarak Wakaso and a late goal from Jordan Ayew ensured their progress.
Fullback Faouzi Ghoulam and striker Islam Slimani netted two each as Algeria hammered Tanzania 7-0 for a 9-2 aggregate triumph, while Egypt’s Ahmed Hassan scored twice in 4-0 win over Chad in Alexandria.
Tunisia beat Mauritania 2-1 at home to match the scoreline from the away leg at the weekend.
Burkina Faso also advanced on Tuesday, along with the Cape VerdeIslands, Congo, Mali and Libya, who produced the only away victory of the day to eliminate Rwanda in Kigali.
Libya's domestic league has been halted by civil strife and the national team is forced to host its home matches at neutral venues.
Democratic Republic of Congo, Gabon, Guinea, Uganda, Zambia and Morocco had already booked their places in the next round.
FIFA have yet to set a date for the draw where the 20 counties will be divided into five groups of four with the group winners qualifying for the 2018 tournament finals in Russia.