Colombia‘s hopes of qualifying for the Qatar World Cup are in jeopardy after a 1-0 loss to Copa America champions Argentina on Tuesday.

Leaders Brazil thrashed Paraguay 4-0 thanks to goals from Raphinha, Philippe Coutinho, Antony and Rodrygo. Coach Tite used to match to test other players in the absence of the injured superstar Neymar.  

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Meanwhile, Ecuador secured a 1-1 draw against Peru to go fifth. A win would have put them in third place in the region and going to Qatar, but that seems to be only delayed to the end of March, when the two final rounds will take place.

South America has four direct qualification spots for the World Cup, with the fifth-placed side set to play an intercontinental playoff.

Brazil (39 points) and Argentina (35) have already qualified. Ecuador has 25 points, three ahead of Uruguay. Peru is now at 21 points in fifth place, with Chile one point behind. Colombia has 17.

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Argentina 1-0 Colombia

Lautaro Martinez scored the only goal of the game in the 29th minute as some poor marking by the Colombian defenders allowed him free space in the box. 

Goalkeeper Camilo Vargas made several important saves, including three shots by veteran Ángel di Maria. 

Argentina did not count on superstar Lionel Messi, who is still recovering from COVID-19.

Colombia’s last rivals are less dangerous: Bolivia at home and Venezuela away. Coach Reinaldo Rueda’s team will have to win both, overtake Chile and one other between Uruguay and Peru in order to get to Qatar. Colombia has not scored in the latest seven matches of qualifying.

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“This is not over, we want to go at it until the end,” Rueda said in a news conference. “Maybe we need more clarity in the midfield and also in our finishing. We miss that energy.”

Argentina managed to get the best opportunities despite missing several defenders plus Messi and midfielders Rodrigo de Paul and Leandro Paredes.

Goalkeeper Emiliano Martínez said the result proves Argentina has “more than 11 players.”

“This is to the credit of a team, the absences were not noted. This team is getting stronger and stronger,” he said.

(With Inputs from the Associated Press)