Brazil, Argentina, Ecuador win in CONMEBOL World Cup qualifying to keep clear

Brazil maintained their 100% record in the 2022 World Cup qualifiers. Claudio Reyes - Pool/Getty Images
The seventh round of South America's World Cup qualifiers saw the bottom five of the table meet the top five, but they were unable do much. Only one change was made in the standings: Peru moved above Venezuela at the bottom of the table, as the top three teams were the only ones to win.

Brazil now has seven victories out of seven, and they have almost enough points to guarantee a spot at Qatar 2022. This is before the halfway point. Chile won 1-0 away without many of their first-choice players. Nine from the Premier League and two Russian-based players were absent. All three were caught up in the country vs. club row.

Tite, Brazil coach, saw this as an opportunity for him to look at other options. He will be pleased with the outcome, but there are some concerns.

They met in Copa America quarterfinals. Brazil won the match by one goal. Chile defeated Brazil that day with a back three, and it happened again today. Tite chose his side with two speedsters on the flanks -- Gabriel Barbosa and Vinicius Jr. - in an effort to get outside of the Chile defense and cause problems.

Chile was the winner. Chile had an extra man in the midfield, and Arturo Vidal was the one who made the most of the space. Brazil's centre backs handled most of the threat and kept Chile at bay. Chile was stopped by Alex Sandro's fine tackle when they were breached.

Brazil was not given much explanation, which was frustrating because Tite, who had scored just two goals in the Copa's last three games, was hoping for improvement. Although Tite had asked for his team's directness, Lucas Paqueta (supposedly the midfield organizer) had a disappointing evening and Neymar couldn't hide the fact that they were not as fit as he expected.

Brazil had few clear chances to score, so the goal was fine. After a rare forward burst by Danilo at right back, Neymar and Everton Ribeiro, combined, drew the defense. Claudio Bravo was unable to block Neymar's shot and Everton Ribeiro was there to finish the job.

Brazil returned home with points but will look for more on Sunday against Argentina, who are coming off a convincing 3-1 victory away to Venezuela (10-man).

Argentina won their game easily. Edixon Gamez via AP

Venezuela chose an attacking side under Leonardo Gonzalez as their caretaker coach. They tried to make problems with their attacking pace but it all went wrong at one end. Jose Manuel Velasquez, the centre-back, was injured in an early game. Adrian Martinez was brought on to replace him and, before he could warm up, was involved in a wild tackle with Lionel Messi. He fell and lost his footing, making the challenge seem worse than it was. However, he was sent home and Venezuela was forced to deal with 10 men against an Argentina team that was confident after their Copa America win.

Lionel Scaloni maintained the same side as he did in the Copa final against Brazil. Angel Di Maria was wide to the right. Di Maria won them the game, but it came with a price. It forced Giovani Lo Celso to the left, and disrupted his excellent partnership with Messi. Marcos Acuna attacked again from the left-back, allowing Lo Celso push infield. Argentina quickly found its rhythm with their intricate triangles.

Lo Celso scored Lautaro Martinez's opening goal just before the half-time break. Similar slick passing moves led to goals for Angel and Joaquin Correas. Although Venezuela's stoppage penalty was not much consolation, Yeferson Soteldo made the most of the moment with a well-crafted "Panenka."

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While Argentina had three points in the bank, Ecuador was third and had to wait until the final to defeat a Paraguay in Quito.

Ecuador went seven games without winning, including the Copa and two rounds of qualifiers early June. Coach Gustavo Alfaro appears to have lost confidence in his team. Concerned about Ecuador's inexorable goal conceded, he added a third centre back. This was a wise decision against unambitious opposition who rarely crossed the halfway line and only left one man upfield. The side found pushing forward the attacking full backs as wingbacks was not a good idea. It robbed them their acceleration and made it easier to mark.

For a long time, Ecuador were unable to create. After about an hour, Alfaro changed to his usual 4-2-3-1 and things started to flow. It took until the 88th minutes to break the deadlock, even though Alfaro switched to his more traditional 4-2-3-1. Junior Sornoza, the taker, was able to clear a corner on the left. Pervis Estupinan, left-back, crossed and sent a beautiful cross to the far goal. Felix Torres, centre-back, headed home. Michael Estada, a striker, scored a stunning solo goal for his second. He cut in from the right flank and passed the keeper.

Roger Martinez scored an identical goal earlier in the day to give Colombia the lead over Bolivia. Fernando Saucedo scored a late equalizer for the hosts. The shot flew past David Ospina in thin mountain air, and he couldn't see it.

Down on the Pacific coast, Uruguay and Peru drew 1-1. Uruguay remains fourth, the last automatic qualifying spot -- while Peru moves a point above the bottom of the table Venezuela. With only five points between Uruguay and Venezuela, there's still plenty of play when the action resumes on Sunday in the eighth round. The obvious highlight is Brazil vs. Argentina.