Thanks to historic records, friends Lionel Messi and Neymar wrote a “normal” piece of football history again four days after the Sao Paulo quarantine farce. After his three-pack in Argentina 3-0 (1-0) against Bolivia, Messi left no less than the legendary Brazilian Pele (77) as South America’s top international goal scorer with 79 goals. Neymar shook off Brazil’s previous Eliminatorias record scorers Zico and Romario with his goal in the 2-0 (2-0) against Peru.
And so the new dream duo from France’s exceptional club Paris St. Germain, which last Sunday only dueled four Argentines directly for five minutes because the game was abandoned after disregarding the quarantine rule, continues undeterred with its national teams towards the 2022 World Cup, with one game less Brazil (24 points) and Argentina (18) are the only teams to remain unbeaten at the halfway point of the 18 round South American World Cup qualification.
Behind them, the hunters sorted themselves out for the four direct tickets to Qatar plus another via the play-off route. Uruguay (15) replaced Ecuador (13) in third place with a 1-0 (0-0) in a direct duel. Colombia (13) consolidated fifth place with a 3-1 (2-0) against Chile (7) and threw the Copa America winners from 2015 and 2016 even more into trouble. Paraguay (11) kept their World Cup hopes alive with a flattering 2: 1 (1: 0) against bottom group Venezuela (4).
But the night belonged to Messi, who demonstrated once world class (14th) and twice cold bloodedness (64th, 88th) at his goals in front of 21,000 spectators in the Monumental Stadium in Buenos Aires. The 34-year-old was then allowed to carry the Copa America trophy, won a month ago at the Sugar Loaf, on the lap of honor as captain. Messi is also now the top goalscorer in South American Eliminatorias history with 26 goals in front of another friend, Uruguayan Luis Suarez (25).
In Recife, Neymar dictated the action in front of a few invited spectators in the Pernambuco arena. His goal to make it 2-0 (40th) was his 69th in the Selecao jersey, which brought him even closer to record scorer Pele. The 29-year-old Neymar also prepares the 1-0 through Everton Ribeiro (14th). The Selecao expanded their start record to eight wins.
It will continue in just under a month, when Brazil will be guests in Venezuela on October 7 and Argentina in Paraguay. Uruguay and Colombia then face each other in a chase duel.