Brazil first into 2018 World Cup
Brazil have become the first side to seal their place at the World Cup finals in Russia next year.
Their 3-0 win over Paraguay last night, along with defeats for Argentina and Uruguay, means they cannot finish lower than fourth in South American qualifying.
Liverpool forward Philippe Coutinho, Barcelona striker Neymar and Real Madrid’s Marcelo scored Brazil’s goals. Neymar also missed a penalty as his side moved nine points clear of second-placed Colombia.
It is Brazil’s eighth straight win under coach Tite. Paraguay, meanwhile, find themselves five points off the top four with only four games remaining.
Two-time World Cup winners Argentina face a battle to qualify for Russia with their 2-0 defeat to Bolivia leaving them fifth, a point behind Chile.
They will have to do so without forward Lionel Messi, who has been banned for four international matches for directing “insulting words” at an assistant referee during last Thursday’s 1-0 win over Chile.
Uruguay, who were beaten 2-1 by Peru in Lima on Tuesday, are third. The team that finishes fifth will face the winners of the Oceania group in a two-legged play-off.
Brazil are 11 points clear of fifth-placed Argentina in qualifying
“Less than a year ago, Brazil were struggling badly in World Cup qualification,” South American football expert Tim Vickery told BBC Radio 5 live.
“With a third of the campaign gone they were down in sixth in South America’s table and in danger of missing out on Russia 2018.
“What a difference a coach makes. Out went the snarling Dunga and in came Tite – charismatic and intelligent – and he made an immediate impact.
“His side have put together eight consecutive wins, scoring 24 goals and conceding just two.
“The likes of Neymar and Philippe Coutinho are playing the kind of stylish brand of football that, historically, has made so many fall in love with that famous yellow shirt.
“They now just need to guard against an excess of euphoria – a lovely problem to have for a proud footballing nation, who just a few months ago were fretting about the prospect of missing out on a World Cup.”