By Izuchukwu Okosi:
Brazil became the first country to qualify for next year's World Cup in Russia thanks to some help from fellow South Americans Peru, Completesportsnigeria.com reports.
Neymar starred with his 52nd international goal as high-flying Brazil overcame Paraguay 3-0 early Wednesday morning (Nigerian time) at the Corinthians Arena, but the CONMEBOL leaders still needed a favourable result in Peru. Phillipe Coutinho and Marcelo scored Brazil's other goals.
And Tite's men – amid a nine-game winning streak since last year's Copa America Centenarian, benefited from Peru's 2-1 win at home to struggling Uruguay as the five-time world champions are assured of at least a fourth-place finish, officially stamping their ticket to Russia 2018.
Peru's victory, while keeping their own qualification hopes alive, left third-placed Uruguay 10 points adrift.
Peru heaped more pressure on Uruguay with a 2-1 home win at the Estadio Nacional in Lima.
Paulo Guerrera and Edison Flores were on the score-sheet for Peru while Carlos Sanchez profiting from a Luis Suarez assist scored Uruguay's consolation goal.
With four rounds remaining, Brazil are 11 points clear of Argentina – who are fifth and occupy the play-off spot and will face Uruguay in August.
Brazil are back in qualifying action against Ecuador in the same month.
Arsenal forward Alexis Sanchez put on a classy showing as two-time reigning South American champions Chile eased past rock-bottom Venezuela 3-1 in their CONMEBOL World Cup qualifying clash at the Estadio Monumental.
Sanchez scored a stunning free-kick to move alongside Marcelo Salas as Chile joint-top goalscorer with his 37th strike in Santiago late Tuesday night.
The former Barcelona star- earning his 108th cap – also had a hand in veteran Esteban Paredes' brace, while he was denied from the penalty spot with 12 minutes remaining after Salomon Rondon's emphatic header gave the Venezuelans a glimmer of hope just past the hour-mark.
Chile's fourth consecutive qualifying win at home helped them climb up to fourth in the standings after 14 rounds, leapfrogging Argentina, as Venezuela remain at the foot of the table.
Bolivia took advantage of Lionel Messi's four-match ban and compounded Argentina's misery with a 2-0 win in Wednesday's early morning World Cup qualifying clash in La Paz.
Messi was initially named in head coach Edgardo Bauza's line-up on Monday, but a suspension imposed by FIFA on the day of the game – after the captain insulted a match official in last week's victory over Chile – ruled him out of contention.
It proved a huge blow for an already much-depleted Argentina, whose absences included the banned Nicolas Otamendi, Lucas Biglia, Javier Mascherano and Gonzalo Higuain
James Rodriguez scored one and set up another as Colombia secured a valuable 2-0 World Cup qualifying win away to 10-man Ecuador on Tuesday.
The Real Madrid man broke the deadlock in Quito before teeing up Juan Cuadrado to double the lead before half-time and the visitors never looked likely to surrender their advantage as Ecuador offered rather meek resistance.
Estadio Olimpico Atahualpa is a notoriously difficult ground for away sides given its altitude of nearly 2,800 metres, with only Brazil and Paraguay able to take points off Ecuador in their last seven home World Cup qualifiers.
But it was Gustavo Quinteros' players who appeared dazed and confused in the first half, with James turning in a Miguel Borja cross before setting up Cuadrado 14 minutes later as the Ecuador defence collapsed.
Matters became more difficult for the hosts when Luis Caicedo was sent off for a second yellow card just past the hour mark and, although they missed chances for a third, Colombia's victory always looked assured.
Jose Pekerman's side thus climbed to second in the South American section table – above Uruguay and Argentina.
South America World Cup qualifying Results
Brazil 3-0 Paraguay
Peru 2-1 Uruguay
Chile 3-1 Venezuela
Bolivia 2-0 Argentina
Ecuador 0-2 Colombia