While European national teams are still figuring out who will go to Euro 2024, South Americans are already competing for spots in the 2026 World Cup. On October 17th, the 4th round of the qualification took place, providing a couple of exciting storylines.
Messi only needed one half to "bury" Peru and break Suarez's record
It takes quite a bit of patience to list all of Messi's achievements. And here he has achieved another one. In the first half, the future owner of eight Ballon d'Or awards scored a brace against Peru, surpassing another Barcelona legend, Luis Suarez, and becoming the top scorer in the history of South American qualifiers (31 goals).
Both times, Messi scored with precision. First, he finished a lightning-fast Argentine counter-attack with a powerful shot under the crossbar. Then he responded to Enzo Fernandez's pass, slotting it into the lower left corner. There was even a goal disallowed after the break due to offside.
Now Messi has 31 goals in World Cup qualification. However, there is still room to strive for more, as he is only the best in South America; there are more goals scored by Iranian Ali Daei (35), Cristiano Ronaldo (36), and Carlos Ruiz from Guatemala (39). Leo and Cristiano plan to retire later, so the final ranking is still being determined.
Meanwhile, Argentina won all four qualifying matches without conceding a single goal and has already opened up a five-point gap from their closest pursuers. Speaking of them.
Brazil lost to Uruguay and maybe without Neymar for a long time
If things have been going well for the Argentinians in the past year, it hasn't been the case for their historic rivals. Five days ago, Fernando Denis's team missed a victory against Venezuela in the final minutes (1-1). They lost to Uruguay (0-2) and likely lost Neymar for the rest of the season.
Towards the end of the first half, Brazil's star player tried to show off his skills by flicking the ball over to himself while being challenged by Nicolas de la Cruz, who forcefully tackled Neymar's leg, resulting in a severe injury for the Brazilian. The Al-Hilal star writhed in pain and left the field on a stretcher. Interestingly, De la Cruz received no punishment for the tackle.
The exact diagnosis of Neymar is not yet known, but there are suspicions of a cruciate ligament tear. In such a case, he will miss the remainder of the season.
As for the goals, just before Neymar's injury, Darwin Nunez scored against Ederson, and in the second half, De la Cruz (almost Brazil's executioner) scored from a few meters out into the empty net after a shot by Maximiliano Araujo.
Both teams now have 7 points, along with Venezuela.
Published by Patrick Jane