Messi’s brace keeps argentina unbeaten, Neymar injured in Brazil’s struggles

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Lionel Messi netted a pair of goals, extending Argentina’s flawless start to the 2026 World Cup South American qualifiers with a 2-0 triumph over Peru. Playing at Lima’s Estadio Nacional, the Inter Miami star notched goals in the 32nd and 42nd minutes, pushing his international goal count to 106.

Argentina, the reigning world champions, now lead the South American qualifying standings with 12 points from four games, a five-point advantage over Uruguay, Brazil, and Venezuela, each with seven points. Messi’s first-half double showcased his continued excellence, with no signs of recent injuries that had limited his appearances in Major League Soccer.

In the first half, the 36-year-old opened the scoring with a powerful strike after 30 minutes and added another 10 minutes later, capitalising on Enzo Fernandez’s fine work on the left flank. 

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This victory keeps Argentina well on course to secure a spot in the expanded 2026 World Cup, co-hosted by the United States, Mexico, and Canada, which will feature 48 teams, with the top six South American teams guaranteed a berth.

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In contrast, arch-rivals Brazil endured a nightmarish 2-0 defeat in Montevideo, marking their first loss to Uruguay in 22 years. The setback was compounded by Neymar’s early departure on a stretcher, seemingly due to a knee injury. 

Darwin Nunez of Uruguay scored with a powerful header in the 42nd minute to break the deadlock at the Estadio Centenario, and he played a crucial role in Uruguay’s second goal, assisting Nicolas de la Cruz, who fired past Brazil’s Ederson in the 77th minute.

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This victory was Uruguay’s first over Brazil in a World Cup qualifying match since July 2001. Brazil, a five-time world champion, had previously settled for a 1-1 draw with Venezuela in the last round. Neymar’s injury prompted Brazilian team officials to announce that he would undergo examinations in Sao Paulo to assess its severity.

Venezuela, on the other hand, boosted their hopes of earning their first-ever World Cup berth by convincingly defeating Chile 3-0 in Maturin. Yeferson Soteldo was the standout performer, scoring the opening goal and setting up second-half goals for Salomon Rondon and Darwin Machis. 

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Soteldo’s first-half stoppage-time goal delighted the home crowd, while he later assisted Rondon, who swept home from close range in the 72nd minute. Soteldo was also instrumental in Venezuela’s third goal, providing an unmarked Machis to make it 3-0.

In other matches on Tuesday, Paraguay secured their first victory of the qualifiers, defeating Bolivia 1-0 in Asuncion thanks to a 69th-minute strike from Antonio Sanabria. Bolivia remains at the bottom of the standings, while Paraguay sits in seventh place with three points from four games.

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