Messi sends Argentina top in World Cup qualifying

Argentina's decision to play their four world class forwards was fully justified in a crushing 4-0 win over Ecuador that put them top of the South American World Cup qualifiers on Saturday.

Sergio Aguero, Gonzalo Higuain, Lionel Messi and Angel Di Maria all scored in the victory as the home side scored three goals in a devastating 11 minute period in the first half that settled the outcome.

Messi, replicating his Barcelona form more and more with each match for his country, was brilliant and may well have finally won over the crowd at the Monumental in Buenos Aires.

"We have to be a solid team, structured in defense and accompany Lionel so he can express himself to the full," coach Alejandro Sabella told the post-match news conference.

Argentina lead the South American group with 10 points from five matches, one more point than Chile, who beat Bolivia 2-0 in La Paz, and two ahead of Uruguay and Venezuela who drew 1-1 in Montevideo.

However, Argentina can be overtaken next weekend when they have a bye which they will spend playing arch-rivals and 2014 World Cup hosts Brazil in a friendly in the United States.

Copa America holders Uruguay failed to end their Venezuela jinx, going a fifth World Cup qualifier in succession without beating the region's former whipping boys.

Diego Forlan put Uruguay ahead at the Centenario when he extended his national scoring record to 33 in the 39th minute.

But, with little more than five minutes left, a header by Venezuela striker Jose Salomon Rondon was helped into his own net by defender Diego Godin.    (Reuters)


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