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Brazil held by Venezuela as Argentina stays 100 percent in World Cup qualifiers

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A stunning 85th-minute equalizer from Eduard Bello earned Venezuela a rare draw at Brazil while world champions Argentina made it three wins out of three in South American World Cup 2026 qualifiers with a hard-earned 1-0 win over a determined Paraguay on Thursday.

A third-minute goal from Nicolas Otamendi was just enough for Lionel Scaloni’s Argentina, with Lionel Messi coming off in the bench in the second half and hitting the woodwork twice.

Brazil have never lost to Venezuela in a competitive fixture and have only once before, in 2009, failed to beat the Vinotinto in World Cup qualifying, but they were left frustrated after Bello’s brilliant late leveller.

Brazil took the lead when Neymar had a shot pushed wide in the 49th minute and from the resulting corner, taken by the striker, Arsenal defender Gabriel rose at the near post to angle home a fine header.

The goal forced Venezuela into a more adventurous approach and Wilker Angel flashed a header just wide from a 62nd-minute corner.

Rodrygo then found himself in a great position in the box but the Real Madrid winger blasted his shot into the side netting.

With five minutes left, the home crowd in Cuiaba were left stunned when Jefferson Savarino whipped in a cross and Bello lept acrobatically to blast a spectacular overhead kick past Ederson.

The result leaves Brazil in second place in the 10-team World Cup qualifiers standings, two ahead of Colombia and two behind Argentina.

Messi’s fight for full fitness inevitably dominated the build-up to Argentina’s attempt to maintain their 100% record in the World Cup qualifiers and the seven-time Ballon d’Or winner started on the bench with Julian Alvarez and Lautaro Martinez leading the attack.

But it was veteran defender Otamandi who provided the moment of attacking inspiration, meeting a Rodrigo De Paul corner with a brilliant volley at the back post.

Atletico Madrid midfielder De Paul went close to doubling the lead three minutes before the break when he struck the post and moments later Nicolas Gonzalez fired just wide.

Messi replaced Alvarez in the 53rd minute as Scaloni looked to break down a disciplined and well-organised Paraguay side but the woodwork foiled their talisman.

An inswinging corner from the right almost snuck in, but struck the post and then, after winning a free kick on the edge of the box, Messi curled his shot against the same post.

Meanwhile, Darwin Nunez struck a stoppage-time penalty as Uruguay fought back for a 2-2 draw with Colombia in Barranquilla and Ecuador got their first points with a last-gasp 2-1 win at Bolivia and Chile beat Peru 2-0.

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