BUENOS AIRES (AP) — Argentina and Chile drew 1-1 on Thursday in their first World Cup qualifying game since November.
The was played in an empty stadium because of the surging COVID-19 cases in the region.
The result will keep Lionel Messi’s Argentine team in second spot in South American qualifying if leader Brazil doesn’t lose to Ecuador in Porto Alegre on Friday.
In other games Thursday, Uruguay and Paraguay drew 0-0 and Bolivia moved from last spot to seventh in the 10-team round-robin with a 3-1 win over Venezuela.
The top four teams will automatically qualify to Qatar 2022. The fifth-place team will go into an inter-continental playoff.
Argentina will face Colombia on Tuesday, in a match where fan attendance is expected despite a high number of coronavirus infections in the country. Chile will play against Bolivia.
Uruguay will travel to Venezuela and Paraguay will host Brazil.
ARGENTINA 1, CHILE 1
Messi opened the scoring for Argentina in the 24th minute after a video reviewed decision put the ball on the penalty spot. The superstar calmly slid a shot to the left of Claudio Bravo, who jumped the opposite way. It was Messi’s 72nd goal for the team.
Alexis Sánchez equalized in the 35th. Charles Aránguiz took a free kick from the left that ended with Gary Medel behind the Argentinian defenders. He made a low cross which Sánchez pushed to the back of the net.
The teams, which have become bitter rivals since the 2015 Copa America, had late absences because of the coronavirus. Argentina missed goalkeeper Franco Armani and defender Gonzalo Montiel, and Chile had to do without midfielder Arturo Vidal.
Before kickoff, Argentina paid tribute to Diego Maradona, who died on Nov. 25, weeks after the national team’s previous official match. A giant bronze statue was unveiled outside the Único Madres de Ciudades stadium in Santiago del Estero, about 620 miles (1,000 kilometers) northwest of Buenos Aires.
URUGUAY 0, PARAGUAY 0
Playing without suspended Edinson Cavani, Uruguay had to settle for a scoreless draw with Paraguay, which kept both teams in the middle of the standings with five points apiece.
“This match made us stronger,” Paraguay coach Eduardo Berizzo said. “We took a point and we blocked two for our rival. A rival with a lot of experience.”
Cavani will not play in the next game, either, because of a suspension. That could force Luis Suárez to play once more alongside Jonathan Rodríguez, who had never started a match for Uruguay until Thursday.
The most controversial moment of the match was in the 24th minute, when Rodriguez found the back of the net but a video reviewed decision ended with a ruling that Matías Viña interfered in the reaction of goalkeeper Anthony Silva.
Guillermo Garat contributed to this report from Montevideo, Uruguay.
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