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Lionel Messi leads Argentina to top of WC table

sports Updated: Sep 09, 2012 01:47 IST

Reuters
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Lionel Messi's Argentina brushed aside Paraguay 3-1 to go top of the South American 2014 World Cup qualifiers at the Mario Kempes stadium on Friday.

Goals from Angel Di Maria, Gonzalo Higuain and Messi, with a brilliant free kick, gave Argentina their first home win over Paraguay in a World Cup qualifier in 39 years.

Argentina lead the South American group with 13 points from six matches, one more point than Chile and Ecuador and two ahead of Uruguay. http://www.hindustantimes.com/Images/Popup/2012/9/09-09-12-pg-22d.jpg

Paraguay, quarter-finalists in South Africa in 2010, remained one from bottom with four points before basement team Peru's match at home to Venezuela.

Argentina went ahead in the second minute when Ezequiel Lavezzi crossed square into the middle, Higuain played the ball back to him and the winger passed to Di Maria who found the top corner with a sweet left-footed shot.

Paraguay got a lucky break and equalised in the 17th minute when holding midfielder Rodrigo Bran, playing for the suspended Javier Mascherano, gave away a penalty for handball. Midfielder Jonathan Fabbro converted the penalty beating goalkeeper Sergio Romero with a good strike into the top corner from the spot. Di Maria almost scored again direct from a corner which he took left-footed from the right, curling the ball in towards goal where goalkeeper Justo Villar just managed to punch the ball out.

Argentina regained the lead on the half hour when Higuain latched onto a defensive mistake on the right, fended off left back Richard Ortiz and shot low past Villar into the net off the inside of the far post.

Messi made amends with a brilliant free kick from more than 30 metres that dipped low inside the diving Villar's left hand post in the 63rd minute to take his tally to 10 goals in Argentina's last six matches.

Jamaica shock US

Kingston: Jamaica surprised the United States 2-1 to seize the Group A lead on Friday as Mexico moved closer to the final round of 2014 World Cup qualifying in North and Central America and the Caribbean (CONCACAF) region.

Goals from Rodolph Austin and Luton Shelton overcame Clint Dempsey's first-minute strike for the Americans as Jamaica posted their first victory over the US in 19 matches.

Dempsey's goal -- 36 seconds into the match -- was the fastest for the United States in World Cup qualifying, confounding predictions that he would show some rust in his first competitive match since June.

Italy falter

London: England, Germany, France and the Netherlands all started the long road to the 2014 World Cup finals in Brazil with victories but Italy stumbled out of the blocks when the European qualifying campaign began on Friday.

World champions Spain do not begin their bid to reach the finals until Tuesday, but apart from the Italians, held to a 2-2 draw in Group B in Bulgaria, there were no major problems for the continent's big guns.

England won their opening Group H match 5-0 in Moldova, while Germany strolled to a relatively modest 3-0 Group C win over the Faroe Islands.

A first-half goal from Abou Diaby gave France a winning 1-0 start in their Group I campaign against Finland in Helsinki, while the Netherlands beat Turkey 2-0 in Amsterdam in Group D with Robin van Persie and Luciano Narsingh, who hit the second in stoppage time, scoring for the Dutch. Italy, who have been champions four times, had a topsy-turvy start in Sofia before drawing 2-2 with Bulgaria with Pablo Osvaldo scoring both their to put them 2-1 up after they conceded first.