Neymar outshines Messi as Brazil win leaves Argentina adrift

Brazil thrashed Argentina to tighten their grip on South America's 2018 World Cup qualification campaign on Thursday as Uruguay maintained their push.

Neymar outshines Messi as Brazil win leaves Argentina adrift
Pedro Vilela Getty Images

Brazil 3-0 Argentina

Barcelona superstar Neymar outshone club-mate Lionel Messi with his 50th international goal for Brazil in Belo Horizonte as the five-time World Cup winners romped to a 3-0 win in the Estadio Mineirao.

Football Soccer - Brazil v Argentina - World Cup 2018 Qualifiers - Mineirao stadium, Belo Horizonte, Brazil - 10/11/16 - Brazil's Neymar reacts.

It was a sweet return to the venue for Brazil, who were humiliated 7-1 at the same ground by Germany in the semi-finals of the 2014 World Cup.

Neymar's landmark strike was sandwiched by a spectacular effort from Liverpool's Philippe Coutinho and a second-half finish from China-based midfielder Paulinho.

The win was a remarkable fifth consecutive qualifying victory under the reign of new coach Tite, who took over following the sacking of Dunga in June after Brazil's Copa America Centenario debacle, when they failed to advance from the group stage.

Brazil now have 24 points from 11 games, one clear of second-placed Uruguay who have 23 points.

The Brazilians are six points clear of third-placed Colombia and seven points clear of Ecuador and Chile, who are level on 17 points after 11 games.

Argentina meanwhile are languishing outside the qualifying places in sixth with 16 points.

The two-time world champions -- who have taken just two points from their past four qualifiers -- now face a crucial game at home to Colombia next Tuesday which they must win to avoid falling further off the pace.

"We're down but we're still alive," Argentina captain Messi said. "We have to forget the situation we're in and start thinking about Colombia. If we get a result against Colombia it will make things look a lot different."

Uruguay march on 

Uruguay meanwhile stayed firmly on Brazil's shoulder with a 2-1 defeat of Ecuador at Montevideo's Estadio Centenario.

Uruguay's Sebastian Coates (covered) celebrates with teammates after scoring against Ecuador during their 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifier football match in Montevideo, on November 10, 2016.

The Uruguayans took the lead on 12 minutes when former Liverpool defender Sebastian Coates bundled in a corner from close range for his first international goal.

Espanyol striker Felipe Caicedo then rounded off a sweeping Ecuador counter-attack to equalise just before half-time.

But Uruguay responded immediately, Diego Rolan stabbing home a low finish on the stroke of half-time to restore the home side's lead.

Bravo injury scare

Elsewhere Thursday, Copa America Centenario champions Chile had captain and goalkeeper Claudio Bravo to thank for a hard-earned point in a 0-0 draw against Colombia in Barranquilla.

Colombia's Miguel Borja conforts Chile's goalkeeper Claudio Bravo during their WC2018 qualification football match in Barranquilla, on November 10, 2016.

The Chileans, missing injured Arsenal star Alexis Sanchez, needed two superb saves from Bravo to keep Colombia at bay in a gritty game played in sweltering conditions.

But Bravo's display was tempered by an injury which forced the Manchester City goalkeeper off the field midway through the second half.

Peru too strong for Paraguay

In other games, Paraguay suffered a 4-1 mauling against Peru in Asuncion to derail their qualification campaign.

Paraguay took an early lead through Cristian Riveros after nine minutes but Peru hit back with second-half goals from Christian Ramos, Edison Flores, Christian Cueva and an Edgar Benitez own goal to run out convincing winners.

Paraguay coach Francisco Arce attempted to put a positive spin on his team's loss.

"We're still in the race to qualify," Arce said. "We don't think we're dead, we just need to pick ourselves up and get on with it," he added.

Paraguay, who are two points outside the qualifying positions, face Bolivia away in their next game.

Bolivia thrashed

Venezuela meanwhile scored their first win of the qualifiers with a 5-0 thrashing at home to Bolivia, with Josef Martinez scoring a hat-trick.

Venezuela's forward Josef Martinez celebrates after scoring against Bolivia during their WC 2018 football qualifier match in Maturin, Venezuela, on November 10, 2016.