Peru beats Paraguay, qualifies for World Cup playoffs

Peru's Gianluca Lapadula, center, celebrates scoring his side's opening goal against Paraguay during a qualifying soccer match for the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 in Lima, Peru, Tuesday, March 29, 2022. (AP Photo/Martin Mejia)

SAO PAULO (AP) — Peru beat Paraguay 2-0 on Tuesday in the last round of South American World Cup qualifiers to secure fifth place in the standings and entry to an intercontinental playoff for a spot in Qatar.

Gianluca Lapadula opened the scoring in Lima in the 5th minute and Yoshimar Yotún scored in the 42nd.

The Peruvians needed a win to qualify regardless of the results of Colombia and Chile. They finished the 10-team round-robin competition with 24 points, one ahead of the Colombians.

That intercontinental playoff in June will be against either Australia or United Arab Emirates, the teams which are playing off for fifth place in Asian qualifying.

Peru was also fifth in South American qualifying for the 2018 World Cup, and advancing to the finals by beating New Zealand.

Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay and Ecuador had already secured South America’s four direct entries for Qatar.

Also on Tuesday, Brazil achieved a landmark with a 4-0 rout of Bolivia. With 45 competition points, Tite’s team broke Argentina’s record of 43 in qualifying for the 2002 World Cup. That result in its unbeaten qualifying campaign is expected to lift Brazil to No. 1 in the next FIFA rankings.

Playing without suspended Neymar and Vinicius Jr., Brazil eased through in the altitude of La Paz with two goals from Richarlison and others from Lucas Paquetá and Bruno Guimarães.

FIFA wants Brazil and Argentina to go ahead and play their suspended encounter, which was stopped in its first minutes on Sept. 6 because of COVID-19 protocols. Soccer executives of both nations are negotiating to schedule the match for June.


Local fans packing the Nacional Stadium in Lima were expecting a tight encounter against a Paraguayan team that historically knows how to defend.

But Lapadula’s early opener calmed the atmosphere quickly. He received a lob pass from Christian Cueva and gently slid the ball past goalkeeper Antony Silva.

Only three minutes later, Paraguay’s Sebastián Ferreira nearly took advantage from a Peruvian defensive mistake, but his shot hit Pedro Gallese’s bar.

Peru took control after that and wasted several opportunities before Cueva combined with Edison Flores. His cross found Yotún, who finished with a low volley to beat Silva.


Matches in the altitude of La Paz are often dreaded by non-Bolivian players in South American qualifying. Brazil coach Tite came under fire before the match for describing the conditions at more than 3,600 meters (almost 12,000) feet above sea level as “inhuman.”

Brazil's coach Tite attends a training session at the Granja Comary training center in Teresopolis, Brazil, Wednesday, March 23, 2022. Brazil will face Chile in a qualifying soccer match for the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 in Rio de Janeiro on Thursday. (AP Photo/Silvia Izquierdo)

Still, Tite continued to experiment with his combinations, replacing seven players that started the 4-0 win against Chile last week.

Out went right-back Danilo, defender Thiago Silva, left-back Guilherme Arana, midfielders Casemiro and Fred plus the suspended Neymar and Vinicius Jr. Tite replaced them with Dani Alves, Éder Militão, Alex Telles, Fabinho, Bruno Guimarães, Philippe Coutinho and Richarlison.

That formation had never played together, but Brazil kept its cool and found its first goal after a run by Guimarães’ ended with an assist to Paquetá, who easily put the ball in the back of the net.

As the first half ended, Brazil found its second with Antony’s low cross finding Richarlison unmarked to score.

Bolivia forced goalkeeper Alisson into some important saves in the second half, but Guimarães’ goal in the 66th, with an assist by Paquetá, ruined any chances for the hosts to turn the match around. Richarlison scored his second from close range before fulltime.

In other results, Colombia beat Venezuela 1-0, with James Rodriguez scoring the only goal from the spot in first-half stoppage time.

Chile lost to Uruguay 2-0 at home, a result that ended its chances and pushed the Uruguayans to third place. Luis Suárez netted the first in the 79th and Federico Valverde added a second shortly before the final whistle.

Ecuador dropped to fourth place after a 1-1 draw with Argentina. Julian Alvarez opened the scoring in the 24th, his first goal for Argentina. But Enner Valencia equalized in stoppage time.