Lionel Messi saved Argentina and secured their qualification to World Cup 2018 with a hat trick against Ecuador, whilst Uruguay and Colombia also booked their places in Russia.
Six teams could have qualified alongside Brazil prior to kickoff on the final game in the South American qualification games – with every game playing a key part in the qualification.
Brazil were already through, and Venezuela and Ecuador were out, but everyone else had a shot at reaching the finals.
The top four – including Brazil – automatically qualified for the finals and fifth place would go into a playoff against New Zealand.
The sixth and seventh place teams would be eliminated.
Ecuador 1-3 Argentina
Argentina and Lionel Messi needed a victory against already eliminated Ecuador in order to qualify for the World Cup 2018 finals.
However, they started in the worst way possible after non-existent defending from a long ball allowed Ecuador’s Romario Ibarra to slot home inside 40 seconds.
With less than a minute on the clock, disaster had struck and the Argentinian hopes were looking lost.
There were arguments over the altitude impacts of playing in Quito, as well as controversy over points awarded to Chile and Peru after Bolivia were penalised for playing an ineligible player – having brought on Nelson Cabrera in a 0-0 draw with Chile and a 2-0 win over Peru who, whilst having spent three years in Bolivia and gained citizenship, didn’t meet FIFA’s five-year minimum for representing the national team, and so saw each game invalidated and a 3-0 win and three points given to both Peru and Chile.
Either way, on 12 minutes, Argentina saw their chances of making the World Cup rekindled after talisman striker Lionel Messi found the net.
Messi didn’t wait around either, and just eight minutes later on 20 minutes the sigh of relief of some 43,000,000 Argentinians could be heard as he completed Argentina’s turnaround.
Lionel Messi’s goal set a new record, making him the all-time top goalscorer in South American qualifying with 20 goals.
Messi then went one further and completed his hat trick on 63 minutes, carrying Argentina to the World Cup on his back.
Peru 1-1 Colombia
James Rodriguez opened the scoring for Colombia, a goal that not only put Colombia into the automatic qualification spots, but pushed Peru out of the playoff spot for Chile – who were being beaten 2-0 at the time by Brazil, and so could probably of not hoped for better news.
That stopped being good news for Chile and once again became Peru’s glory when Paolo Guerrero scored for the hosts on 76 minutes. That goal put them back in the playoff spot in an ever-more dramatic final day.
Uruguay 4-2 Bolivia
Uruguay’s game against Bolivia started in miserable fashion for the hosts, when captain Diego Godin’s attempted clearance of a long throw cannoned off the unfortunate Gaston Silva and back into the Uruguayan net for an own goal.
Defender Martin Caceres managed to get the equaliser for Uruguay on 40 minutes, before Edison Cavani quickly completed a turnaround with his country’s second goal on 42 minutes.
Guilty of the own goal, however unfortunate, Gaston Silva certainly made amends, claiming an assist in both of Uruguay’s goals.
Luis Suarez added a third for Uruguay on 60 minutes, and then a fourth on 74 minutes.
Diego Godin, not content with cannoning an own goal off the back of fellow player Gaston Silva in the first half, then added a second for Bolivia with an own goal all of his own on 76 minutes.
Uruguay managed to finish their final qualifying game in style, with their players scoring six goals – even if two were into their own net.
Brazil 3-0 Chile
As far from what Chile could have wanted, who needed a win to definitely secure qualification, it was Brazil’s Paulinho who broke the deadlock on 55 minutes.
Things went from bad to worse for the visitors too, as Gabriel Jesus quickly doubled Brazil’s advantage on 58 minutes.
As the minutes fell away, and needing at least a goal, Chile pushed everyone up – including goalkeeper Claudio Bravo.
Unfortunately on 90 minutes that proved to be their downfall, as an attack broke down and Gabriel Jesus was left to walk the ball into the net for Brazil’s third, all but knocking Chile out of the World Cup.
Paraguay 0-1 Venezuela
In the somewhat forgotten game, which was somewhat unfair given that a Paraguay goal could have seen them knock both Chile and Peru out and claim a playoff spot for themselves, the only goal of the game came on 84 minutes from Yangel Herrera, but for the visitors, who were bottom of the qualification group.
As the final whistle blew in the stadiums across South America a very dramatic final qualification came to an end.
Ultimately, it was Argentina, Uruguay and Colombia who had claimed the automatic qualification spots alongside Brazil.
Peru had secured a playoff against New Zealand, whilst Chile and Paraguay were out.