Barcelona superstar Lionel Messi scored twice as Argentina defeated Uruguay 3-0 on Friday to remain comfortably on course for the 2014 World Cup finals in Brazil.
The victory kept the 1978 and 1986 world champions on top of the nine-nation South American group while continental champions Uruguay remain in the fourth and final automatic qualifying place.
Messi grabbed his 11th and 12th goals of the campaign in Mendoza, but the Argentina skipper had to wait until midway through the second half to unlock a tight Uruguay defence.
He opened the scoring in the 66th minute when he slid in from a cross by Angel Di Maria with his second goal — and his team’s third — coming eight minutes from time.
In between, Manchester City’s Sergio Aguero hit the target, again after some fine work from the tireless Di Maria. Argentina thought they had a fourth goal in the dying minutes but substitute Hernan Barcos’ effort, off a one-two with Messi, was ruled out for offside.
The win leaves Argentina with 17 points from eight matches, one ahead of Colombia and Ecuador who both also won on Friday. “When you give everything, the results are easier.
This victory leaves us very happy because we played a team which is very strong. Now comes a tough game against Chile (on Tuesday). Even though they lost today they are rivals whom we respect,” said Messi.
Elsewhere, in London England skipper Wayne Rooney also scored a brace in the team’s 5-0 win over San Marino at Wembley. With regular captain Steven Gerrard suspended, Rooney’s first competitive international as skipper saw Danny Welbeck also score twice before Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain sealed the win with his first international goal.
Other important WC qualifiers...
Bulgaria 1-1 Denmark
Armenia 1-3 Italy
Belarus 0-4 Spain
Macedonia 1-2 Croatia
Serbia 0-3 Belgium
Netherlands 3-0 Andorra
Turkey 0-1 Romania
Wales 2-1 Scotland
Rep of Ireland 1-6 Germany
Antigua & Barbuda 1-2 USA
Russia 1-0 Portugal
Ecuador 3-1 Chile
Colombia 2-0 Paraguay