Brazil beats Paraguay at 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifiers round

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DUSHANBE, 29.03.2017. /NIAT Khovar/. Goals from Philippe Coutinho, Neymar and Marcelo fired Brazil to a 3-0 victory over Paraguay in their World Cup qualifier here as the Selecao extended their winning run to eight matches, Xinhua news agency reported.

The result at Corinthians Arena lifted Brazil to 33 points from 14 matches and all but guaranteed the five-time world champions a place at football's showpiece tournament in Russia next year.

Earlier, Argentina's shaky qualifying campaign continued when they stumbled to a 2-0 loss to Bolivia in La Paz. The defeat came just hours after Lionel Messi was given a four-match ban by the FIFA disciplinary committee for abusing a linesman in the Albiceleste's 1-0 victory over Chile last week.

In other matches on Tuesday, Colombia and Chile boosted their chances of a direct qualifying berth by defeating Ecuador and Venezuela respectively.

But the biggest celebrations after the 14th round of South American zone qualifiers were in Sao Paulo, where Brazil made light work of a sluggish Paraguay.

Liverpool midfielder Coutinho put the hosts ahead just after the half-hour mark when he combined with Paulinho before unleashing a powerful left shot past Antony Silva.

As expected, Neymar was a target for rough treatment by the Paraguayan defence, particularly in the opening stages. The Barcelona forward was awarded five free-kicks in the first 35 minutes after being on the receiving end of several harsh challenges.

But he took his revenge after halftime when he ran onto a Marcelo pass in the left channel before calmly dispatching a shot into the bottom right corner.

Marcelo then prodded in Brazil's third goal after another one-touch assist from Guangzhou Evergrande midfielder Paulinho.

The victory continues the Selecao's unbeaten run under coach Tite, who replaced Dunga after the team's group-stage elimination from the Copa America last June.

While Brazil can already start packing for Russia, Paraguay's qualifying chances appear slim as they flounder five points adrift of the automatic qualifying places with four games remaining.

Following are the standings after Tuesday's South American zone (CONMEBOL) World Cup qualifiers (tabulated under matches played, won, drawn, lost, goals for, goals against, goal difference, points):

1. Brazil 14 10 3 1 35 10 25 33

2. Colombia 14 7 3 4 18 15 3 24

3. Uruguay 14 7 2 5 26 17 9 23

4. Chile 14 7 2 5 24 19 5 23

5. Argentina 14 6 4 4 15 14 1 22

6. Ecuador 14 6 2 6 23 20 3 20

7. Peru 14 5 3 6 22 23 -1 18

8. Paraguay 14 5 3 6 13 21 -8 18

9. Bolivia 14 3 1 10 12 32 -20 10

10. Venezuela 14 1 3 10 17 34 -17 6

Source: National information agency of Tajikistan