Brazil, Colombia outclass rivals, lead World Cup qualifiers

SAO PAULO (AP) - Brazil and Colombia had no problem beating two of South America's weakest teams on Friday to claim their first wins in the opening round of World Cup qualifiers. The games were played without fans due to the health protocols of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Brazil beat Bolivia 5-0 in rainy Sao Paulo, while Colombia scored all the goals in the 3-0 win in Barranquilla in the first half.
After the first round, Brazil, Colombia, Uruguay and Argentina lead with three points. Peru and Paraguay have one. Ecuador, Chile, Venezuela and Bolivia don't have any.
All five games of the second round will be played on Tuesday: Peru against Brazil, Bolivia against Argentina, Chile against Colombia, Ecuador against Uruguay and Venezuela against Paraguay.
Neymar, who had a backache before the game and was only confirmed on the grid at the last minute, had two assists. He had more problems with the pouring rain in Sao Paulo than with Bolivia's chaotic defenders who barely touched him during the game.
Defender Marquinhos opened the goal with a header in the 16th minute. Roberto Firmino scored the first of his two goals in the 30th minute and pushed the ball into an empty goal after a cross from Renan Lodi.
Firmino scored the 3-0 in the 49th minute, supported by Neymar, and put the ball between the legs of goalkeeper Carlos Lampe. Then the 19-year-old striker Rodrygo scored his first goal for the national team with a header in the 66th minute.
Philippe Coutinho ended the defeat in the 73rd minute with a header, also assisted by Neymar.
"The team took it very seriously, we were very respectful," said Brazilian captain Casemiro. “We still have to improve teamwork. Game by game we'll get it. "
Brazil coach Tite said the team will continue to play aggressively.
Bolivia left some of their players in La Paz and looked to the duel against Argentina on high. The team is in crisis due to a political dispute between the country's football association and major teams.
The Barranquilla game was marked by a serious injury to the left ankle of Colombian defender Santiago Arias after battling Venezuelan striker Darwin Machis in the opening minutes.
Machis was initially sent off but video review overturned the decision after it became clear the Venezuelan hadn't touched Arias.
Colombia showed why it was one of the four direct South American berths at the 2022 World Cup in Qatar in the 16th minute when Duván Zapata met calmly from a close range after a cross from Juan Cuadrado.
Ten minutes later, Johan Mojica shot through the Venezuelan defense from the left and helped Luis Muriel add a second with a posh right footed.
Muriel scored the third Colombian goal in the first half. He dribbled past Jhon Chancellor and hit goalkeeper Wuilker Fariñez with a hard shot with his left foot.
Venezuelan coach José Peseiro, who was in charge of the team for the first time, couldn't do much in the second half - he only met most of the players days ago. His predecessor Rafael Dudamel left the job earlier this year after a dispute with the country's football association.
"From the first minute we imposed our game and that's why we won," said Zapata. “A good team is also one that defends well. Today that was the key. If we keep our lines behind, we can use our talent in the front. "
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