Brazil grind it out, Uruguay, Bolivia hit four

RIO DE JANEIRO: Bolivia and Paraguay, both thrashed in their opening World Cup qualifiers at the weekend, hit back by scoring four goals each on Wednesday in an astonishing start to the marathon South American tournament. 

World champions Brazil beat Ecuador by a modest 1-0 in Manaus, which lies in the heart of the Amazon rain forest, and are the only team with maximum points from two games. 

Ronaldinho bundled in an early goal but it was not enough for the crowd who jeered the five-times World Cup winners. 

Bolivia, hammered 5-0 by Uruguay on Sunday in a performance which their own coach Nelson Acosta described as naive, bounced back to thump Colombia 4-0 in La Paz. 

WINNING GOAL: Brazil's Ronaldinho reels away in delight after scoring against Ecuador.

Uruguay, for their part, crashed to a 4-1 defeat in Asuncion against Paraguay – who had lost their opening match by the same scoreline to Peru. 

With two of the 18 rounds of matches in the marathon South American competition complete, Argentina and Chile have four points each followed by Uruguay, Peru, Paraguay, Bolivia and Ecuador with three. Colombia and Venezuela have yet to get off the mark. 

Record-breaking strikers Joaquin Botero and Jose Cardozo both hit hat-tricks for Bolivia and Paraguay respectively. 

Botero, who scored 49 goals for Bolivar in the Bolivian championship two years ago, helped sink Colombia in La Paz with goals in the 28th, 49th and 58th minutes after Julio Baldivieso had opened the scoring with a 12th minute penalty. 

It was a miserable evening for Colombia's Ivan Ramiro Cordoba as the Inter Milan player gave away the penalty with a handball and was sent off in the second half for hacking down Limberg Mendez. 

Acosta, who had publicly mauled his players after the Montevideo debacle, hailed the victory, saying: “We have the capability and football to fight for a place (at the World Cup).” 

Uruguay's eccentric coach Juan Ramon Carrasco could find himself under fire after making six changes to the team who hammered Bolivia. He dropped his entire midfield, including captain Alvaro Recoba who was the inspiration in Montevideo. 

Javier Chevanton fired Uruguay ahead with rocketing long-range free kick in the 24th minute but Cardozo, who scored 36 goals in 25 games for Toluca in the Mexican championship in 2001, headed the equaliser three minutes later. 

In the second half, Carlos Paredes gave Paraguay the lead and Cardozo helped himself to two more. “We were angry,” said Cardozo. 

Carrasco remained surprisingly upbeat. 

“We can learn from these slip-ups,” he said. “I'm not worried about losing in this manner.” 

Brazil's players had brashly promised a footballing feast in Manaus but instead served up an unappetising display, with nothing to show except one scrambled goal which was awarded to Ronaldinho even though it seemed to go in off defender Neicer Reasco. 

Ecuador were unlucky not to be awarded a penalty in the second half after Reasco was bundled over in the penalty area. 

“The important thing was to start with two wins,” said left-back Roberto Carlos. “They defended for the whole 90 minutes, that's why it wasn't a good game.” – Reuters 

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