Football Shaped

Notes and News by Leo Hoenig

The European Game

World Cup 2026 – Day 2. Venezuela spring a surprise

The opening game of the 2026 qualifiers turned out to be a scoreless draw, and so it was in the second game that we got the first goal of the tournament. Local reports suggest that the lack of goals is a surprise, stating that the home side hit the frame of the goal no fewer than five times, while Peru’s best chance also hit the post. The sports website, Versus, part of a Paraguayan news chain also describes the referee as being particularly poor and biased. They even claimed that the sending off of Luis Advíncula just before half time did not help their team at all. Advincula, who plays for Peru and Boca Juniors received a second yellow card, with Paraguay hitting the crossbar from the resultant free kick. Paraguay also played the last few minutes with ten men. Newcastle’s Miguel Almiron suffering an injury just before the end. Despite Paraguay having only made four changes, they had used all three substitution events and could not make another replacement.

This was scored by Rafael Borre, a Colombian who has been playing for Eintracht Frankfurt, but moved (on loan) to Werder Bremen on the last day of the transfer window. This means he has not played for his new club yet. Borre is best remembered, at least in Britain for the 2022 Europa League. He scored the only goal in the second leg of Eintracht’s semi-final against West Ham United and then an equaliser and the final penalty as Frankfurt beat Rangers in Seville to take the trophy. Colombia started their campaign with a 1-0 win over Venezuela

Almost inevitably, the second goal was scored by Lionel Messi as Argentina beat Ecuador 1-0, leaving Ecuador rooted to the bottom of the table at least into next week thanks to their 3 point deduction

The following day saw two more games take place, both comfortable home wins. Uruguay beat Chile by 3-1 with Nicolas de la Cruz scoring twice. Uruguay were 3-0 up before Arturo Vidal picked up Chile’s consolation. In Brazil, Neymer hit the headlines despite having an early penalty saved. His two second half goals brings his Brazilian total to 79 (from 125 games) and makes him Brazil’s highest goalscorer, ahead of Pele who scored 77 (from 92 games).

The following Tuesday saw every team play their second game. For Paraguay this meant a trip to Venezuela, generally thought of as one of the weaker opponents in CONMEBOL. Reports in Paraguay ahead of the game were confident, mentioning their long record without a defeat their (competitively, they only lost in 2001, and they have met in every World Cup Qualification process since). In the last world cup qualifications, Paraguay’s only three wins were over Venezuela, plus the dead rubber game against Ecuador in the penultimate game. Venezuela had finished bottom of the group that time, but have since produced a number of much better friendly results. And so it turned out that this was not a walkover in any form, Paraguay may have created more chances than the home side, but looked unlikely to score. Venezuela may have scored through Yangel Herrera, but the Manchester City outlier handled the ball in the build up, which was spotted on VAR. Herrera has spent the last five years on loan from City to various Spanish clubs. The hand ball came when trying to get past Ivan Piris. Piris was to have a more telling contribution in stoppage time, as it was his hand that got into the wrong place to give Venezuela a decisive chance to win the game. The much travelled Jose Rondon, now at River Plate made no mistake from the penalty spot.

Elsewhere, Argentina were correct in their judgement that they did not need to include Messi in the squad in Bolivia. They won 3-0. Brazil however could not do without their talisman, Neymar, for the trip to Peru. With the game looking to end scoreless, he put in the cross for his former PSG team mate, Marquinhos to score in the 90th minute. The two favourites are already the only two on six points from two games. Ecuador came from behind to beat Uruguay 2-1, Felix Torres scoring both goals. This brings their total up to zero points. The Chile v Colombia game finished goalless.

South American qualifying will continue in both the next two international windows, with everyone playing six games this year, but then it takes a break as the Copa America, (taking place in the USA next summer) takes centre stage, The focus for October will be on Asia which gets underway with knock out games to remove a few of the weaker teams.