Uruguay, with Diego Forlan scoring a record 32nd goal for his country, are the only team with four points after 1-1 draw in Paraguay while Chile, the team Argentina crushed 4-1 on Friday, gave beleaguered coach Claudio Borghi a boost with a tough 4-2 home victory over Peru.
Colombia, who had a bye on Friday, secured an invaluable 2-1 victory away over Bolivia in the rarefied air of their La Paz stronghold nearly 4,000 metres up in the Andes with substitute striker Radamel Falcao’s last-ditch winner.
Argentina and Venezuela have three points each, as do Colombia, Chile, Peru and Ecuador, who had a bye. Brazil as hosts are exempt from qualifying.
Defender Fernando Amorebieta scored the only goal in Puerto La Cruz for a Venezuelan side, fourth at the Copa America in July, who appear good enough to end their country’s wait for a place at the finals for the first time.
Argentina’s second choice goalkeeper Mariano Andujar, standing in for the injured Sergio Romero, did all he could to keep the score down.
Forlan, taking a pass from Luis Suarez, tapped in at the intimidating Defensores del Chaco to ensure Copa America holders Uruguay took a point in a 1-1 draw away to Paraguay, notching a national record 32nd goal.
Left back Richard Ortiz equalised on his Paraguay debut stabbing home a stoppage time goal at a corner.
Uruguay coach Oscar Tabarez said: “This (qualifying) championship is even, no team can consider themselves superior.”
Borghi, heavily criticised after the Chileans’ defeat in their opening qualifier in Buenos Aires, did not turn up at the post-match news conference at the Monumental in Santiago.
His assistant Jaime Vera said: “He isn’t feeling well” and then added about the result “it’s pure oxygen for what we are doing.”
Chile got off to a flying start when Waldo Ponce scored in the opening minute and they were 3-0 ahead two minutes after halftime following goals by Eduardo Vargas in the 17th and Gary Medel half an hour later.
Peru hit back with two goals in 10 minutes before the hour was up from striker Claudio Pizarro and winger Jefferson Farfan before striker Humberto Suazo gave Chile a two-goal cushion with a 63rd-minute penalty after Jorge Valdivia was brought down.
Valdivia said he thought Peru, who took a surprise third place at the Copa America, were overconfident after their 2-0 home win over Paraguay on Friday earned them exuberant praise from the home media.
“There was a lot of talk, especially by the Peruvian press, of the ‘fantastic quartet’,” Valdivia said referring to Juan Vargas, Farfan, Pizarro and Paolo Guerrero, who scored Peru’s goals against Paraguay.
“But we managed to neutralise them and take advantage of our speed on the flanks. I think that was the difference in the match,” he told reporters.
Peru’s Uruguayan coach Sergio Markarian said: “A goal so early complicates everything because it boosts your rivals.”