BUENOS AIRES: Argentina took over at the top of the all-in-one South American qualifying section for the 2014 World Cup finals after thrashing Ecuador 4-0 on the explosive inspiration of an 11-minute first-half spell which brought three of their goals.

Sergio Aguero, Gonzalo Higuain, Lionel Messi and Angel Di Maria  scored the goals with Messi in outstanding for once in Estadio Monumental in Buenos Aires.

Coach Alejandro Sabella said: “We have to be a solid team, structured in defence and accompany Lionel so he can express himself to the full.”

Argentina have 10 points from five matches, one more point than Chile, who beat Bolivia 2-0 in La Paz, and two ahead of Uruguay and Venezuela who drew 1-1 in Montevideo.

However, Argentina can be overtaken next weekend while they face World Cup hosts Brazil in a friendly in the United States.

South American champions Uruguay have now gone five World Cup qualifiers without a win against Venezuela. Diego Forlan put them  ahead in Montevideo  with his record-extending 33rd goal in the 39th minute but Diego Godin deflected into his own goal a header from Venezuela striker Jose Salomon Rondon in the 85th minute.

Chile suggested they are heading into happier waters by winning in Bolivia. It was their third successive qualifying victory at altitude in La Paz, on goals in each half from from Charles Aranguiz and Arturo Vidal. Bolivia defender Luis Gutierrez was sent off early in the second half for a foul on Alexis Sanchez and  coach Gustavo Quinteros was also red-carded for dissent.

In the African qualifiers Chelsea team-mates Didier Drogba and  Salomon Kalou scored the Ivory Coast’s goals in their 2-0 home win over Tanzania to provide a winning start for controversially-appointed new boss Sabir Lamouchi.

Algeria, Cameroon, Senegal and Tunisia were other winners.

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