Uruguay, Mexico Near Soccer World Cup Berth With Playoff Routs

Uruguay routed Jordan 5-0 and Mexico thrashed New Zealand 5-1 to open their soccer World Cup qualifying playoffs and close in on a berth at next year’s tournament in Brazil.

Two-time world champion Uruguay, a semifinalist in 2010, got goals from Maxi Pereira, Cristian Stuani, Nicolas Lodeiro, Cristian Rodriguez and Edinson Cavani in Ammam yesterday to take control of the two-match intercontinental playoff. Oribe Peralta scored twice as Mexico overwhelmed New Zealand in Mexico City.

“I expected that the team would face difficulties and win, but not with that number of goals,” Uruguay coach Oscar Tabarez said in comments on the tournament’s website. “We have become closer to the World Cup.”

The return games are scheduled Nov. 20, with the winners of the home-and-away series advancing to the 32-team global championship. Twenty-one nations have already qualified and the remaining 11 spots will be decided by playoffs.

Uruguay, sixth in world governing body FIFA’s world rankings, opened its fourth straight World Cup playoff by overpowering a Jordanian team cheered on at the Amman International Stadium by a crowd including King Abdullah II.

Pereira prodded in a rebound to score the opener in the 22nd minute, while Stuani took advantage of poor defending from a throw-in to double the lead 20 minutes later.

The start of the second half brought the best chance for 70th-ranked Jordan, which had moved to within two games of its first World Cup appearance by beating Uzbekistan on penalty kicks in their Asian zone playoff. Striker Ahmad Ibrahim shot wide after Adnan Hasan stole the ball and crossed in front of goal.

Cavani’s Curler

Lodeiro scored in the 69th minute to quiet the crowd, with Rodriguez getting the fourth less than 10 minutes later. In stoppage time, Cavani curled a free kick from outside the penalty area over the wall and goalkeeper Mohamad Shatnawi didn’t move as the ball flew into the far corner of the net.

Uruguay, which hosts the second game in Montevideo, won the inaugural World Cup as host in 1930 and took the title again 20 years later by beating Brazil at Rio de Janeiro’s Maracana stadium. The arena will host next year’s final July 13.

Mexico, which reached the round of 16 at the past five editions, included only home-based players for its playoff against New Zealand. They secured a four-goal advantage at the Estadio Azteca to take to Wellington next week.

Visiting goalkeeper Glen Moss denied Mexico with three saves before Paul Aguilar opened the scoring in the 32nd minute when Moss failed to get enough distance on his punched clearance. Raul Jimenez’s header doubled the lead with five minutes left in the first half.

Second-Half Headers

Peralta’s close-range finish made it 3-0 three minutes after the restart and the striker added his second of the game with an 80th-minute header. Home skipper Rafael Marquez put his team 5-0 up four minutes later with another header before Chris James scored a late goal for Oceania group winner New Zealand, which is seeking its second straight World Cup berth.

Mexico entered the playoff after finishing fourth in its regional qualifying group by winning only two of its 10 matches and scoring just seven goals.

The European playoffs open tomorrow, when Portugal hosts Sweden, Croatia visits Iceland, 1998 champion France is at Ukraine and Greece hosts Romania. The second games are Nov. 19.

The five African qualifiers also will be decided in the next five days. Ghana, Nigeria, Ivory Coast and Burkina Faso all take leads into their playoff second legs, while Cameroon hosts Tunisia following a 0-0 draw last month.

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