Alexis Sanchez missing World Cup after David Ospina touch
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There were so many twists and turns on a chaotic night of qualifying in South America — but few moments of drama will top Paolo Guerrero’s crucial free-kick goal for Peru.
They trailed Colombia 1-0 with just 15 minutes remaining and were set to miss out on fifth place and the Inter-Confederation play-off with New Zealand for a place at Russia 2018.
Chile were heading into the two-legged tie next month instead of Peru as Guerrero lined up the indirect free-kick around 25 yards from goal.
Paolo Guerrero celebrates his dramatic free-kick equaliser for Peru against Colombia
David Ospina on the floor after touching in an indirect free-kick by Guerrero for the leveller
Guerrero’s goal and Ospina’s gaffe meant his Arsenal team-mate Alexis Sanchez and Chile failed to qualify for the World Cup
A nation held its breath as they waited for Guerrero to swing the ball into the penalty box in search of a team-mate’s head.
But the former Bayern Munich striker, 33, had other ideas. He curled the ball around the wall and just inside the post, where a touch by Colombia goalkeeper David Ospina helped it into the net.
Under the rules of indirect free-kicks, that fingertip by Ospina meant the goal counted. Had he stood in the centre of his goal and not gone to save it, the referee would have been forced to disallow it.
But clearly Ospina didn’t realise it was an indirect kick and, in the process, has meant his Arsenal team-mate Alexis Sanchez, of Chile, will not be going to the World Cup next year.
The free-kick gave Peru the point they needed to move ahead of Chile, who lost to Brazil
Sanchez is left floored by Neymar as Chile slumped to a 3-0 loss to Brazil in Sao Paulo
Guerrero is mobbed as he leaves the field as Peru head into the play-off with New Zealand
That could be an awkward conversation when the pair return to London later in the week.
Colombia defenders appealed to referee Ricci Sandro but the official pointed out that Ospina had got the touch and the goal was legal.
As for Guerrero — did he think it was a direct free-kick or did he gamble that Ospina would simply rely on instinct and try and save it?
You sense Peru, who haven’t graced a World Cup finals since 1982 and now have a brilliant shot at qualifying, won’t be too bothered about that.
Ospina and Radamel Falcao were able to celebrate as Colombia finished in fourth place