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Brazil and U.S. resurgent while Alexis Sanchez lashes out: Heroes & Villains

Shaka Hislop talks which of England's strikers will most likely feature in the 2018 World Cup next summer.

It may be another international break, but with World Cup qualifiers raging all over the globe, there's still plenty at stake. Iain Macintosh runs through the good and the bad of the action as teams jostle for position on the road to Russia 2018.

HEROES

Brazil haven't quite qualified for the 2018 World Cup yet, but if they were to place a bulk order of "Teach Yourself Russian" books this week, they wouldn't have to worry too much about keeping the receipt safe. Their away trip to second place...

 By Tom Kundert

Cristiano Ronaldo and Portugal's golden generation target more glory

Cristiano Ronaldo's enduring class was evident as Portugal thumped Hungary in World Cup qualifying.

Portugal put in a thoroughly professional performance of measured attacking and complete control in Lisbon on Saturday night to dispatch Hungary 3-0 in their quest to chase down Switzerland at the top of World Cup qualifying Group B.

Fernando Santos has now won 11 of 12 qualifying matches since taking over as Portugal coach in September 2014, not to mention the small matter of guiding the Selecao to their first trophy, winning Euro 2016 in France last summer. And there were plenty of indications...

 By Tim Vickery

Ecuador vs. Colombia puts CONMEBOL qualifying sides' deficiencies on display

Gab Marcotti and Alejandro Moreno enthusiastically debate whether Brazil can be called the world's best team right now.
Steve Nicol expresses surprise in Brazil's defensive improvement under Tite, made evident in their win at Uruguay.
Alejandro Moreno says Argentina's win over Chile in qualifying covered up glaring problems for Edgardo Bauza's side.

With five rounds of the 18 to go, there are now four separate competitions taking place in CONMEBOL's World Cup qualifying campaign.

Brazil are in a category of their own. Seven consecutive victories have given them a seven-point lead at the top of the table. They are all but mathematically qualified for Russia 2018 and can use the rest of competition to try to ensure that they have not peaked too soon.

At the other end of the scale are Venezuela and Bolivia, down at the foot of the table with no...

Life at the bottom with one of Britain's worst teams: Newport County

Rodney Parade awaits Newport County's League Two clash vs. Luton Town on March 21.

NEWPORT, Wales -- "No!" screams a Newport County fan in anguish as the ball bounces unevenly in the six-yard box, as welcome a sight as a rat in the bath. "Nooooooo!"

There is a desperate melee of muddy legs, a distant thud of leather on leather, the ball pops up... and careens harmlessly away for a throw-in. The man -- sensible hair, sensible jacket, driven insensible by frustration with his team -- exhales loudly and shakes his head wryly. Too close. Far too close.

The margins for Newport County...

 By Tim Vickery

Argentina gain vital win vs. Chile but next lies a visit to Bolivia at altitude

Chile manager Juan Antonio Pizzi is proud of his team despite the defeat to Argentina.

It was thoroughly unconvincing and not really deserved, but Argentina's 1-0 win over Chile on Thursday was a result of massive importance. Come the end of the World Cup qualifying campaign it could mark the difference between a place in Russia and watching on TV.

Further, it took place in a context where nothing seemed to be going right for the Argentines, starting with events further north in South America.

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ChileChile
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Bolivia chose not to take some of their best players to Colombia, opting instead to save...

 By Sam Kelly

Argentina beat Chile but have plenty to improve after poor performance

Argentina pushed Chile out of the top five in CONMEBOL World Cup qualifying thanks to a Lionel Messi penalty kick.
Messi celeb vs Chile 170323
Lionel Messi was about the only Argentina player to threaten.

BUENOS AIRES -- The most important thing, as Edgardo Bauza said in the days before the game, was for Argentina to get the win. And get the win they did. In an incredibly tight World Cup qualifying group, a 1-0 victory over Chile on Thursday night means Argentina move a little closer to Russia regardless of how they did it.

Beyond the result, it was also a chance for the country's fans to see whether this team are coming together, and whether Bauza is stamping his mark on them. However, the answers...