Michelle Kaufman

Michelle Kaufman: International battles take center stage this weekend

Ecuador's Walter Ayovi celebrates after his teammate Felipe Caicedo scored a goal against Argentina during a 2018 World Cup qualifying soccer match in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Thursday, Oct. 8, 2015. Ecuador won the match 2-0.
Ecuador's Walter Ayovi celebrates after his teammate Felipe Caicedo scored a goal against Argentina during a 2018 World Cup qualifying soccer match in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Thursday, Oct. 8, 2015. Ecuador won the match 2-0. AP

Most of the world takes a break from club soccer this weekend as World Cup qualifying matches and other international clashes are played.

The big headlines out of South America late Thursday night were losses by heavyweights Argentina and Brazil. Both had almost identical story lines: they were missing their biggest stars from Barcelona and lost 2-0.

Brazil played without suspended Barcelona star Neymar, and lost 2–0 at Chile as CONMEBOL qualifying opened for the 2018 World Cup in Russia. Lionel Messi was missing for Argentina, which was stunned 2-0 at home by Ecuador.

Two goals in two minutes gave Ecuador the shocking victory. Frickson Erazo scored with his head in the 80th minute, and Felipe Caicedo made it 2-0 a minute later.

“We were impatient,” Argentine defender Lucas Biglia said. “And of course we missed Messi.”

Messi is out with an injured left knee and won’t be back until late November.

As if that weren’t enough to make Argentina cry, Manchester City forward Sergio Agüero limped off midway through the first half with an injured left leg and is doubtful to play at Paraguay on Tuesday.

Brazilians are also unhappy. Their team has struggled under coach Dunga, losing in the quarterfinals of the Copa America this summer — a year after being embarrassed 7-1 by Germany at home in the World Cup semifinals.

Neymar is sitting out the final two games of a four-match suspension he received a little more than three months ago in the Copa America. He will miss Tuesday’s match against Venezuela.

Chile, meanwhile, continues to be the team to beat in South America. The Chileans won the Copa America in July, defeating Argentina in the final.

In other South American qualifiers, Uruguay — without suspended Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani — overcame the altitude in La Paz to defeat Bolivia 2–0 with goals from Martin Caceres and Diego Godin. Suarez is still serving a ban for biting Italy’s Giorgio Chiellini at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. Cavani was suspended for a red card he received in the Copa America against Chile

Teofilo Gutierrez and Edwin Cardona led Colombia to a 2–0 victory over Peru. Paraguay defeated Venezuela 1–0 with a late-game goal from Derlis Gonzalez.

Tuesday’s second-round matches are: Ecuador-Bolivia, Uruguay-Colombia, Paraguay-Argentina, Brazil-Venezuela and Peru-Chile.

The biggest headline from Europe was Ireland upsetting world champion Germany 1-0 to put itself in good position to qualify for Euro 2016.

Ireland’s Shane Long came off the bench to score in the 70th minute, and that’s all the Irish needed to pull off the shocker.

With one game in qualifying remaining, Germany tops Group D with 19 points, one ahead of Poland and Ireland, which meet in Warsaw on Sunday (2:45 p.m., ESPN).

Speaking of Poland, can anybody stop Robert Lewandowski? Apparently not. No matter what shirt he wears, the Bayern Munich star finds the back of the net. He scored both goals for Poland in a 2-2 draw with Scotland that knocked the Scots out of contention.

In case you’re keeping score at home, Lewandowski has scored 13 goals in the past five games.

▪ Haiti calls up Marcelin: Closer to home, Fort Lauderdale Strikers midfielder James Marcelin was called up by the Haiti national team for its Friday game against El Salvador in Houston.

Marcelin, 29, is a 6-2 defensive midfielder who has earned more than two dozen caps for Haiti since making his international debut in 2007. He started for his country at the 2015 CONCACAF Gold Cup. He has made 16 appearances (15 starts) for the Strikers in 2015, scoring two goals and adding three assists.

Who’s leading:

MLS: East — New York (54), D.C. (48), Columbus and New England (47), Toronto (46). West — Dallas and Los Angeles (51), Vancouver (50), Kansas City (48), Seattle (47).

NASL: Ottawa (37), Minnesota (32), N.Y. (27), Edmonton (25), Fort Lauderdale (23).

EPL: Manchester City (18), Manchester United and Arsenal (16), Crystal Palace and Leicester City (15).

La Liga: Villarreal (16), Real Madrid, Barcelona and Celto Vigo (15), Atletico Madrid (13).

Serie A: Fiorentina (18), Inter (16), Lazio (15), Roma (14), Torino (13).

Ligue 1: PSG (23), Angers and Caen (18), Rennes and ASSE (16).

Bundesliga: Bayern Munich (24), Dortmund (17), Schalke 04 (16), Hertha and Koln (14).

On the tube

Sunday: Poland vs. Ireland (2:45 p.m., ESPN), Germany vs. Georgia (2:30 p.m., FS1).

Monday: Russia vs. Montenegro (noon, ESPN2), Ukraine vs. Spain (2:45 p.m., ESPN2).

Tuesday: Netherlands vs. Czech Republic (2:45 p.m., ESPN2), Italy vs. Norway (2:45 p.m., FS1).