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(Reuters) Lionel Messi converted a penalty as Argentina labored to a 1-0 win over Chile in a World Cup qualifier on Thursday that put them back in the automatic qualifying spots for next year's finals in Russia.

Messi beat Claudio Bravo from the spot in the 16th minute after Angel Di Maria had been pushed from behind in the first quarter of a poor, tense match on a terrible River Plate pitch.

Argentina, a shadow of the team that finished World Cup runners-up in 2014, moved into third place in the 10-nation South American group on 22 points, eight behind leaders Brazil and one in arrears to second-placed Uruguay.

Brazil earlier beat Uruguay 4-1.

Colombia, who beat Bolivia 1-0 at home, are now in the fourth qualifying place with 21 points, one ahead of Ecuador, who lost 2-1 away to Paraguay and sit in the playoff berth.

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