By MAURICIO SAVARESE
AP Sports Writer
SAO PAULO (AP) — Brazil and Argentina had uninspiring performances in their World Cup qualifying matches but gained competition key points as they try to secure direct spots for Qatar next year. Brazil won 3-1 at Venezuela despite Neymar’s absence. Lionel Messi’s Argentina had a goalless draw at Paraguay. Brazil leads with 27 points and Argentina has 19 after nine matches. Ecuador and Uruguay have 16 points after 10 rounds, but the Ecuadorians have more wins and hold the third place after a 3-0 win against Bolivia. The top four teams secure a spot at next year’s World Cup in Qatar.