Do or die for Diego
Having succumbed to only their second home defeat in World Cup qualifying history against Brazil on Saturday, Argentina face a make-or-break trip to Paraguay on Wednesday.sports Updated: Sep 09, 2009 00:35 IST
Bolivia v Ecuador; Uruguay v Colombia; Paraguay v Argentina
The 3-1 loss to Dunga’s side, who are now assured of a place at the 2010 finals in South Africa, left the two-time world champions in the fourth and last automatic qualifying place in the South American standings.
Paraguay are five points above them in third and need just three points to qualify for the finals. Argentina, meanwhile, have not won on the road in a competitive match since a 2-0 victory in Venezuela in October 2007 and have scored a meagre three goals in the intervening six away fixtures.
Should an Argentine defeat be accompanied by away wins for Ecuador, in Bolivia, and Colombia, in Uruguay, Diego Maradona's men will drop to sixth, below even a qualifying place for the play-off against the fourth-best side from the North, Central America and Caribbean zone (CONCACAF).
“I’m feeling composed. There’s no cause for alarm,” said Maradona, who was part of the Argentina side that came through a play-off against Australia to qualify for the 1994 tournament.
“It won’t be easy to go to Paraguay, but we’ll see what solutions we can find for our problems and try and take the three points.”
Goalkeeper Mariano Andujar echoed his manager’s upbeat outlook. “This isn’t over,” he said. “We need to pick ourselves up quickly because we have another final coming up. It’s not over and it’s still in our hands.”
Paraguay and Chile each require just a win to guarantee qualification, but if Colombia and Ecuador both lose they will qualify regardless.
“We’re there now, I can feel it,” said Paraguay coach Gerardo Martino after their 1-0 win over Bolivia in Asuncion at the weekend.
“We’ve taken a gigantic step thanks to this important win.”
Qualification for Chile would guarantee the presence of at least one Argentine in South Africa next summer, with Marcelo Bielsa hoping for a second crack at World Cup glory after leading his native Argentina to a group-stage exit in 2002.
England hold edge
London: England will look to complete their impressive charge to the Cup with an eighth win in a row and leave Croatia, Ukraine and Belarus to fight for berths.
Revived under Fabio Capello, England, who holds a four-point lead over second placed Croatia at the top of Group 6, have a game in hand over the Croats, and meets them at Wembley.
“We have put ourselves in a great position and it’s up to us to finish the job,” captain John Terry said
Ukraine are third and have seven points to make up on England and hosts fourth place Belarus, who are 12 points behind.
The fact that England are well ahead in the race to the World Cup is a testimony as to how Capello, who won club titles with AC Milan, Juventus, AS Roma and Real Madrid, have turned the ailing team around.
With three games to play, England can start preparing for the Cup by beating Croatia two years after Steve McClaren’s team lost 3-2 at home.