Argentina in peril as Paraguay book passage to South Africa

Argentina coach Diego Maradona faces an uncertain future as his side struggle to qualify for South Africa.
Diego Maradona’s Argentina suffered a potentially fatal blow to their World Cup qualification hopes after a 1-0 defeat against Paraguay in Asuncion.

A 28th-minute strike by Nelson Haedo Valdez saw the Guaranies advance to their fourth World Cup in a row. However there was further misery for Argentina in the second half when Juan Sebastian Veron was sent off. Maradona, who is under intense pressure after a poor campaign, remained defiant in defeat. “It is down to poor form and failures as a team,” he was quoted by as saying. “We must re-start and do the puzzle again. I didn’t think we were going to be like we are. I wanted to be higher in the table. “I am not afraid of criticism. I am afraid of nobody. I am doing my job, I have my team and I am going to go forward,” he added. “I have been battling critics since I was 15 years old. Now I am 48 and I am going to continue to battle with them [the press].”

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The result leaves his star-studded side in fifth spot in the highly-competitive South American qualifying group behind Ecuador, who kept their own campaign on track with a 3-1 victory over Bolivia in the high-altitude surroundings of La Paz. Many teams have struggled when playing 3600m above sea level at the home ground of Bolivia — notably Argentina who were defeated 6-1 there in the last round of qualifiers — but Ecuador acclimatized well. It took only four minutes for Edison Mendez to open the scoring for the travelers before Luis Valencia finished a crisp counter attack to double the lead just after the start of the second half. Cristian Bentitez, who joined English side Birmingham City recently, made it three-nil ten minutes later, completing a good reaction from Sixto Vizuete’s side after their defeat to Colombia at the weekend. With only five minutes left of the game Gerardo Yecerotte netted for the home side for a consolation goal; elimination had already been confirmed with previous results. Elsewhere, Chile were beaten 4-2 by already-qualified Brazil but remain third in the group. Nilmar netted a hat-trick to lead Brazil to a ninth victory in the campaign. In Montevideo, Uruguay kept their qualification hopes alive after goals from Luis Suarez, Andres Scotti and Sebastian Eguren gave them a 3-1 win over Colombia. A brace from Nicolas Fedor gave Venezuela hope as they beat already-eliminated Peru 3-1.