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'We are in the World Cup with all the honours'

Last updated on: October 15, 2009 10:46 IST
Diego Maradona

Diego Maradona's Argentina survived a turbulent World Cup qualifying campaign to finally clinch their place in South Africa next year with a 1-0 win over neighbours Uruguay on Wednesday.

Maradona, who has used more than 70 players in his time in charge, wept and hugged his coaching staff and insulted the media after Argentina joined Brazil, Chile and Paraguay as South America's representatives in South Africa next year.

Maradona hit out at critics of his coaching after the match and said he had issues to discuss with his boss.

"For those who didn't believe in this national team, for those who treated me like garbage (I say) today we are in the World Cup with all the honours, beating a team like Uruguay," Maradona said.

Bolatti winner seals it for Argentina

Last updated on: October 15, 2009 10:46 IST
Mario Bolatti

Substitute Mario Bolatti stabbed home the winner in the 85th minute to seal the fourth automatic spot for Argentina, who had been in danger of missing out on the finals after a rollercoaster year under Maradona's leadership.

"This isn't a celebration, it's a case of getting things off our chest. We have to think about improving," Argentine midfielder Juan Sebastian Veron said.

Uruguay, who finished fifth in the 10-team South American group, will have another bite at the cherry via a playoff with Costa Rica over two legs.

It is the third consecutive World Cup qualifying campaign where Uruguay's fate will be decided by a playoff -- the twice world champions beat Australia to qualify for the 2002 tournament and lost to the same opponents four years later.

Crouch double crowns England qualification

Last updated on: October 15, 2009 10:46 IST
Peter Crouch scores a goal

Striker Peter Crouch scored twice as England rounded off their 2010 World Cup qualifying campaign with a low-key 3-0 win over Belarus at Wembley on Wednesday, making it nine wins from 10 in Group Six.

Crouch scuffed England in front after four minutes and poached a rebound after 74 while Shaun-Wright Phillips, another player hoping to catch the eye of coach Fabio Capello, fired England's second on the hour.

A bearded David Beckham, whose 30-minute cameo in the second half surprisingly earned him the man of the match award, earned his 115th England cap.

Portugal complete part one of comeback

Last updated on: October 15, 2009 10:46 IST
Miguel Veloso

Portugal completed stage one of their unlikely World Cup turnaround when a 4-0 home win over Malta on Wednesday secured them a place in the playoffs five months after they looked dead and buried.

Four months ago Portugal looked down and out. The 2006 semi-finalists had lost at home to Denmark and followed that with three successive goalless draws. They were then being held 1-1 in Albania before Bruno Alves snatched an injury-time winner to start the recovery.

A late equaliser against Denmark followed and, as Group One rivals Sweden and Hungary dropped points, last weekend's win over Hungary somehow put them back in command of their own destiny.

They duly delivered the victory they needed over Malta on Wednesday with goals by Nani, Simao Sabrosa - who got two on Saturday - Miguel Veloso and Edinho.

Switzerland hold firm to reach World Cup

Last updated on: October 15, 2009 10:46 IST
Switzerland players celebrate

Switzerland held on for a nervous 0-0 home draw with 10-man Israel on Wednesday to book their place at next year's World Cup finals as Group Two winners.

The Swiss, who reached the finals for the second time in a row, had most of the possession but their inaccurate finishing combined with good defending saw them hanging on nervously for the point they needed.

The hosts were also missing three key players who went down with a virus this week, goalkeeper Diego Benaglio, midfielder Benjamin Huggel and record scorer Alex Frei.

"Frei was very disappointed and I can understand that," said coach Ottmar Hitzfeld. "But I'm the coach and have the responsibility. There was a World Cup qualification at stake.

"We played a good game today," said forward Eren Derdiyoi. "We wanted to keep a clean sheet without fail, and we have achieved that.

Switzerland topped the group with 21 points, one more than Greece who beat Luxembourg 2-1.

Honduras reach World Cup finals

Last updated on: October 15, 2009 10:46 IST
Honduras players celebrate

Honduras reached their second World Cup finals after a 1-0 win at El Salvador on Wednesday gave them the third automatic qualifying spot from the CONCACAF region.

Honduran players stood on the field awaiting news of the group's other vital game and broke down in emotional celebration after learning a late equaliser had earned the United States a 2-2 draw with Costa Rica.

That result pushed Costa Rica into a playoff with Uruguay, beaten 1-0 by Brazil in South American qualifying, while Honduras gained CONCACAF's final automatic berth.

Honduras, looking nervous and edgy, had few chances before they grabbed the lead through a Carlos Pavon header in the 64th minute.

Honduras's previous World Cup finals appearance was in 1982.

France warm up for playoffs with win

Last updated on: October 15, 2009 10:46 IST
Karim Benzema celebrates his goal with team-mates

France warmed up for next month's World Cup playoffs by beating Austria 3-1 in their final Group Seven qualifier at Stade de France on Wednesday.

Forward Karim Benzema opened the scoring with a diving header from Florent Malouda's cross after 17 minutes and captain Thierry Henry doubled the advantage from the penalty spot after defender Rod Fanni was blocked in the box.

Striker Marc Janko reduced the deficit for the visitors early in the second half before substitute striker Andre-Pierre Gignac sealed the win with a superb angled shot after 66 minutes.

Nothing was at stake with France certain to finish second behind Serbia to go into a two-legged playoff on November 14 and 18 and Austria already eliminated.

Lacklustre Brazil held by Venezuela

Last updated on: October 15, 2009 10:46 IST
Brazil midfielder Kaka

Brazil failed to beat Venezuela in a competitive international for the first time on Wednesday when they were held 0-0 at home in their final World Cup qualifying match.

Brazil, who had qualified for South Africa with three matches to spare, twice hit the bar and played the last half hour with 10 men after defender Miranda was sent off for elbowing Giancarlo Maldonado.

It was the 19th competitive match between the two, Brazil having won all the others. However, Venezuela won 2-0 last year on the only occasion the two sides met in a friendly.

Dunga's team completed their 18-match campaign in the South American group with 34 points but could be pipped for top spot by Paraguay, who host Colombia later on Wednesday.

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