Palermo winner puts Argentina back on track

Casey brace steers US into finals; Mexico too advance


Diego Maradona's Argentina, having beaten Peru 2-1 at home in torrential rain, go to Montevideo on Wednesday to defend an automatic berth in the South Africa finals against a Uruguay side that turned the tables on Ecuador.

Ecuador had started the day in fourth place but their 2-1 home defeat by Uruguay left them sixth before Wednesday's visit to Chile, who took South America's third berth with a 4-2 victory in Colombia.

Brazil, who play a dead rubber away to Bolivia on Sunday, and Paraguay, whose 2-1 away win over Venezuela put them level on points with Dunga's side at the top of the group, had already qualified.

Maradona called veteran striker Martin Palermo a miracle man after his goal two minutes into stoppage time gave Argentina victory on a sodden Monumental pitch.  Forlan converted a penalty with the last kick of the game in Quito to give Uruguay their victory after recovering from a goal down but coach Oscar Washington Tabarez was quick to tell his players the job was not yet done.

Uruguay must win to swap places with Argentina and qualify for their first finals since 2002, sending their cross-river neighbours into the playoff against the team that finishes fourth in the CONCACAF region.

Ecuador, though, are not out of the running. Argentina (25 points) could even miss out altogether if Uruguay (24) and Ecuador (23) win on Wednesday.

Mexico, US cruise

Mexico cruised into the World Cup finals and the United States battled their way to a spot in South Africa in CONCACAF qualifying on Saturday, leaving Costa Rica and Honduras to scrap it out for the third automatic place.

Mexico, inspired by 36-year-old Cuauhtemoc Blanco, crushed El Salvador 4-1 in front of over 100,000 fans at the Azteca stadium.  United States, who trailed 1-0 in Honduras, had an unlikely match-winner in forward Conor Casey, who struck twice as Bob Bradley's team came from behind to win 3-2 at Honduras. With one round of games to go, the United States lead on 19 points, with Mexico on 18, Costa Rica on 15 and Honduras on 13.

World Cup qualifying results

Results: South America: Argentina: 2 (Gonzalo Higuain 48, Martin Palermo 90+) bt Peru: 2 (Hernan Rengifo 90); Venezuela: 1 (Alexander Rondon 86) lt to Paraguay: 2 (Salvador Cabanas 55, Oscar Cardozo 79); Colombia: 2 (Arturo Vidal 13 (OG), Giovanni Moreno 63) lt to Chile: 4 (Waldo Prince 35, Humberto Suazo 36, Jorge Valdivia 72, Fabian Orellana 79); Ecuador: 1 (Luis Valencia 67) lt to Uruguay: 2 (Luis Suarez 69, Deigo Forlan 90+).
Europe: Greece: 5 (Theofanis Gekas 4th, 47th Pen, 57th, 90+), Georgios Samaras 73rd) bt Latvia: 2 (Maris Veroakovskis 12th, 40th); Israel: 3 (Elyaniv Barda 22nd, 70th, David Ben Dayan 65th) bt Moldova: 1 (Denis Calincov 90th); Armenia: 1 (Robert Arzumanyan 58th) lt to Spain: 2 (Cesc Fabregas 33rd, Juan Manuel Mata 64th Pen); France: 5 (Andre-Pierre Gignac 34th, 39th, William Gallas 53rd, Nicolas Anelka 86th, Karim Benzema 88th) bt Faroe Islands: 0; Portugal: 3 (Simao 18th, 79th, Liedson 74th) bt Hungary: 0; Belgium: 2 (Emile Mpenza 8th, 84th) bt Turkey: 0; Czech Republic: 2 (Tomas Necid 51st, Jaroslav Plasil 72nd) bt Poland: 0; Slovakia: 0 lt to Slovenia: 2 (Valter Birsa 56th, Nejc Pecnik 90th); Serbia: 5 (Nikola Zigic 37th, Marko Pantelic 50th, Zdravko Kuzmanovic 78th, Milan Javanovic 86th, 90+) bt Romania: 0; Austria: 2 (Marc Janko 16th, Roman Wallner 80th Pen) bt Lithuania: 1 (Marius Stankevicius 66th); Denmark: 1 (Jakob Pouslsen 79th) bt Sweden: 0; Liechtenstein: 0 bt Azerbaijan: 2 (Vagif Javadov 55th, Elvin Mammadov 82nd); Cyprus: 4 (Konstantinos Charalampidis 11th, 20th, Michael Konstantinou 58th, Efstathios Aloneftis 78th) bt Bulgaria: 1 (Dimitar Berbatov 45th); Ukraine: 1 (Sergiy Nazarenko 29th) bt England: 0; Russia: 0 lt to Germany: 1 (Miroslav Klose 34th); Estonia: 0 bt Bosnia-Herzegovina: 2 (Edin Dzeko 32nd, Vedad Ibisevis 62nd); Montenegro: 2 (Radoslav Batak 13th, Andrija Delibasic 78) bt Georgia: 1 (; Vladimir Dvalishvili 45th); Belarus: 4 (Maksim Bordachev 23rd, Timofei Kalachev 69th, 90+), Leonid Kovel 86th) bt Kazakhstan: 0; Luxembourg: 0 bt Switzerland: 3 (Philippe Senderos 6th, 8th, Benjamin Huggel 22th); Finland: 2 (Roni Porokara 5th, Niklas Moisander 77th) bt Wales: 1 (Craig Bellamy 17th).
North America: Costa Rica 4: (Radanfah Abubakr 27th OG; Walter Centeno 50th, Alvaro Saborio 61st, 63rd) bt Trinidad and Tobago: 0; Honduras: 2 (Julio De Leon 46th, 77th) lt to USA: 3 (Conor Casey 54th, 65th, Landon Donovan 71st); Mexico: 4 (Marvin Gonzalez 25th OG, Cuauhtemoc Blanco 71th, Francisco Palencia 84th, Carlos Vela 90+) bt El Salvador: 1 (Julio Martinez 88th).
Africa: Cameroon: 3 (Geremi 32, Jean Makoun 47, Achille Emana 52) bt Togo: 0; Gabon: 3 (Hicham Mahdoufi 45 (OG), Eric Mouloungui 67, Daniel Cousin 72) bt Morocco: 1 (Adel Taarabt 89); Malawi: 1 (Jacob Ngwira 64) drew Ivory Coast: 1 (Didier Drogba 67); Zambia: 0 lt to Egypt: 1 (Hosny Abd Rabo 68).
Oceania: Bahrain: 0 drew New Zealand: 0.

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