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October 12, 2009

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Argentina, Uruguay set up last-day duel

DIEGO Forlan and Martin Palermo scored last-gasp goals as Argentina, Uruguay and Ecuador switched places on a dramatic Saturday of South American qualifiers for the 2010 World Cup.
Diego Maradona's Argentina, having beaten Peru 2-1 at home in torrential rain, goes 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 its 1-2 home defeat by Uruguay left it sixth before Wednesday's visit to Chile, which took South America's third berth with a 4-2 victory in Colombia.
Brazil, which plays a dead rubber away to Bolivia today, and Paraguay, whose 2-1 away win over Venezuela put it level on points with Dunga's side at the top of the group, had already qualified.
Maradona called veteran striker Palermo a miracle man after his goal two minutes into stoppage time gave Argentina victory on a sodden Monumental pitch in Buenos Aires.
"I thought we were liquidated, but at that moment I forgot about Palermo," a relieved Maradona said of his desperation in the agonizing minutes between Hernan Rengifo's last-minute equalizer for Peru and Palermo's winner.
Forlan converted a penalty with the last kick of the game in Quito to give Uruguay its victory after recovering from a goal down but coach Oscar Washington Tabarez was quick to tell his players the job was not yet done.
"We're going to take things calmly and come out of our joy quickly to think about Argentina," he said.
Uruguay must win to swap places with Argentina and qualify for its first finals since 2002, sending its cross-river neighbor into the playoff against the team that finishes fourth in the CONCACAF region.
Ecuador, though, is not out yet. Argentina (25 points) could even miss out altogether if Uruguay (24) and Ecuador (23) win on Wednesday.
In the CONCACAF, Mexico and the United States qualified, leaving Costa Rica and Honduras to scrap it out for the third automatic place.
Mexico crushed El Salvador 4-1 in front of over 100,000 fans at the Azteca stadium.
The US, which trailed 0-1 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.


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