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Brazil defeats Paraguay 2-1 in qualifying

Robinho and Nilmar scored in an eight-minute period either side of halftime as Brazil rallied for a 2-1 win over Paraguay yesterday and move a step closer to a place at the 2010 World Cup.

The five-time World Cup champion leads the 10-team South American qualifying group with four matches remaining.

But it had to withstand a worrying start from Paraguay, which opened the scoring in the 26th minute via Salvador Cabanas - only the sixth goal against the Brazilians in 14 qualifiers.

Robinho equalized in the 41st minute and Nilmar made it 2-1 in the 49th.

Brazil has 27 points in qualifying - one ahead of Chile - and is the only team to have played in every World Cup finals. Brazil's next match is Sept. 5 at archrival Argentina.

"They were three important points, now we hope to beat Argentina in the next match to seal the qualification," Robinho said.

Brazil coach Carlos Dunga, a defensive midfielder in his playing days who seems to have turned Brazil into a cohesive unit, took the victory in his stride.

"My main aim and that of the national side is to qualify for the World Club, and we still need three points to do that," he said.

Brazil tried to control possession in the early exchanges with Robinho floating behind the strikers, and defender Daniel Alves raiding down the wing with Gilberto Silva sitting in front of the defense.

Paraguay started with three central defenders and five midfielders, relying on counterattacks centered on lone striker Cabanas.

A free kick from Cabanas deflected off Elano and past Brazil goalkeeper Julio Cesar.

With new Real Madrid signing Kaka closely marked, Brazil struggled to break down the Paraguay defense, but the resistance was overcome when Alves crossed to the back post for Robinho to score in the 41st.

Kaka, who this week moved from AC Milan to Real Madrid in a transfer estimated at $92 million, tipped his hat to the fans in Recife.

"I want to dedicate this victory to the followers in the Pernambucano (stadium) for the love and support they showed in the more difficult moments of the match," he said.

Brazil took the lead soon after the break when Nilmar held off his marker to convert a high cross from Felipe Melo.

Brazil penned the Paraguayans back for most of the second half, coping comfortably with the sporadic counterattacks.

Alexandre Pato, who replaced Nilmar in the second half, missed a glaring opportunity in the closing stages to add a third goal.


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