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Ecuador upsets Argentina 2-0

Argentina's bid to qualify for next year's World Cup took a hit in a 2-0 loss to Ecuador yesterday.

The goals came from Walter Ayovi in the 72nd minute and Pablo Palacios in the 84th.

Two-time World Cup champion Argentina remained in the top four in South America's standings. The top four advance automatically to next year's finals in South Africa. Ecuador improved to 20 points, two fewer than Argentina.

This is the third straight lackluster result for Argentina and calls into question the coaching of Diego Maradona, who took over in November. In the last three games, Argentina lost 6-1 at Bolivia and defeated Colombia 1-0 on Saturday.

Maradona tried to sound upbeat.

"Looking at the effort that this group put out today, we're going to qualify for South Africa," he said. "But in football when you don't score you pay for it. I have no criticism of my players. They did all I asked."

He went as far as to say his players had played "spectacularly."

"But we came away empty-handed."

Ecuador defeated Peru 2-1 on Sunday and added another three points against Argentina, giving the team some hope of reaching a third consecutive South Africa.

"We have picked up two important victories in the last few days to keep up our hopes of reaching the World Cup," Ecuador coach Sixto Vizuete said.

Quito's altitude of 2,850 meters (9,300 feet) seemed to bother Argentina, just as the altitude in La Paz - 3,650 meters (12,000 feet) - did in April.

Ayovi scored on a powerful left-footed shot that beat goalkeeper Mariano Andujar, and Palacios scored coming off the bench on a ball that Argentina's defense failed to clear.

Carlos Tevez had a chance to give Argentina a 1-0 lead in the 29th on a penalty, but he was blocked by keeper Marcelo Elizaga, who was born in Argentina.

Argentina had its best shots in the first half with Lionel Messi and fellow striker Tevez each having chances. Ecuador dominated the second half.

Maradona chose to play Messi, who entered the game with a yellow card and faced suspension if he got another. He did not, with Argentina's next qualifier at home on Sept. 5 against archrival Brazil.


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