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Maradona is upbeat after another flop

BRAZIL moved clear of the rest in South America with a 2-1 victory over Paraguay in World Cup qualifier on Wednesday, needing just three more points to make its trip to 2010 South Africa official.

It was not so easy for archrival Argentina, which stumbled to a 0-2 win at Ecuador - again bothered by the altitude in the Andes with more questions sure to be raised about Diego Maradona's coaching.

Bolivia had trounced Argentina 6-1 in April, playing at La Paz which is 3,650 meters above sea level.

Ecuador's goals came from Walter Ayovi in the 72nd minute and Pablo Palacios in the 84th, both coming near the end as Quito's 2,850-meter altitude took its toll.

This was the third straight lackluster result for Argentina and calls into question the coaching of Maradona, who took over in November.

As well as the loss to Bolivia, Argentina scraped through 1-0 over Colombia 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."

Brazil can get its needed three points on September 5 - at none other than Argentina.

"My main aim and that of the national side is to qualify for the World Cup, and we still need three points to do that," Brazil coach Carlos Dunga said.

Robinho and Nilmar scored in an eight-minute period either side of halftime as Brazil rallied for victory over Paraguay.

Brazil had to withstand a worrying start by Paraguay, which opened the scoring in the 26th minute when Salvador Cabanas scored 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.

Elsewhere in South America, Colombia defeated Peru 1-0, Chile beat Bolivia 4-0 and Venezuela drew 2-2 with Uruguay.

With four games remaining in qualifying, Brazil leads with 27 points, ahead of Chile (26), Paraguay (24), Argentina (22) and Ecuador (20). Uruguay has 18, followed by Colombia (17), Venezuela (16), Bolivia (13) and Peru (7).


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