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Paraguay qualifies beating Argentina 1-0

PARAGUAY defeated Argentina 1-0 yesterday, guaranteeing Paraguay its fourth straight World Cup appearance and leaving Argentina in clear danger of missing its first World Cup since 1970.

Nelson Valdez scored in the 27th minute from a slick passing move.

The loss was Argentina's fourth in its last five qualifiers and was sure to turn even more heat on coach Diego Maradona. Maradona said after a 3-1 loss to Brazil on Saturday that he would not resign.

"As long as I have a drop of blood left, I will fight to get Argentina qualified," said Maradona, captain of the country's 1986 World Cup winning team.

"We're not out of the World Cup," he added. "I'm not afraid of criticism. I'm not afraid of anybody. I'm going to continue no matter who criticizes me."

The loss dropped Argentina out of the top four automatic qualifying places. Argentina has 22 points and was in fifth place. The No. 5 team in South America faces a two-game playoff with No. 4 from CONCACAF for another berth.

Paraguay hit the woodwork twice in the opening half, probing on counterattacks as Argentina struggled to defend.

Valdez struck the post in the 7th and Jonathan Santana smashed a shot against the bar in the 23rd before Paraguay took a deserved lead.

Sergio Aguero started up front for Argentina in place of Carlos Tevez, who missed the match with a knee injury.

Paraguay was boosted by the recovery of goalkeeper Justo Villar, who shrugged off a shoulder injury to make the starting lineup.

Argentina's hopes of a comeback were dealt a blow when Juan Sebastian Veron was sent off for a second yellow card at the start of the second half.

Maradona replaced Aguero on the hour mark with 35-year-old striker Martin Palermo in an attempt to revive the Argentine attack.

Lionel Messi tried his best to unlock the determined Paraguayan defense, but his best effort was a shot dragged wide from outside the box in the 70th.

With 10 minutes to go, Maradona made a strange choice for his final substitution, bringing on 36-year-old defender Rolando Schiavi for his debut in place of Sebastian Dominguez.

Argentina dominated possession in the final minutes despite playing with 10 men.

In the 4th minute of second-half injury time, Palermo headed back across the box but Schiavi just failed to connect.


Paraguay: Justo Villar, Dario Veron, Julio Cesar Caceres, Paulo da Silva, Aureliano Torres, Enrique Vera, Edgar Barreto (Victor Caceres, 83), Jonathan Santana (Eduardo Ledesma, 66), Cristian Riveros, Nelson Haedo Valdez (Edgar Benitez, 80), Salvador Cabanas.

Argentina: Sergio Romero, Javier Zanetti, Sebastian Dominguez (Rolando Schiavi, 85), Gabriel Heinze, Emiliano Papa, Juan Sebastian Veron, Javier Mascherano, Fernando Gago, Jesus Datolo (Ezequiel Lavezzi, 45), Lionel Messi, Sergio Aguero (Martin Palermo, 59).


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