Buenos Aires: Argentiina coach Diego Maradona
called the goal by second-half substitute Martin Palermo "the
Miracle of St. Palermo." And why not?
The scrambled goal, three minutes into second-half injury
time, helped struggling Argentina scrape by Peru 2-1
yesterday. That means the two-time champions will reach next
year`s World Cup in South Africa if they can win on Wednesday
in the final round of qualifying at bitter rival Uruguay.
Anything less and they could face a playoff - or be out
altogether. Chile avoided the drama, winning 4-2 at Colombia
to claim the third of four automatic qualifying spots from
South America for its World Cup appearance since 1998.
Colombia was eliminated.
Waldo Ponce, Humberto Suazo, Jorge Valdivia and Fabian
Orellana scored for Chile.
Uruguay kept its World Cup hopes alive, winning 2-1 in
Quito at 2,800 meters after Diego Forlan converted a penalty
in the fourth minute of injury time. Uruguay will also advance
automatically if it beats Argentina on Wednesday in
In the day`s other match, Paraguay won 2-1 at Venezuela
thanks to second-half goals by Salvador Cabanas and Oscar
Brazil, Chile and Paraguay have qualified with one round
to play on Wednesday. The fourth-place team also gets an
automatic berth, and No. 5 faces a playoff in November with
the No. 4 from North and Central America and the Caribbean.
Teams finishing sixth or worse are out.
Argentina has 25 points in fourth place followed by
Uruguay with 24, Ecuador with 23 and Venezuela with 21.
Argentina played poorly despite fielding many of the
world`s best players, but escaped with the late victory. That
will take some pressure off embattled coach Maradona, but it
may leave the two-time champions needing another "miracle" to
Palermo scored from close-in on a scrambled play in the
final seconds as a driving rain soaked the field. And it
drenched Palermo, too, who ripped off his shirt and raised his
arms to the heavens to celebrate the winning goal at River
Plate`s Monumental stadium.
"Go and put and end to this story just as you have so
many others," Maradona said he told Palermo, as he sent him
into the game in the 48th minute with the game at 0-0.
Peru`s Hernan Rengifo leveled the match with about 20
seconds left in regulation time after Real Madrid striker
Gonzalo Higuain put Argentina ahead in the 48th - just seconds
after Palermo entered - on a sharp-angled shot from six
"We`re going to go play in Montevideo (Uruguay) with all
of our pride," Maradona said.
Peru has the worst record in South American qualifying
with only two victories in 17 games - and only 10 goals
scored. Peru has never won a match in Argentina.
Of the 11 players who started the last qualifier for
Argentina - a 1-0 loss to Paraguay - only four started against
Peru. Maradona shuffled his lineup, which he has done
constantly since taking over a year ago. He`s used 76 players
in that span.
Higuain was one of three players making his debut for
Argentina. Defender Emiliano Insua and midfielder Enzo Perez
were also playing their first games.