Argentina scrape into World Cup finals
MONTEVIDEO: Argentina scraped into the World Cup Wednesday with a 1-0 win over Uruguay as Diego Maradona finally celebrated mission accomplished after a stumbling, lacklustre qualifying campaign.
The two-time champions needed a goal by substitute Mario Bolatti six minutes from time to earn the three points and secure the fourth and final qualifying spot from South America.
Brazil, Chile and Paraguay had already made sure of their places in the finals.
Uruguay finished in fifth and face a play-off against either Costa Rica or Honduras from the CONCACAF region to decide their World Cup fate.
In a poor match with few opportunities, the crucial moment here came when Uruguay were reduced to 10 men when Jose Martin Caceras was red-carded for a foul on Jonas Gutierrez.
From the ensuing free-kick, Juan Veron had a shot charged down, but Bolatti, on the field for just four minutes after replacing Gonzalo Higuain, reacted quickest to the loose ball to beat Nestor Muslera in the Uruguayan goal.
Maradona, who had used over 70 players since taking over a year ago, opted to leave Carlos Tevez on the bench alongside Martin Palermo, who grabbed the last-minute goal which saw off Peru on Saturday.
The goalless half-time stalemate suited Argentina as Ecuador, the only other rivals for the last qualifying spot, were also being held 0-0 at the interval by Chile in Santiago.
In Santiago, Chile took the lead against Ecuador thanks to a 51st-minute strike from Humberto Suazo.
Ecuador, who had Segundo Castilla sent-off, needed to win to keep their qualifying hopes alive.
Brazil were held to a 0-0 draw at home by Venezuela and they too finished with 10 men after Sao Paulo defender Miranda was red-carded.
Rock-bottom Peru completed their programme with a 1-0 win over Bolivia, who had defeated Brazil at the weekend, thanks to a second-half strike from Johan Fano.