Football: Argentina step up campaign

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The Independent Online
The nation that gave the world the tango may not, after all, be dancing in the dark when the elite emerge into the World Cup limelight in France next year.

Argentina rescued their ailing qualifying campaign with a 2-1 victory over Ecuador in Buenos Aires that lifted them into third place in the South American zone. The top four in a league involving all nations in the region will join the holders in the finals.

Ariel Ortega, the latest to follow in Diego Maradona's midfield footsteps, put Argentina ahead and Hernan Crespo, who displaced Gabriel Batistuta, made it 2-0. However, Ortega was overshadowed by his rival No 10, Alex Aguinaga, as Ecuador fought back. Aguinaga pulled a goal back in the 67th minute and then Eduardo Hurtado missed two good chances to equalise for Ecuador.

Second-placed Colombia suffered a shock 1-0 home defeat against Peru, who secured the points with a goal by Jose Pereda. It was Colombia's second successive defeat. They were without their banned Newcastle striker, Faustino Asprilla, who was sent off with Paraguay's goalkeeper, Jose Chilavert, in a fiery encounter earlier this month. It was Colombia's goalkeeper, Farid Mondragon, who let them down, throwing the ball straight to Pereda for the only goal. The defeat was such a shock that their coach, Hernan Dario Gomez, contemplated resigning.

Paraguay made light of Chilavert's absence, moving six points clear at the top by beating Uruguay 3-1 in Asuncion.

Internazionale's Ivan Zamorano was in stunning form on Tuesday, scoring five times in Chile's 6-0 win over Venezuela.

WORLD CUP South American Zone (Tuesday): (Santiago) Chile 6 (Zamorano 19, 26, 31, 47, 85, Reyes 66) Venezuela 0. (Wednesday): (Barranquilla) Colombia 0 Peru 1 (Pereda 61); (Asuncion) Paraguay 3 (Rojas 38, Cardozo pen 74, Soto 82)) Uruguay 1 (Silva 87); (Buenos Aires) Argentina 2 (Ortega 17, Crespo 32) Ecuador 1 (Aguinaga 67)

P W D L F A Pts

Paraguay 10 7 2 1 15 6 23

Colombia 10 5 2 3 15 9 17

Argentina 10 4 4 2 14 10 16

Bolivia 9 3 4 2 14 9 13

Ecuador 10 4 1 5 14 12 13

Peru 10 3 4 3 11 12 13

Uruguay 10 4 1 5 10 14 13

Chile 9 3 3 3 17 12 12

Venezuela 10 0 1 9 6 32 1

(Top four qualify, plus Brazil, the holders)

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