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2002 FIFA World Cup Korea/Japan"
Argentina qualify for 2002,
Brazil move closer

© Brian Homewood, Reuters Limited 2001

Argentina's (L-R) Sebastian Veron, Diego Simeone and Hernan Crespo celebrate after beating Ecuador in their FIFA World Cup 2002" qualifying match in Quito's Atahualpa Stadium. Guillermo Granja, Reuters.
Argentina qualified for the 2002 FIFA World CupĂ´ with a 2-0 win away to Ecuador on 15 August while struggling Brazil greatly improved their chances as they beat Paraguay by the same score.

First half goals from Juan Sebastian Veron and Hernan Crespo, from a penalty, gave leaders Argentina victory in Quito and ensured they will finish in the top four of the South American qualifying group.

Brazil remained fourth but closed the gap on Paraguay and Ecuador above them as well as pulling clear of fifth-placed Uruguay with their win in Porto Alegre. The top four teams benefited from Uruguay's shock 2-0 defeat away to bottom team Venezuela on Tuesday.

The week's fixtures will be completed on 16 August when Colombia play Peru at home needing a win to take them above Uruguay.

Argentina's Sebastian Veron (11) battles Ecuador's Klebber Chala (R) in first half action of their FIFA World Cup 2002" qualifying match. Rickey Rogers, Reuters.
The top four teams qualify directly for Japan and South Korea while the fifth play off against Oceania winners Australia. With four games each left Paraguay (26 points), Ecuador (25) and Brazil (24) look well-placed to join Argentina leaving either Uruguay (21) or Colombia (19 with a game in hand) to play off against Australia.

Sea level

Ecuador, unbeaten in Quito where they enjoy the advantage of playing at 2,800 metres above sea level, started strongly but never recovered from falling behind to a long range shot by Veron after 20 minutes.

Crespo's penalty 15 minutes later also left Ecuador with 10 men as Kleber Chala was sent off for handling the ball on the line.

"The altitude is a problem but we found the goals at the right moment," said Argentina defender Roberto Ayala.

Crespo, leading scorer in the competition with nine goals, added: "This is result of very hard work with a group who understand each other superbly on and off the field."

Brazilian striker Marcelinho (L) heads the ball to score against Paraguay during their qualifying match for the FIFA World Cup 2002". Paulo Whitaker, Reuters.
Ecuador coach Hernan Dario Gomez was confident his team could recover to qualify for their first World Cup. "It's no disgrace to lose to the best team in the world," he said.

First goal

Brazil were desperate for a win against Paraguay and steadied their nerves when Marcelinho Paraiba headed his first international goal in the fifth minute.

The good start was not enough to make Brazil play with the style they are famous for and Paraguay, despite missing regular central defenders Carlos Gamarra through injury and Celso Ayala through suspension, always looked capable of equalising.

Brazil coach Luiz Felipe Scolari ranted non-stop at his team on the touchline and the points were only safe after Rivaldo, who produced another below par performance for his country, headed a second goal in the 70th minute.

The goal was set up by one of Denilson's trademark winding runs, three minutes after the winger had been brought on.

At the end, Scolari, nicknamed Big Phil and famous for his so-called "Sergeant Major" approach to training and discipline, wept with emotion.

(C) Reuters Limited 2001.

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