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Reuters Sportswrap: World Cup qualifying special

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Join Owen Wyatt for our regular wrap of world sport. This week, it’s a World Cup qualifier special, as we consider the plight of Diego Maradona and the battle for golden tickets for South Africa 2010.

We particularly welcome comments, so if you’d like to critique Owen’s schoolboy fashion errors, please do…

Maradona untouchable despite latest defeat

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Those waiting for Diego Maradona to resign or be sacked after yet another dismal Argentina performance in the World Cup qualifiers forget that he is untouchable.

Maradona will press on blindly, brushing off criticism with remarks about having always fought adversity and come out on top.

Brazil look unbeatable but have they peaked too soon?

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Ten wins in a row and unbeaten for eighteen games. The run includes 2-0 and 3-0 wins over Italy, 4-0 wins in Uruguay and Venezuela, 3-0 in Chile and, of course, Saturday’s 3-1 demolition of Argentina, the first time Brazil’s arch-rivals have lost at home for 16 years. Nothing, it seems, can stand in the way of Dunga’s Brazil and and a sixth world title.

There’s only one small problem: everyone was saying the same about Carlos Alberto Parreira’s team four years ago after they won the Confederations Cup with a 4-1 win over Argentina in the final. Like Dunga’s team, they were Copa America champions at the time and their so-called Magic Quarter of Ronaldo, Ronaldinho, Kaka and Adriano looked unstoppable.

Rosario prepares for rare sight of Messi

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So often ahead of a great sporting event, there is little evidence of a city’s awareness that it is hosting something special, like last year’s Euro2008 in Austria and Switzerland. Not so Argentina’s big match with arch football enemies Brazil in this riverside city 300 km north of Buenos Aires, home to a bitter rivalry of its own between Rosario Central and Newell’s Old Boys.Saturday’s World Cup qualifier is the talk of the town which was surprisingly offered the match in June after national team coach Diego Maradona criticized River Plate’s Monumental stadium in Buenos Aires.Fans of Rosario’s two big clubs, kept apart to avoid potential fights, have been queuing for tickets since Monday outside their respective stadiums, braving the rain and cold of an Argentine winter in real or makeshift tents.There is a new breed of profiteers called queuers, people who stand in line for a fee and buy your tickets for you, a local journalist said.With so much at stake for Argentina, who need to pick up points to keep their World Cup qualifying hopes alive, there are fears of violence after the match if Maradona’s team lose.Far fewer people will be able to go to the match at Central’s ground, commonly know as the Giant of Arroyito, which holds 41,000, than would have got into River Plate, with a capacity for 65,000.But the move has been a boon for Rosario’s hotels and restaurants, which usually have a quiet time in the winter, and street vendors of football paraphernalia.Light blue and white striped Argentina shirts with Messi and the number 10 on the back are among the biggest selling items.Lionel Messi, a son of Rosario, has never played an official match in his home town, having been whisked away to Barcelona as a mere 13-year-old, forging a career in Europe that has him on the verge of being named the world’s top player.One of the youngsters queuing for tickets, a fan of Messi’s former club Newell’s Old Boys, said: “It’s worth waiting because don’t often see the ‘seleccion’ and even less Leo (Messi), whom we see on TV playing for Barcelona.”Fans hope to see Messi tear Brazil apart and ensure he and Argentina go on to play at the World Cup in South Africa next year.PHOTO: A street vendor sells masks outside Rosario Central stadium ahead of the World Cup qualifier against Brazil, September 4, 2009. REUTERS/Marcos Brindicci

Argentine fans cry foul over season delay

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By Luis Andres Henao

In Argentina, where footballing great Diego Maradona is worshipped in his own church, everyone is asking the same question: What will it take to get the ball rolling again?

Fans are angst-ridden over the delay of the season as bad management and the global slowdown leave the country’s world-famous clubs unable to pay players and heavily in debt.

Argentina without football starts to worry Maradona

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Diego Maradona is a worried man, with no football in Argentina and less than a month to go before their critical World Cup qualifier against a strong Brazilian side.

A debt crisis has put an indefinite hold on the 2009/10 season which was scheduled to start at the end of next week.

In Argentina, fans from the same team fight

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The English hooligan problem was at its worst outside Britain, when fans went to international matches abroad. Violence in Argentine football, by contrast, has reached a point in recent years where it is rarely even a confrontation between the hardcore fans of rival teams.

Now, factions who support the same team fight each other. At stake is control over a number of money-spinning ventures linked to their clubs.

Referee’s apology does little to calm Huracan

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As Estudiantes bid to give Argentina the South American crown by winning the Libertadores Cup final, the fallout from Sunday’s Clausura title decider continues at an intensity not unlike that which followed Chelsea’s elimination by Barcelona in their Champions League semi-final.

It was not a final as such, but Huracan went into their last game of the season a point ahead of Velez Sarsfield who they happened to meet in a title decider at Velez. The home side got the win they needed to overtake Huracan on points with a goal scored by Maxi Moralez six minutes from time.

Brazil looming large for Maradona and Argentina

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Is the fact that Brazil are Argentina’s next opponents in the World Cup qualifiers getting to Argentines worried by the precarious position of Diego Maradona’s team in the standings?

While Brazil enjoy more match practice at the Confederations Cup in South Africa, Argentina, their rivals in the 2005 final in Germany, are bickering over the pitch on which to host their arch-rivals in match that will have a major bearing on their World Cup ambitions.

It appears logical to presuppose that this is Marcelo Bielsa…

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Chile ‘s 4-0 win over Bolivia in their World Cup qualifier on Wednesday has left them on a brink for only their second World Cup appearance since 1982.

Their progress through the tortuous South American qualifying campaign – which has included a memorable home win over Argentina — has been almost exclusively credited to the work one of the world’s most reclusive and enigmatic coaches Marcelo Bielsa.

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