Mon, Nov 19, 2007 - Page 19 News List

FIFA WORLD CUP: Argentina lead South America's World Cup race

AP , BUENOS AIRES

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Argentina stayed on top of South America's World Cup qualifying race while Ecuador remained on the bottom with a third-straight defeat that caused coach Luis Fernando Suarez to resign suddenly on Saturday.

All three home teams enjoyed victories, as Argentina defeated Bolivia 3-0, Colombia scored its first goal in beating Venezuela 1-0, and Paraguay thrashed Ecuador 5-1.

The latter result was the last straw for Fernando Suarez, who ended three years in charge of Ecuador.

"With my departure, I firmly think and believe this move can be of benefit to the national team in these difficult moments," he said with a trembling voice in Asuncion before the team returned home.

Just over a year ago, Fernando Suarez received a hero's welcome on returning home, after leading Ecuador to the last 16 at the World Cup in Germany. But since then, the team had lost all three of its group matches at the Copa America this year, and lost all three qualifiers for the 2010 World Cup, and was yet to earn a point.

Riquelme

He could have used a striker such as Juan Roman Riquelme, who despite being frozen out by his club coach this season, produced his third and fourth goals of the qualifying series to lead Argentina to an 11th successive home victory against Bolivia.

After Sergio Aguero opening the scoring in the 40th, Riquelme struck twice in a seven-minute span of the second half from a free kick then off a set-up pass from Lionel Messi.

"First we had to get on the scoreboard and then the rest became easy," Argentina coach Alfio Basile said in Buenos Aires.

Riquelme was contracted to Villarreal but hasn't played this season for the Spanish club since falling out with coach Manuel Pellegrini.

Argentina leads the provisional standings with nine points, followed by Paraguay on seven, Colombia on five and Brazil with four.

Yesterday, Brazil were to play Peru in Lima and Uruguay hosted Chile in Montevideo to complete the third rotation.

desperate

Colombia, after missing the last two World Cups, produced a desperate win in Bogota when Ruben Dario Bustos scored in the 81st minute against Venezuela.

It was Colombia's first goal in three World Cup qualifiers, after 0-0 draws with Brazil and Bolivia.

In Asuncion, Christian Riveros scored twice, and Nelson Haedo Valdez, Rogue Santa Cruz and Nestor Ayala also found the net at Defensores del Chaco Stadium for Paraguay against winless Ecuador.

Following a 0-0 draw with Peru and 1-0 win over Uruguay, Paraguay led Ecuador 3-0 before a momentary lapse conceded a goal to Ivan Kaviedes in the 80th minute.

But there was still plenty of time for Paraguay's Ayala and Riveros to cap their biggest win over Ecuador since 1988.

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