Mon, Mar 30, 2009 - Page 18 News List

2010 FIFA WORLD CUP: Maradona makes a dream start

AGENCIES , BUENOS AIRES

Diego Maradona made a dream home debut as Argentina coach when his side demolished Venezuela 4-0 in a World Cup qualifier on Saturday, while Uruguay and Colombia followed suit with home wins.

Uruguay beat South American group leaders Paraguay 2-0, while Colombia ended a five-match goal drought as they overcame struggling Bolivia by the same score.

Paraguay stayed top of the 10-team South American group with 23 points from 11 games, while Argentina went second, four points behind. Uruguay moved into fourth place with 16 points, ahead of Chile on goal difference, and Colombia climbed to sixth with 14.

The top four teams qualify for South Africa and the fifth plays off against the fourth team from the CONCACAF zone.

Lionel Messi inspired Argentina by scoring their first goal and setting up the second against Venezuela on a day that Maradona described as better than fiction.

Maradona, who began his reign with friendly wins away to Scotland and France, was given a rousing reception by the crowd when he came onto the field before the game at the Monumental Stadium for his first competitive match at the helm.

“This was better than I expected, reality has overcome fiction,” said Maradona, who since retiring as a player has been treated for drug addiction, obesity and alcohol-induced liver disease, at one stage spending 10 days in intensive care. “I couldn’t have imagined what happened today. It was perfect.”

Messi set Argentina on their way to victory with the first goal on 26 minutes after a one-two with Carlos Tevez. He then provided the cross that led to Manchester United striker Tevez doubling the advantage two minutes after the break.

Maximiliano Rodriguez and Sergio Aguero, the father of Maradona’s grandson, completed the rout with goals in the 51st and 73rd minutes.

It was Argentina’s 16th win over Venezuela in as many meetings.

Atletico Madrid striker Diego Forlan set Uruguay on their way in Montevideo against Paraguay when he scored into an empty net after being cleverly set up by Luis Suarez in the 28th minute.

Firebrand captain Diego Lugano headed the second for the hosts in the 58th minute of a full-blooded encounter on a hot afternoon.

“It was an even game, I think we took our chances better and we had tactical control of the match,” said Uruguay coach Oscar Washington Tabarez, who took the team to the 1990 World Cup finals.

Paraguay, attempting to reach their fourth successive finals, dominated the early stages and the result, only their second defeat in the group, left coach Gerardo Martino frustrated.

“We lost our intensity and that’s where we started to lose the game,” Martino said. “We haven’t qualified for the World Cup yet, we hadn’t before this game and obviously we haven’t now.”

Goal shy Colombia finally found the target when playmaker Macnelly Torres scored in the 26th minute against Bolivia on a wet night in Bogota. Substitute Wason Renteria headed the second in the 88th minute for Colombia, whose last World Cup appearance was in 1998.

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