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Demichelis suspended

Brazil booed off as Argentina claim vital point

World-ranked number one footballing nation Argentina remain on course for a place at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, but a three-game winless streak has plunged Brazil into crisis. Following a goalless draw on matchday six of South American World Cup qualifying, the Selecao have been forced to face the almost unthinkable prospect of missing out on the next global showdown.

“We’re all frustrated,” declared Bayern pro Lucio after Wednesday evening’s match in front of a 60,000 crowd at the Mineirao stadium in Belo Horizonte. Under-fire coach Carlos Dunga, at risk of the sack according to local media reports, saw his men booed and jeered off at the end of a dour encounter.

Applause for Messi

In the absence of superstars Ronaldinho and Kaká, Dunga courted the crowd’s displeasure by opting for caution and a highly defensive approach. The hosts created just one halfway decent opening, but it was squandered by Julio Baptista midway through the first half. “All of us played poorly. We have to do something urgently,” striker Robinho confessed.

Argentina, without the suspended Martin Demichelis and for whom José Ernesto Sosa again failed to secure inclusion in the matchday squad, made the attacking running in the shape of Barcelona ace Lionel Messi, although the youngster’s finishing did not match the excellence of his build-up play. La Pulga (the flea) was given a standing ovation by the Brazilian crowd when he was substituted shortly before the end.

Brazil stuck in fourth

With six games played, Brazil are clinging onto fourth spot in the South American standings, which would just be enough for a berth in South Africa. However, both Venezuela and Chile, who meet on Thursday in Puerto La Cruz, can move onto ten points with a win and push the Brazilians down into fifth.

Paraguay surprisingly fell 4-2 in Bolivia but continue to top the standings on 13 points from Argentina (11) and Colombia (10). The top four qualify directly for the World Cup, with the side in fifth after 18 games going into a play-off against a team from the CONCACAF zone.