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Three wins and a defeat

Mixed bag for international stars

The FCB men on international duty in midweek have returned the respectable record of three wins and a defeat from four matches. Club captain Mark van Bommel and his deputy Lucio both won again in qualifying for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, but Martin Demichelis finished on the losing side. Luca Toni emerged victorious from a Confederations Cup warm-up friendly.

The biggest match of the evening in the marathon South American qualifying competition took place in Recife, where joint leaders Brazil and Paraguay crossed swords. The Selecao, captained by Munich stalwart Lucio, ran up a narrow 2-1 victory to go clear at the top of the standings on 27 points from 14 matches, ahead of surprise package Chile (26) and the Paraguayans (24).

Argentina with work to do

Salvador Cabanas put the visitors ahead after 25 minutes, but Robinho and Nilmar netted either side of half-time to steer the five-time world champions to victory. With just four fixtures remaining, the Brazilians now look odds-on to seal a direct qualifying berth for next year’s finals.

By contrast, Martin Demichelis and Argentina suffered a setback and remain off the pace in fourth on 22 points. The Albiceleste came unstuck in the 2,800 metre altitude of Quito and lost 2-0 to Ecuador, who move into the play-off spot just two points behind Diego Maradona’s side.

Dutch maintain form

At the weekend, the Dutch became the first European nation to seal a berth in South Africa next summer, but national coach Bert van Marwijk still fielded his strongest team in a Group 9 meeting with last-placed Norway. That meant a 90-minute appearance for Bayern skipper Mark van Bommel.

In a one-sided encounter played in the pouring rain at Rotterdam’s famous De Kuip, Andre Ooijer fired the home side in front on 32 minutes. Arjen Robben netted five minutes after the restart to preserve the leaders’ 100 percent record. The men in orange boast the maximum 21 points from their seven matches so far.