x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

Chile and Paraguay stand on the brink as Kaka backs Argentina

Chile and Paraguay can secure two more South American places at the 2010 World Cup alongside five-time champions Brazil if they win their qualifiers.

Chile and Paraguay can secure two more South American places at the 2010 World Cup alongside five-time champions Brazil if they win their qualifiers in the early hours of tomorrow morning. Chile, who last reached the finals in 1998, are away to Brazil, who qualified with a 3-1 victory in Argentina on Saturday. Paraguay, looking to reach their fourth successive finals, are at home to Argentina, who have lost their way under Diego Maradona, picking up six points out of a possible 15 and are facing the realistic prospect of missing out on the trip to South Africa.

Kaka, one of four suspended Brazil players, said the three-time world champions Argentina must qualify. "A World Cup without Argentina is not good," he said. "The World Cup needs to have all the best teams in the world." If Chile and Paraguay win, it will leave five other teams, including Argentina, fighting for one more automatic place and a play-off berth in the 10-nation South American group. Even a draw for Chile and Paraguay would be enough if Colombia and Ecuador, both seven points behind them, do not win. Paraguay defender Julio Cesar Caceres, who plays for Boca Juniors in Argentina, is back from suspension for the match at the Defensores del Chaco stadium.

"Against teams that have players like Argentina's you must be prepared to pressure them and not let them think," Paraguay's Argentine coach Gerardo Martino said. Argentina are without Carlos Tevez, who will also miss Manchester City's Premier League game against Arsenal. The forward picked up a knee injury in the defeat to Brazil, but City hope he will ready to face Manchester United the following weekend. Chile face a Brazil side without key players Kaka, Luis Fabiano, captain Lucio and Ramires, all suspended, and the injured Robinho. Fabiano's absence could mean a first competitive start since last year for Adriano, whose career went off the rails in April when he quit Inter Milan in Italy to return home, but he has revived his fortunes at Flamengo.

Argentine coach Marcelo Bielsa, who will face a team who are most comfortable playing on the break, is expected to stick largely to his attacking convictions. "What we are not going to do is look for a cautious position," Bielsa said after the weekend's 2-2 draw with Venezuela. "Our hope is to share the initiative with a team like Brazil, which is not something easy, but worse is to hand over pitch and ball and wait."

Bielsa mindful of the 3-0 loss to Dunga's side in Santiago last year, will however probably strengthen his defence by playing four across the back, welcoming Waldo Ponce back from suspension. * Agencies Paraguay v Argentina (KO 3am Thursday) & Brazil v Chile (KO 5am Thursday), both on Aljazeera Sport + 2