Paraguay qualified for the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™ on Wednesday with a 1-0 victory over Argentina which leaves the two-time world champions in real danger of missing out on the finals for the first time since 1970.
A superb goal by Nelson Haedo Valdes in the 27th minute settled the match which saw Argentina reduced to 10-men when veteran midfielder Juan Sebastian Veron was sent-off early in the second-half for a second bookable offence. Defeat leaves Argentina in fifth place - only good enough for a place in a play-off against the fourth-placed CONCACAF finisher - and raise questions over Argentine coach, former playing legend Diego Maradona
Paraguay dominated the first-half against a clearly muddled and disorientated Argentina side, which had seen Maradona make four changes to the one beaten by Brazil on Saturday including bringing in 22-year-old debutant goalkeeper Sergio Romero while Maradona's son-in-law Sergio Aguero returned for his 21st cap replacing the injured Carlos Tevez.
Maradona had hardly packed the substitutes bench with experience either, opting to leave out in-form striker Lisandro Lopez entirely and preferring 35-year-old Martin Palermo, who last played international football in 2000 and admitted to being at a loss for words when he was asked what had been his reaction when he had been selected, on the bench.
Valdes it was who first unnerved the Argentinian defence as his volley was touched onto the post by Romero but he was to make no mistake in the 28th minute with a quite splendid goal both in terms of creation and execution. Valdes won a header just inside the Argentinian half and it fell to Salvador Cabanas, who passed it to Edgar Barretto, whose deft touch back to Cabanas saw the striker look up and pass to Valdes on the edge of the area who rifled in a stunning left footed shot giving Romero - who won the Dutch title last term with AZ Alkmaar - no chance.
Valdes had also been creator for the hosts as his wonderful run and cut back from the byline set up Jonathan Santana but his volley was touched onto the bar by Romero.
Argentina did not offer anything in attack with Lionel Messi looking lost while 34-year-old veteran midfielder Juan Sebastian Veron's sole contribution was to be booked for a high challenge. Indeed the night got worse for Veron - who skippered Estudiantes to the Copa Libertadores this year - when in the 53rd minute he was red carded for a second bookable offence and trudged off in disbelief offering some advice to the fourth official.
Maradona's response was to send on Palermo at the expense of the ineffectual Aguero in a country where the last time the seven-times capped striker played he missed three penalties. The unpredictable Maradona's last throw of the dice was to send on 36-year-old central defender Rolando Schiavi to win his first cap - a player who was so stunned by his call-up he actually rang the coach and asked him if it was a hoax.
Incredibly the two substitutes came closest to grabbing what would have been a crucial point as Palermo rose in the box but Schiavi was unable to just get a touch with his boot with the goal gaping wide.