Pressure is building on Diego Maradona [AFP]After losing three of the last four qualifying games, and scoring only three goals, Argentina is teetering on the edge of missing its first World Cup since 1970.
Despite this Diego Maradona, the Argentina coach who predicted a victory prior to Saturday's 3-1 loss to Brazil, still talks with hollow certainty ahead of Wednesday's even more critical match at Paraguay.
"We'll go (to Paraguay) with the same confidence as always,'' said Maradona, considered by some to be the game's greatest player.
A loss against Paraguay could drop Argentina into sixth place in the 10-team South American qualifying group.Going into the final two qualifying matches next month, Argentina could be faced with missing out on not just one of the top four spots that advance automatically, but even fifth place, which gets a playoff spot.
Argentina also faces major injury problems.
Striker Carlos Tevez is out with a right knee injury with Sergio Aguero, Maradona's son-in-law, a candidate to fill in.Midfielder Maxi Rodriguez will also miss the match with a right-leg injury.
"We've got to lift out heads quickly,'' Argentina midfielder Javier Zanetti said."Football doesn't give you much time.
"It will all depend on us being able to show the best of ourselves against Paraguay, which would get us closer to South Africa,'' Zanetti added.
"We have to have confidence in the work we've been doing.''
Brazil, which on Saturday became the seventh team to reach the 32-team final tournament, is home against Chile.In the three other matches, it's: Uruguay vs. Colombia; Venezuela vs. Peru; and Bolivia vs. Ecuador.
Star-studded line up
Argentina has some of the world's best talent in strikers Lionel Messi, Tevez and Aguero, and a high-profile midfield that includes Zanetti, Juan Sebastian Veron and Javier Mascherano.However, the sports newspaper Ole pointed out the problem following Argentina's loss in Rosario, the site of an intimate stadium that was supposed to give the Gauchos an edge.
"Rosario didn't solve the big problem, the national team doesn't play like a team, and Diego has not been able to turn this around,'' Ole said.
Brazil leads the South American standings with 30 points, followed byChile and Paraguay with 27 each, Argentina with 22, Colombia and Ecuador with 20, and Uruguay and Venezuela with 18. Bolivia and Peru have both been eliminated.
"As for Argentina, despite how they are playing in the qualifiers, everything about them worries me,'' Paraguay coach Gerardo Martino said.
"This is a world power with a top group of players.''
Paraguay, which is trying to reach it fourth straight World Cup, drew 1-1 with Argentina in their first qualifying match in June 2008.Paraguay close to South AfricaA victory will guarantee Paraguay a place in South Africa, and a draw might even be enough if other results go Paraguay's way.
Brazil will be without four starters who are banned for Wednesday's match against Chile after picking up yellow cards against Argentina, Kaka, Luis Fabiano, Ramires and Lucio. Brazil coach Dunga is also expected to rest Robinho, who has a left thigh injury. Elano is also doubtful with an injury.
"Dunga congratulated us for qualifying, but he kept all our feet on the ground because Chile is a tough game and we have to stay focused,'' Brazil winger Andre Silva said.
Chile, which last played in the World Cup in 1998, is sure of reaching South Africa with a victory.
Ecuador and Colombia are the teams eyeing Argentina. They both have winnable games, Colombia is at Uruguay and Ecuador plays at Bolivia.If they both win and Argentina loses, they'll jump into the Nos. 4 and 5 spots asArgentina drops to No. 6.