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Argentina stun Brazil
- WORLD CUP QUALIFIERS Champions stay in second spot

Buenos Aires: Argentina produced a stunning first-half performance as they scored three times before the break to beat arch-rivals Brazil 3-1 and qualify for the 2006 World Cup on Wednesday.

Two goals by Hernan Crespo and one from Juan Roman Riquelme stunned the world champions, who fought back in the second half and replied with a trademark free-kick from Roberto Carlos.

Despite the defeat, Brazil remain second in the 10-nation South American group on 27 points from 15 games and are almost certain to advance along with Argentina, maintaining their proud record as the only country to have played at every finals. They only need three points to guarantee their place and still have to face Chile and Venezuela at home and bottom side Bolivia away.

Argentina, who have 31 points, are certain of a top-four finish with three matches to go. This will be Argentina’s ninth successive World Cup.

The Argentines joined Iran, Japan, Saudi Arabia and South Korea as the first nations to qualify for next year’s finals, along with hosts Germany, automatic qualifiers in the 32-nation field.

In South American qualifying, the top four teams advance and the fifth plays off against the Oceania region winners.

After thumping Paraguay 4-1 on Sunday, Brazil appeared overconfident as they produced a toothless first-half performance in which they had no answer to Argentina’s biting tackles and swift passing.

The second half was a different story, however, as the visitors took control and gave Argentina an uncomfortable final 20 minutes.

Argentina took the game to Brazil from the start with Crespo opening the scoring in the fourth minute when Luis Gonzalez found him around 25 m from goal and the AC Milan striker thumped a low shot past Dida.

Brazil had barely recovered from that shock when Riquelme added a superb second in the 18th minute.

After starting a move with a clever flicked pass to Gonzalez, Riquelme picked up the ball with his back to goal, turned past Roque Junior and scored with a thumping left-foot drive from 25m.

Brazil failed to muster a shot on goal and it got even worse in the 40th minute.

Javier Saviola picked up a short corner, turned and crossed to the near post where Crespo leapt in front of Roque Junior to head the third and his seventh of the qualifiers. (Agencies)

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