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Three crucial battles on tap
by Paul Kennedy, April 1st, 2009 7AM
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[WORLD CUP 2010 QUALIFYING] On Wednesday, the first team could qualify for the 2010 World Cup, joining host South Africa in the 32-team field. Australia would clinch a berth in the finals with a victory over Uzbekistan in a game that kicked off at 5 a.m. ET and a tie between Bahrain and Qatar later in the day. The Australia-Uzbekistan match launched a crucial day of World Cup qualifying. Here's a look at the most intriguing games, all available on television, on each of the three continents other than Concacaf on a day when there will be a full slate of games ...

TV/Fox Soccer Channel, live, 7 am ET:
SOUTH KOREA-NORTH KOREA. North Korea is in first place, two points ahead of South Korea in Asia's Group B, but it has played an extra game, heading in Wednesday's politically charged game in Seoul.

The first-ever meeting in a FIFA-sanctioned tournament was moved to Shanghai because the North Koreans refused to play the South Korea anthem and display its flag. That game ended in a 0-0 tie. The second game comes on the eve of the North Koreans' planned missile test.

South Korea has several big names in Manchester United's Park Ji-Sung and Borussia Dortmund's Lee Young-Pyo, but the North Koreans can counter with star Jong Tae-Se.

TV/Gol TV, delay, Thursday, 1 am ET:
ITALY-IRELAND. Giovanni Trapattoni, who coached Italy at the 2002 World Cup and 2004 European Championship, returns home as Ireland's coach. The Irish, showing little flare in their 1-1 tie with Bulgaria in Dublin on Saturday, will need to bunker down in Trapattoni style to get a result in Bari.

The Irish tie was costly as Italy moved three points clear with a 2-0 win over Montenegro.

New Jersey product Giuseppe Rossi could get a start up front for Italy, which lost forward Antonio Di Natale with a knee injury in the Montenegro game.

TV/ESPN Deportes, live, 7 pm:
CHILE-URUGUAY. With Paraguay holding a commanding lead and Argentine and Brazil expected to claim berths in the finals, that leaves a fourth automatic berth up for grabs in South America. Chile can go a long way toward claiming that spot with a win over Uruguay.

Chile is currently tied for second with Argentina, four points behind Paraguay and one point ahead of Brazil and three points ahead of Uruguay. A win would give the Chileans a six-point cushion -- at a minimum -- on the fifth-place team with six games to play.

The Chileans have been playing inspired soccer under former Argentina coach Marcelo Bielsa, beating Peru, 3-1, on Sunday for their first away win over Peru in almost a quarter century.

"We are not a lesser team than Chile," said Uruguay coach Oscar Washington Tabarez. "It's a game in which we can attack them. There's no point in playing for a point."


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