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World Cup Fever Spreading Around the Globe

Drama flared across the globe over the weekend as eight nations confirmed their place in the World Cup finals in South Africa. Among those to book their tickets were Italy, Germany, Serbia, the Ivory Coast, Denmark, Chile, Mexico and the United States. Italy qualified by coming from behind twice against Ireland in Cork to get a last-minute equalizer. "The boys played with quality and character," Italy coach Marcello Lippi said. "They had calmness to construct this equalizer in the 90th minute, and it was a deserved one." Other world power Germany snatched a 1-0 victory in Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow in front of 84,500. Germany became the only visiting team to win on the stadium's artificial turf. Serbia, meanwhile, qualified for its first World Cup as an independent nation by romping Romania 5-0 and vaulting ahead of France in the group.

For many teams, qualification still hangs in the balance. In a rain-drenched Monumental Stadium, Argentina scored in the third minute of added time to beat Peru, the last place team in the 10-nation South African qualifying zone. Martin Palermo, who hadn't represented his national team in over 10 years, scored the game winner after entering the game as a substitute. The goal sent Maradona into a head first dive on his stomach on the wet grass. "I thought we were liquidated, but I forgot about Palermo," Maradona said. But Argentina still has work to do, as it travels to Uruguay to play for the last automatic berth in the region on Wednesday.

Group runners-up in Europe have a chance of sneaking into the finals in November. Teams such Ireland, Russia, Bosnia, France and perhaps Portugal, Greece, Croatia or Ukraine still have much to play for.


Read the whole story at New York Times »

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