Pavon, from goat to hero

[WORLD CUP 2010 QUALIFYING] Four days after being the goat, Carlos Pavon, the elder statesman of the Honduran national team, scored the winning goal in a 1-0 victory at El Salvador that will send the Catrachos to the World Cup for the first time in 28 years. Argentina and Slovakia were also victorious on the road to clinch berths in the World Cup finals, and Switzerland, hit hard by a stomach virus that sidelined three regulars, earned a 0-0 at home against Israel to claim the dramatic day's fourth ticket to the World Cup.

Pavon, whose missed penalty kick late in the Honduras-USA cost the Catrachos a shot at pulling even at 3-3, broke a scoreless tie when he scored the winner in the 64th minute.

Honduras then waited for the outcome of the USA-Costa Rica game. The Ticos were winning, 2-0, when Pavon scored, but late goals by Michael Bradley and Jonathan Bornstein dropped Costa Rica back into a tie for third place with Honduras, which won the tiebreaker.

Bornstein's goal set off cries of "Mundialistas!", "Mundialistas!" across Honduras.

URUGUAY-ARGENTINA (0-1). All Argentina needed to do was tie Uruguay in Montevideo and it would clinch fourth place in South America.

But the Albicelestes clinched with a win thanks to a goal by sub Mario Bolatti in the 84th minute after a scramble in front of the Uruguayan goal. The goal came shortly after Uruguay defender Martin Caceres was sent off.

Afterward, Argentina coach Diego Maradona went into a profanity-laced attack on the media.

"To those who treated me like garbage, I say were are in World Cup with full honors," he said.

POLAND-SLOVAKIA (0-1). Four days after a crushing 2-0 loss at home to Slovenia, Slovakia recovered and captured a must-win game at Poland, winning, 1-0, in the snow on an own goal by Seweryn Gancarczyk in the third minute.

Heavy snow made it impossible for either team to play.

"I love these players," said Slovakia coach Vladimir Weiss. "In these qualifiers we have played well and had a little bit of luck. Everybody made a contribution and we made the whole of Slovakia happy. This is a fantastic feeling."

SWITZERLAND-ISRAEL (0-0). Ottmar Hitzfeld, the former Bayern Munich coach, will take his native Switzerland to the World Cup after a 0-0 tie with Israel was enough to earn it a one-point advantage over Greece.

Three of his first-choice starters -- goalkeeper Diego Benaglio, midfielder Benjamin Huggel and forward Alexander Frei -- couldn't play because of a stomach bug.

 

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