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Oct 9, 2008

CONMEBOL: Tough tests for Basile and Dunga

BUENOS AIRES, Oct 9 (Reuters) - Argentina coach Alfio Basile and his Brazilian counterpart Dunga both face a week of reckoning as the South American qualifiers pass the halfway mark over the next few days.

Two rounds of qualifiers - the ninth and tenth in the 18-match campaign - will be played between Saturday and Wednesday and both coaches need to turn around their teams' respective fortunes.

Argentina have drawn their last six games, two friendlies and four qualifiers, while Brazil's poor recent run culminated with a dismal 0-0 home draw against Bolivia last month.

Both teams have 13 points from eight games in the 10-team group, four behind leaders Paraguay and level with fourth-placed Chile.

With Uruguay (12 points), Colombia (10) and Ecuador (9) lurking closely behind, any more slip-ups could cause a slide down the table.

The top four teams qualify directly for South Africa and the fifth-placed team plays off against a team from the CONCACAF region for another place.

Basile, whose team host Uruguay on Saturday and visit Chile on Wednesday, is in a slightly more comfortable position after getting public backing from Argentina Football Association (AFA) president Julio Grondona.

"This is a moment when we need results and we hope to get one agaist Uruguay," said midfielder Javier Mascherano.

Dunga, taunted by cries of "Goodbye Dunga" and "Idiot" in Brazil's last two games, has had no such backing from above and only maximum points from Sunday's visit to Venezuela and Wednesday's match at home to Colombia are likely to keep him safe.

Argentina forward Carlos Tevez is available again after completing a one-match suspension following his sending-off against Paraguay last month.

Uruguay will be without injured forward Diego Forlan, joint topscorer in the competition with four goals, who is likely to be replaced by Javier Chevanton.

"We've studied our opponents, we know their players but we are confident of getting a good result," said coach Oscar Washington Tabarez.

Kaka, nagged by injuries this year, is set to make his first appearance for Brazil in 11 months in San Cristobal on Sunday while out-of-form Ronaldinho has been dropped.

Brazil will be missing defender Alex Costa and strikers Luis Fabiano and Julio Baptista as they attempt to avenge June's humiliating 2-0 friendly defeat in Boston, the first time in 18 outings they have failed to beat Venezuela.

Paraguay, without injured striker Roque Santa Cruz, visit goal-shy Colombia on Saturday where new coach Eduardo Lara, brought in after Jorge Luis Pinto was fired last month, has promised a more attacking approach from a team who have mustered only four goals.

Ecuador, attempting to qualify for their third successive World Cup, host Chile in Quito on Sunday while the bottom two teams Bolivia (5 points) and Peru (7) meet in La Paz on Saturday.

Bolivia coach Erwin Sanchez will began a three-match touchline ban after he was sent off against Brazil and Peru captain Nolberto Solano is also suspended.

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