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By ESPN Staff

Palermo winner was a miracle, says Maradona

Diego Maradona hailed Martin Palermo as a "miracle maker" after the veteran striker's last-gasp goal against Peru on Saturday night gave Argentina renewed hope of qualifying directly for next year's World Cup finals.

• Messi goes missing in eye of storm
• Last-gasp Palermo wins it in the rain

Argentina were on the brink after Hernan Rengifo's last-minute header cancelled out Gonzalo Higuain's strike. But as terrible conditions persisted, Palermo - restored to the side after 10 years - grabbed an injury-time goal to put Argentina in the all-important fourth place in the South American qualifying zone with one game left to play.

"Martin Palermo has saved us and our chances of qualifying are intact," Maradona said. "When the wind and rain and cold began and allowed Peru to draw level, we could not do anything, but the miracle of Palermo has given us a longer life. The goals I scored were normal, Palermo makes miracles."

Maradona had been under huge pressure after an unimpressive qualifying performance left his team on the verge of facing a play-off to reach South Africa. But they will now face Uruguay, a point behind Argentina in fifth, on Wednesday in a make-or-break game.

The circumstances, combined with his own long absence, made the goal all the more special for Palermo.

"It was incomparable, because it was for the national team at a time like this," the striker said. "I don't know if it was fate, but I thank God for this triumph."

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