Argentina secured a spot in the 2006 World Cup by beating defending champion Brazil, 3-1, last night. The Argentines joined Iran, Japan, Saudi Arabia and South Korea as the first nations to qualify for next year's World Cup, along with host Germany, an automatic qualifier in the 32-nation field.
Two goals from striker Hernan Crespo led Argentina in Buenos Aires. Crespo scored in the third and 39th minutes and Juan Roman Riquelme added another in the 18th in a showdown between the two soccer powerhouses, winners of seven World Cup championships.
Roberto Carlos scored Brazil's goal in the 71st.
Argentina, World Cup winner in 1978 and 1986, leads the 10-team qualifying group with 31 points, followed by defending champion Brazil with 27. Ecuador is third with 23, followed by Paraguay with 22 after 15 games.
Mexico beat Trinidad and Tobago, 2-0, and Costa Rica edged Guatemala, 3-2, in the CONCACAF region.
At Monterrey, Mexico, the hosts didn't break through until the 65th minute, when Jared Borgetti put in a rebound against Trinidad and Tobago. Luis Perez added a goal from the right side in the 88th minute.
Mexico improved to 4-0-1 and kept first place in the CONCACAF region with 13 points. Trinidad and Tobago, which topped Panama, 2-0, at home last weekend, fell to 1-3-1, and has four points.
In South America, Colombia got its second straight lopsided win, 3-0, over Ecuador. Tressor Moreno scored two goals within four minutes, while Martin Arzuaga completed the rout. Colombia, which routed Peru, 5-0 on Saturday, has 20 points.
Japan gained the first berth, beating North Korea, 2-0, in a game played in Bangkok in a stadium closed to fans. FIFA, soccer's governing body, last month shifted the game, originally scheduled for the North Korean capital of Pyongyang. FIFA made its decision to play the game at Bangkok's Supachalasai Stadium after fans in North Korea rioted following a World Cup qualifying loss to Iran in Pyongyang.
Japan got goals from Atsushi Yanagisawa in the 73rd minute and Masashi Oguro in the 88th.
Iran beat visiting Bahrain, 1-0, on Mohammad Nosrati's 47th-minute goal before 100,000 at Sazadi Stadium in Tehran. With one game remaining, Iran (4-0-1) and Japan (4-1) cannot be caught in Asia Group B with Bahrain (1-3-1) and North Korea (0-5).
Saudi Arabia qualified for its fourth straight World Cup by beating Uzbekistan, 3-0, at Riyadh. Sami al Jaber scored in the eighth and 60th minutes before 75,000 at King Fahd Stadium.
South Korea, a semifinalist in the 2002 World Cup, earned its sixth straight berth with a 4-0 victory at Kuwait.