Argentina avoid playoff headache

MONTEVIDEO: Argentina survived a shaky qualifying World Cup campaign to earn South America's final automatic berth for next year's tournament, and Honduras, Switzerland and Slovakia also earned spots in the 32-nation field.

Mario Bolatti scored in the 84th minute, and Argentina defeated Uruguay 1-0 on Wednesday night in Montevideo. Brazil finished first in South America with 34 points, one ahead of Chile and Paraguay, who had earlier clinched the first three berths from South America.

Argentina, who would have missed their first World Cup since 1970 if they had lost, wound up fourth with 28 points and will go to the tournament for the 10th straight time. Uruguay were fifth with 24 points and will meet Costa Rica in a playoff next for another berth.

Costa Rica were seconds from qualifying when Jonathan Bornstein headed in a corner kick in the fifth minute of stoppage time, giving the United States a 2-2 tie at Washington. In a match played simultaneously, Honduras won 1-0 at El Salvador on Carlos Pavon's goal in the 64th minute and qualified for the first time since 1982.

The US topped North and Central America and the Caribbean for the second straight qualifying cycle by finishing one point ahead of Mexico, who tied 2-2 at last-place Trinidad and Tobago. Honduras and Costa Rica were both 5-4-1 and the Catrachos finished third on goal difference, plus-2 to even.

While Switzerland and Slovakia gained Europe's last two automatic berths, Portugal, Greece, Slovenia and Ukraine finished second in their groups and joined Bosnia-Herzegovina, France, Ireland and Russia in Europe's playoffs.

At Basel, Switzerland qualified for their second straight World Cup, clinching with a 0-0 tie against Israel. Switzerland extended their unbeaten streak to eight matches and finished atop Group Two with 21 points. Greece, who won 2-1 over Luxembourg, were one point back in second.

At Chorzow, Slovakia qualified for their first World Cup, beating Poland 1-0 on a third-minute own goal by Seweryn Gancarczyk. Before it split into two nations, Czechoslovakia appeared in every World Cup from 1930-90 and lost the final in 1934 and 1962.

Slovakia won Group Three with 22 points, while Slovenia finished second with 20 following a 3-0 win at San Marino and will go to the European playoffs. The Czech Republic failed to qualify for next year's tournament after finishing third in Group Three.

At Guimares, Portugal won their third straight qualifier as Nani scored one goal and assisted on another. Simao Sabrosa, Miguel Veloso and Edinho also scored for Portugal, who finished second in Group One with 19 points, two behind Denmark.

Nani started in place of Cristiano Ronaldo, who injured an ankle in Saturday's 3-0 victory over Hungary. Nani scored on a left-footed volley in the 14th minute, Sabrosa doubled the lead in the 45th and Veloso scored off Nani's cross in the 52nd. Edinio scored in the 90th.

At Wembley, Peter Crouch scored in the fourth and 76th minutes, David Beckham assisted on Shaun Wright-Phillips' 59th-minute goal after entering as a second-half substitute and England completed qualifying with a 3-0 victory over Belarus. At Parma, Alberto Gilardino scored in the 78th, 81st and 90th minutes, rallying defending champion Italy over Cyprus 3-2. Cyprus had built a 2-0 lead on goals by Ioannis Okkas in the 12th minute and Chrysostomos Michail in the 48th minute.

At Hamburg, Lukas Podolski scored in the 90th minute, giving Germany a 1-1 tie against Finland, who had gone ahead on Jonatan Johansson's 11th minute goal. At Zenica, Spain completed a perfect campaign with a 5-2 win at Bosnia-Herzegovina as Alvaro Negredo scored twice, and Gerard Pique, David Silva and Juan Manuel Mata got one goal each. At Saint-Denis, Karim Benzema, Thierry Henry and Andre-Pierre Gignac scored for France in a 3-1 win over Austria.