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European powers get back on track

Order was restored in Europe, but South American leaders Brazil and Argentina couldn't find the net yesterday as both were held to 0-0 draws in World Cup qualifying.

Defending champion Brazil was stopped at home by Colombia, but the five-time titlist still maintained its 1-point lead over archrival Argentina, which suffered the same result at Chile.

In the CONCACAF region, Mexico and Guatemala joined the United States in advancing to the next round. Mexico blanked Trinidad and Tobago, 3-0, and Guatemala beat Honduras, 1-0.

In Group A, which includes the US, Jamaica played to a scoreless tie with El Salvador to gain a 1-point lead over Panama in the battle for second place. In other CONCACAF games, St. Vincent and the Grenadines downed St. Kitts and Nevis, 3-0, and Costa Rica stopped Canada, 3-1.

But Europe drew most of the attention as Italy, France, the Netherlands, and Portugal rebounded from last weekend's disappointing results to put themselves back in contention for spots in the 2006 Cup.

Italy, which lost to Slovenia Saturday, got two goals from Francesco Totti to edge Belarus, 4-3.

The other three teams all came back from surprising draws to win yesterday, with the Dutch erasing a one-goal deficit to beat Finland, 3-1, France blanking Cyprus, 2-0, and European Championship runner-up Portugal crushing Russia, 7-1. England also won, nipping Azerbaijan, 1-0 on a goal from Michael Owen.

The one surprise in Europe involved perennial underachiever Spain, which was held to a 0-0 draw by Lithuania.

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