SANTIAGO (AFP) - South American minnows Chile popped the Champagne corks Saturday as national team coach Marcelo Bielsa successfully guided his side through qualifying for the 2010 World Cup finals.
Modest Chile's 4-2 defeat of Colombia means they become the third of four automatic qualifiers from the South America zone, after Brazil and Paraguay, to book their ticket to South Africa next summer.
Chile's first appearance at the footballing showpiece since France '98 will be savoured even more as a huge question mark continues to hover over Bielsa's native Argentina - considered, with Brazil, the continental giants.
Diego Maradona's Argentina side beat lowly Peru 2-1 Saturday thanks only to Martin Palermo's winner two minutes into second-half injury time.
Although that result left the former World Cup winners occupying the fourth and last spot reserved for automatic qualifiers in the 10-strong group, Argentina could still end up in fifth place and be forced into a play-off.
Argentina go into their final qualifier against Uruguay in Montevideo on Thursday with a one-point lead over their near neighbours and arch rivals.
Defeat or even a draw against Uruguay would leave Maradona's side facing a two-leg play-off against the fourth placed team from the CONCACAF (Central American) zone for a chance to go to the World Cup.
Chile meanwhile will head to South Africa hoping Bielsa, the Argentina coach from 1998 to 2004, can rekindle the small glories of 1998 when strike duo Ivan Zamorano and Marcelo Salas helped Chile to the second round of the competition.
That was Chile's best result at the World Cup since the real glory days of 1962 when Chile, as hosts, finished third after beating Yugoslavia 1-0.
Even before they embark on that mission Bielsa's popularity has taken the country by storm.
Last week he was voted the best coach in the history of Chilean football by the readers of football magazine El Mercurio, and the country's President, Michelle Bachelet, has hailed him a "role model for youth" and praised his "ability to get results with hard work, discipline and enthusiasm".
Bielsa is known as "El Loco" (the Mad One) and his trademark disciplined approach means he is often marching up and down the touchline barking orders to his players.
With Chile, Bielsa has gone some way to reviving the 'total football' philosophy which became the trademark of Johan Cruyff's Holland side in the 1970s.
As a result, Bielsa's 4-3-3 formation with Chile has prompted them to play as a unit. Attacking and defending together has helped them win nine of their 17 matches, scoring 31 goals - second only to Brazil - but conceding a less impressive 22.
One of his favourite maxims is: "Every player, at whatever time in the match, has a good reason to be running somewhere. There is no reason whatsoever for a player to be standing still."
Chile's squad has a solid foundation of young players, such as livewire winger Alexis Sanchez, a 20-year-old who plays for Udinese, midfielders Carlos Carmona, 22, (Reggina), Matias Fernandez, 23, (Sporting Lisbon) and plenty of other such talents waiting in the wings.
Bielsa will go to South Africa hoping they can help him make amends for the crushing disappointment of 2002.
In Japan, Argentina failed at the first hurdle finishing third in group F behind Sweden and England. Bielsa only partly made amends two years later by leading Argentina to the Olympic gold.
|Coach: E. Lara|
for G. Hernández 56'
for F. Guarín 57'
for D. Pabón 62'
|Magath open to Rangers role|
|Copa Libertadores Review: Corinthians preserve perfect record|
|MLS and players union reach agreement|
|Wenger hails Giroud´s mental strength|
|We didn´t give Espanyol a chance - Valverde|
|Benteke eyeing FA Cup glory|
|Serie A Preview: Inzaghi under pressure, Roma eye win|
|Sturridge: ´I am ready to play every game´|
|Luis Enrique coy on Busquets injury|
|Dyche realistic after Anfield loss|
|Hughes: Stoke evolution is ahead of schedule|
|DFB-Pokal Review: Bayern through, Bremen upset|
|Championship Review: Wigan boost survival hopes, Blackpool´s misery continues|
|Matuidi sets sights on PSG quadruple|
|Allardyce: Big calls went against West Ham|
|Van Gaal defends Evans amid spitting furore|
|Pearson calls for video technology after City snubs|
|Rodgers hails Henderson impact|
|Pochettino proud of Tottenham response|
|Kluivert appointed Curacao coach|
|´Devastated´ Carver slams referee for penalty gaffe|
|Hero Hazard thrills Mourinho|
|Benitez praises Napoli ´intensity´|
|Mourinho laughs off bizarre Matic injury|
|Gutierrez grateful for reception after beating cancer|
|Pellegrini explains Kompany omission|
|Guardiola underlines respect for beaten Braunschweig|
|Second-half display pleases Wenger as Arsenal maintain top-three place|
|Martinez wants united front at struggling Everton|
|Espanyol 0 Athletic Bilbao 2 (1-3 agg): Basque club into final|
|QPR cannot keep relying on Austin, says Ramsey|
|´No problems whatsoever´ with Gomis|
|Celtic 0 St Johnstone 1: Swanson stunner shocks leaders|
|Tottenham 3 Swansea 2: Spurs bounce back from Wembley loss|
|Liverpool 2 Burnley 0: Sturridge celebrates starting return with goal|
|PSG 2 Monaco 0: Hosts sail into semi-finals|
|Newcastle United 0 Manchester United 1: Last-gasp Young strike gives visitors dramatic win|
|Lazio 1 Napoli 1: Gabbiadini on hand to spare holders´ blushes|
|Manchester City 2 Leicester City 0: Champions bounce back|
|West Ham 0 Chelsea 1: Hazard wins it for the leaders|
|QPR 1 Arsenal 2: Second-half improvement seals victory for Wenger´s men|
|Stoke City 2 Everton 0: Moses and Diouf do the damage for Hughes´ men|
|Bayern Munich 2 Eintracht Braunschweig 0: Holders ease into quarter-finals|
|Gutierrez makes comeback after beating cancer|
|Blatter calls for points deductions to punish racism|
|Evian 1 Lorient 0: N´Sikulu extends hosts´ run|
|Villarreal 1 Barcelona 3 (2-6 agg): Busquets blow sours Copa progression|
|Eredivise Preview: Schreuder issues Twente rallying call, PSV hoping to return to form|
|Barca sweat over Busquets injury|
|Gomis collapses during Tottenham game, Swansea confirm he is ´stable´|
|Ban lifted on Greek Super League action|
|AFC Champions League Review: Zeng injury overshadows Guangzhou win|
|Orlando draw up Walt Disney World link|
|Pearson pragmatic over handling of Premier League ´sideshows´|
|Robertson targeting first-team run|
|Dortmund breathe sigh of relief over Reus injury|
|Bayern can´t be caught, claims Hoffenheim chief|
|Lahm will ´definitely´ end career at Bayern|
|Pele: Brazil should copy Germany for Copa America glory|
|Dynamo hit with partial stadium ban after crowd trouble|
|Dani Alves close to Barca exit - agent|
|Injuries fail to dampen Montella´s Coppa excitement|
|Boateng turned down Barca offer|
|Atalanta replace Colantuono with Reja|
|Pogba to return against Fiorentina, Allegri confirms|
|Don´t make Costa angry, warns Allardyce|
|Pochettino wants end-of-season break for Kane|
|MLS 2015 Preview: Galaxy target defence as new boys welcome marquee signings|
|Debt-riddled Twente cop three-point penalty|
|Gladbach targeting DFB Pokal glory|
|Montreal Impact 1 Pachuca 1 (agg 3-3): Hosts through on away goals|
|Zouma can replace Terry - Mourinho|
|Copa Libertadores Review: Universitario, Libertad notch first wins|
|RB Leipzig´s attack worrying Wolfsburg|
|Jardim backs busy Monaco|
|De Boer: ´I´d only sign for an interesting club´|
|Martinez calls for unity|
|A-League Preview: Phoenix staying grounded|
|Danish FA agree to more pay negotiations|
|Rodgers feared sack before ´radical´ change|
|Chelsea turned Valencia´s head - Allardyce|
|Poyet spat was not a good look - Bruce|
|Gold ´hopeful´ over Reid deal|
|´No problem´ with Bruce, says Poyet|
|Sherwood confident in Villa upturn after derby win|
|Pulis stands by Foster after costly error|
|Boulogne 1 Saint-Etienne 1 (aet, 3-4 on penalties): Minnows´ run ends on penalties|
|Schalke want to buy Nastasic|
|Pardew feeling hard done by after Southampton defeat|
|Football League Review: Boro go top as Derby falter again|
|Koeman pleased with ´crucial´ victory|
|Agbonlahor eyes turnaround as Villa end wait for win|
|Equaliser at Hull hit my arm - Rodwell|
|Reus injury ´only a dead leg´|
|Lyon hope for long Lacazette stay|
|DFB-Pokal Review: Leverkusen shake off old foes Kaiserslautern|
|Aston Villa 2 West Brom 1: Benteke on the spot as Villa win at last|
|Hull City 1 Sunderland 1: Rodwell earns visitors a draw in dramatic encounter|
|Southampton 1 Crystal Palace 0: Mane wins it late on|
|Dynamo Dresden 0 Borussia Dortmund 2: Reus withdrawal overshadows Pokal progression|
|Bruce and Poyet clash in ugly touchline spat|
|Dortmund star Reus in new injury scare|
|Lyon success a source of pride for Gonalons|
|Juventus v Fiorentina: Allegri seeking improvement|
|Edu hails ´phenomenon´ Sanchez|
|´Huge money´ needed to take Cech away - Mourinho|
|Lazio v Napoli: Benitez calls for unity in trophy quest|
|West Ham´s Cole landed with FA charge|
|Leeds fan group want meeting with Hollywood star Crowe|
|Suso prepared to wait for Milan chance|
|Ashley fined £7,500 for influence in Rangers|
|Blanc praises Luiz´s versatility|
|Pochettino: League Cup heartbreak will help Spurs grow|
|Carver understands frustration with Van Gaal|
|AFC Champions League Review: Jeonbuk and Kashiwa win convincingly|
|Guardiola committed to Bayern amid City rumours|
|Hughes: Bruce is defending the indefensible|
|Espanyol v Athletic Bilbao: Stuani eyeing ´momentous´ cup final|
|Everton waiting on Baines fitness|
|I am not under pressure, Pellegrini insists|
|Guardiola demands focus ahead of Braunschweig clash|
|Van Gaal: Di Maria needs a year to settle|
|Luis Enrique vows to attack Villarreal|
|Jedinak hit with four-game ban|
|Mourinho guarantees Terry deal|
|Mowbray lands Coventry job|
|Strootman on schedule for Roma return|
|Mikel out for a month after surgery|
|Palace midfielder Jedinak accepts FA charge|
|Wigan chairman Whelan stands down, hands reins to 23-year-old grandson|
|Jedinak stays quiet on FA charge|
|England winger Johnson released on bail|
|Gareca signs four-year Peru deal|
|Sandro set for QPR return|
|Hull dealt Brady blow|
|Garcia going nowhere, insists Pallotta|
|Allardyce: Chelsea aren´t allowed to be off form|
|Arsenal boosted by Ramsey return|
|No early Barca return for Tello|
|Pirlo inspired stunning Tevez free-kick|
|Brunt vows to heap misery on Villa|
|Barry: Everton needs points on the board to avoid relegation scrap|
|Janmaat hails ´fantastic´ Van Gaal|
|Cahill vows to silence critics|
|Spurs legend Mackay passes away|
|Adrian: I get good results against Mourinho|
|Hoffenheim boss wary of rising expectations|
|Sturridge edging closer to his best - Rodgers|
|Kroos happy with deeper role|
|Terry ´fighting´ for Chelsea contract|
|Townsend: No excuses for Tottenham|
|Garcia applauds Roma´s ´magnificent´ comeback|