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Brazil fail to qualify for Athens Olympics
( 2004-01-27 13:15) (Agencies)

Brazil, who have never won an Olympic gold medal in soccer, failed to qualify for this year's Games in Athens after a shock 1-0 defeat to Paraguay on Sunday.

Brazil, five-time world champions, had needed only to draw against their less illustrious neighbours in their last game of the South American qualifying tournament but were instead sunk by a 32nd-minute goal scored by rival captain Jose de Vaca.

Paraguay will thus join Argentina as South America's Olympic representatives.

Paraguay finished the four-team final stage with six points, one less than Argentina, who won the South American under-23 Olympic qualifying tournament championship with a 2-2 draw against Chile in their final game on Sunday. Brazil have three points and Chile none.

Brazil have always taken Olympic soccer seriously and see the gold medal as the one item missing from their trophy cupboard.

Coach Vanderlei Luxemburgo lost his job with the senior team after failing to take Brazil's Olympic squad beyond the quarter-finals in Sydney four years ago.

This time former Paris St Germain defender Ricardo Gomes took sole charge of the under-23 team and is almost certain to be axed in turn.

Brazil, whose squad includes five members of the Santos team which won the Brazilian championship in 2002, had beaten Paraguay 3-0 in the first stage of the tournament.

They fielded four attackers in the second half but were unable to break down a typically stubborn Paraguay defence and also found goalkeeper Diego Barreto in inspired form.

The closest Brazil came was when Dudu Cearense sent a shot agonizingly wide with five minutes to play.

Luciano Figueroa scored for Argentina in the fourth minute and Ruben Bascunan netted the equalizer two minutes later.

Alejandro Dominguez added one for Argentina in the 39th, but Chile again leveled through Jan Beausejour in the 62nd.

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