Uruguayan duo eye World Cup spots

BUENOS AIRES - Uruguayans Santiago Silva and Joaquin Boghossian will have a place at the World Cup in their sights when the Argentine Clausura championship kicks off this weekend.

Beefy striker Silva (pictured) nicknamed "The Tank" was top scorer in the Apertura championship, which ended in December, with 14 goals in 19 matches as modest Banfield won their first title.

"Every day I dream of going to the World Cup...the chances are there. I want to carry on (playing) like this to show I can be on a list to go to South Africa," Silva said in a recent interview with the sports daily Ole.

However, Banfield will be without him when they open their defence of the title at home to River Plate on Sunday.

Silva has returned to Velez Sarsfield, winners of last season's Clausura in July, after a year's loan because the clubs could not agree new terms for him to stay on at Banfield.

Velez kick off at home to Colon on Saturday.

The 22-year-old Boghossian struck 11 goals for runners-up Newell's Old Boys in the last tournament having crossed from his native Montevideo an unknown young player.

Neither the 29-year-old Silva nor Boghossian were involved in the long qualifying campaign that finally saw coach Oscar Washington Tabarez's Uruguay side snatch the 32nd and last berth at the World Cup by beating Costa Rica in a playoff in November.

Dozens of Argentine players will at the same time be out to land a place in Diego Maradona's squad, not least 36-year-old Martin Palermo of Boca Juniors, whose international career was revived in the final qualifiers after a 10-year absence.

With Maradona, getting through more than 90 players including squads he named for friendlies, there appears to be a chance for many even while the bulk of his squad will come from the European leagues.

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The country's big two clubs, River Plate and Boca, had a very poor 2009 by their lofty standards, to the point that they both failed to figure among Argentina's five qualifiers for the Libertadores Cup, South America's top club competition.

River will continue to rely on veteran former World Cup trio Matias Almeyda, Ariel Ortega and Marcelo Gallardo to lead their revival while waiting for the recovery of 21-year-old Olympic gold medallist Diego Buonanotte who survived a car crash in December in which three friends were killed.

Coach Leonardo Astrada's squad has been boosted by the signing of Paraguayan winger Rodrigo Rojas from Olimpia, Argentine striker Gustavo Canales from Union Espanola of Chile, central defender Alexis Ferrero from Colon and Uruguayan left back Juan Manuel Diaz from Estudiantes de La Plata.

Their biggest assets could be teenage strikers Daniel Villalva and Gabriel Funes Mori, who shone in River's 3-1 victory over Boca in a friendly in Mar del Plata a week ago which sparked the resignation of their arch-rivals' coach Alfio Basile.

Boca have injured playmaker Juan Roman Riquelme doubtful for their opening match against Argentinos Juniors on Sunday, striker Lucas Viatri also nursing an injury and midfielder Sebastian Battaglia out for the long term.