BUENOS AIRES, ARGENTINA - Argentina coach Diego Maradona called up midfielder Rodrigo Brana of South American champions Estudiantes on Monday as cover for captain Javier Mascherano who has muscle fatigue.
Brana will join the squad on Tuesday ahead of Argentina's critical last two World Cup qualifiers at home to Peru on Saturday and away to Uruguay four days later, the Argentine Football Association said on www.afa.org.ar.
Maradona has also been deprived for the Peru match of Brana's Estudiantes midfield partner Juan Sebastian Veron, suspended after being sent off in the 1-0 defeat by Paraguay last month that left Argentina in fifth place in the South American group.
The top four qualify automatically and the team finishing fifth will play off over two legs against the fourth-placed nation in the CONCACAF region.
Brazil and Paraguay have qualified and Chile in third place are close but the fight for fourth and fifth is tight with Ecuador on 23 points, Argentina 22, Uruguay and Venezuela 21 and Colombia 20.
WAR OF WORDS
Bolivia and Peru are out of the running but the Peruvians have said they will not allow Argentina an easy ride.
When Argentina's 2006 World Cup playmaker Juan Roman Riquelme said last week Maradona's team would score five goals against Peru, their captain Nolberto Solano hit back.
"I would love to retire playing well and beating Argentina," said Solano, who is quitting international football after the qualifiers. Their last game is at home to Bolivia on Oct. 14.
Atletico Madrid striker Sergio Aguero, father of Maradona's first grandson, took the war of words a step further on his arrival in Buenos Aires on Monday.
"Peru don't play at anything," Aguero told reporters, suggesting Peru, bottom of the group with 10 points from 16 matches, had no discernible game strategy.
"These are the most important matches, the ones you have to win, and it's entirely down to us. They're going to sit back and we must not stop attacking them."
Peru have met Argentina at critical qualification stages in the past, starting with a 2-2 draw in Buenos Aires in 1969 that left Argentina out of the 1970 World Cup, their last absence from the showpiece tournament.
In 1985, Peru were less than 10 minutes from preventing the team Maradona captained from progessing before an equaliser gave them a 2-2 draw in Buenos Aires that booked their place in the tournament they won in Mexico a year later.