LONDON - Argentina yesterday joined fierce rivals Australia in the Davis Cup semifinals when Juan Ignacio Chela held his nerve to seal a 3-2 quarter-final victory over injury-hit holders Croatia.

Russia also advanced to the last four thanks to Dmitry Tursunov's tense five-set win over teenager Richard Gasquet of France.

In September's semifinals Argentina host Australia, who completed a 5-0 whitewash of Belarus earlier yesterday. Argentina hammered the Australians 4-1 in an ill-tempered quarter-final last year in Sydney.

Russia will play the United States, who took an unassailable 3-1 lead over Chile in California.

Chela beat Croatian Sasa Tuksar, the world No 159 standing in for the injured Mario Ancic, 3-6, 6-4, 7-6, 7-6 to put the Argentines through to their fourth semifinal in five years.

He fought back from a set down to clinch victory after Croatia's top-ranked player and team captain Ivan Ljubicic hauled the holders level at 2-2 with a 6-3, 6-4, 6-4 win over David Nalbandian in the first singles rubber.

Ljubicic confirmed he was stepping down as captain and said: "We have no regrets as Tuksar played his heart out today and was very unfortunate to lose a very tight match."

France suffered their first defeat in five ties staged in Pau when Tursunov stepped into the shoes of injured compatriot Nikolay Davydenko to expose Gasquet's inexperience.

Tursunov won 6-1, 3-6, 6-7, 6-3, 7-5 against the 19-year-old, eventually quelling the Frenchman with his power and consistency to give Russia a decisive 3-1 lead.

Mikhail Youzhny then beat Michael Llodra 6-2, 4-6, 7-6 to wrap up a 4-1 quarter-final win for Russia.

"It would have been more difficult for me if I had not served so well," said Tursunov, who is ranked 34. "It is hard to describe what I feel because I won the third point, the one sending us through. In Davis Cup, you play for the team and I'm happy to have done what the team was expecting me to do."

Russia also beat France in last year's quarter-finals and the 2002 final in Paris.

"I'm a bit fed up to lose against the Russians," admitted France captain Guy Forget.

Australia had already clinched their semifinal spot by winning the first three rubbers against Belarus.

Yesterday they completed a rout when Wayne Arthurs defeated Sergui Tarasevitch 7-6, 6-2 and Chris Guccione earned a crushing 6-1, 6-3 win over Belarussian rookie Alexandr Zotov.

Australian No 1 Lleyton Hewitt has had several run-ins with Argentine players and, looking ahead to the semifinals, Arthurs said: "I know Lleyton's a pretty wanted man over in Argentina and I think they'll be throwing more than the kitchen sink at him."

Argentina captain Alberto Mancini said: "We will be playing them at home and I am confident that we can get through to the final because we will be very positive after this win."

Andy Roddick defeated Chile's Fernando Gonzalez 4-6, 7-5, 6-3, 6-2 in Rancho Mirage to guide the US into the semis.

World No 4 Roddick withstood a spirited early charge from Gonzalez, who was serving brilliantly and controlling play from the backcourt.

"I guess I'm at the right place at the right time," Roddick said. "There's no better feeling than to win with all these fans cheering you on."

- REUTERS