Group matches at France 98 played on Friday, 19th June.
Nigeria vs Bulgaria in Paris (1:0).
Spain vs Paraguay in St. Etienne (0:0).
The heat in Paris suited the Nigerians. The early possession was
almost wholly theirs.
In the seventh minute, Oliseh blasted a free-kick through the wall
that just shaved the outside of the post.
The five red cards of the previous day may have had a hand in the
cautious middle period of this first-half.
The Chilean referee seemed more interested in letting play run though
and it wasn't until the 19th minute that he booked the Nigerian, Adepoju. Shirt-pulling by
both sides was not seen, or more probably ignored.
In the 26th minute, Nigeria started to play like Brazil. A move from
Jay-Jay Okocha involved three swift, sharp, successive passes before it reached Ikpeba; in
the Bulgarian area. He turned his defender and slipped it under Zdravkov.
The pace of the game livened up, although Stoitchkov and Kostadinov
wasted chances for Bulgaria by trying to be the best on the field; instead of using each
other for the best interest of the team.
Nigeria, on the other hand, were moving fluidly together: Lawal on the
left; crossed deep, and the ball was headed back to Ikpeba in the middle of the area
In the 40th minute, a Bulgarian corner was punched out to Stoitchkov.
The first time volley straight back to the boxer. Shortly after, Balakov did well to head
on a ball for himself and run on to lob Rufai; who could only turn and watch it go wide.
The second half ticked along at medium pace, with the most attractive
build-ups coming from Nigeria; while Stoitchkov grumbled as usual.
In the 65th minute, the Bulgarian legend wasted an easy chance in
front of goal, by his standards, and tried to bury his head in the turf.
Rashidi Yekini came on for the last fifteen minutes and almost set up
Nigeria should have sealed the game, eight minutes before the end, but
messed up in front of an open goal.
Bulgaria were not out of it and Kostadinov skimmed the bar, in the
The result is enough to take Nigeria into the second round.
Nigeria 1 -
Our Man of the Match:
Okocha; a beacon throughout the match, despite the ginger hair.
Spain desperately needed to win this one, or at least
not lose again.
Another one of those matches where the will to win was
The early attacking came from Paraguay, much to the
disappointment of the thousands of Spanish fans who made the journey across the Pyrennes,
to St. Etienne.
Just after the quarter hour, the Spaniards started to
come into the game. A Pizzi header towards the top left was pushed away by Chilavert, in
the 20th minute. Chilavert slapped his defenders on the backside and tried to gee them up.
On the half hour, Sergi tried a run on the left wing.
For the most part though, watching George Best's beard
grow would have been more exciting. Chilavert tried to get a few laughs by pinching a
photographer's baseball cap, when he went to collect another wide shot. The lensman,
sitting on his camera-case, didn't think it was too funny though.
Then in the thirty-eighth minute, Chilavert went up to
take a Paraguay free-kick. He tried to psyche up the Spanish number one by suggesting that
a goalkeeper would score against him, but crashed the attempt into the wall.
Spain seemed to click into over-drive every fifteen
minutes and again they came close just before half-time. Raul received the ball in the
area and turned his marker, Gamarra, only for Chilavert to palm away the shot. Pizzi was
there again to follow up; blocked away by Ayala.
Ten minutes into the second-half, Pizzi was replaced by
Raul's Real Madrid partner, Francisco Morientes, to see if the chemistry would work for
Benitez ran the ball alone down the left for Paraguay and
fired in; for an equally impressive flying save from Zubizaretta.
Raul's time to impress had run out and he was replaced by
Kiko, of Athletic Madrid.
Arce was booked for taking too long over a corner towards
the end. Both Arce and the referee knew that it was a farce and laughed. No hard feelings.
An 89th minute free-kick right on the line of the area
for Spain. Another blank.
Paraguay acted as if they had won. I guess that says what
they played for. Can Chilavert score against Nigeria?
Nigeria win group D, and anyone can finish second.
Our Joker of the Match:
Brazil, Morocco, Norway, Scotland.
Austria, Cameroon, Chile, Italy.
Denmark, France, Saudi Arabia, South Africa.
Bulgaria, Nigeria, Paraguay, Spain.
Belgium, Holland, Mexico, South Korea.
Germany, Iran, United States, Yugoslavia.
Colombia, England, Romania, Tunisia.
Argentina, Croatia, Jamaica, Japan.
1998 World Cup Finals -
Group Tables - Leading
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