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Sudden Victory!

France sinks Paraguay with golden goal

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Posted: Wednesday September 23, 1998 04:56 PM

  Blanc (right) finally broke the scoreless deadlock after 114 minutes Phil Cole/Allsport

LENS, France (CNN/SI) -- It was only fitting that Laurent Blanc, a French defender, scored the winning goal against Paraguay after 114 scoreless minutes.

Paraguay had mounted little in the way of an offensive attack all game, and the French offense could not have been more inept. In the end, Blanc's score put the host nation into the quarterfinals with a 1-0 win that calmed his countrymen's nerves.

It ended the glorious run of Paraguay, which had relied on a rock-solid defense, tactical cunning and "Garra," its special blend of courage and fighting spirit, to show small nations still can be great at the World Cup.

In extra time, when every move was laced with anxiety and dread, veteran Blanc finished the game off with a little piece of World Cup history. Golden goals were only introduced this year.

Instead of hanging back, he moved into the penalty area and was in the right place to collect a header from forward David Trezeguet. Blanc volleyed it home with such power even the great Jose Luis Chilavert could not stop it.

"This is the most incredible joy to score in this way," Blanc said. "We have criticized the golden goal in the past, yet here we profitted from it. What went through me when I scored was just indescribable.

"We were fighting, fighting, fighting and we got our reward in the last few minutes," the Olympique Marseille defender said.

"I promised myself that I would score in the World Cup and I did."

It was a goal that brought relief to coach Aime Jacquet.

"I said to myself, an error surely must come. We profited from it," he said. "It was a well-deserved victory. We controlled most of the match and now we go on to the quarterfinals."

France will play a more familiar foe, Italy, in St. Denis on Friday. "Our neighbors, our friends," said Jacquet.

Chilavert, who kept France at bay with a string of saves, was left picking his crying defenders off the turf at the end of the match, afer they had gone close to proving the goalkeeper's boast that Paraguay had the best defense in the world.

"It was an impenetrable wall," said Jacquet.

Paraguay's coach, Paulo Cesar Carpeggiani, was impressed by France but praised his team.

"France has a well-deserved victory. They impressed me very much," he said.

"It was a great effort from my players but we made a few errors near the end probably because of fatigue. In the penalty shootout we would have stood a better chance."

France tried to play its wide-open brand of soccer but was denied every time.

Its best chance ahead of the goal came in the 40th minute, when Thierry Henry won the ball in midfield, headed it on past defenders and sweetly lifted it over the spreadeagled bulk of Chilavert, only to see it crash against the post.

For a poor South American nation of not even five million lucky to find itself still alive in the World Cup, Paraguay had no qualms about using ultra-defensive tactics, time-wasting and rough play to keep in contention.

It earned them three yellow cards in the first half and plenty of jeers and whistles from the 41,000 at the Felix Bollaert stadim.

With few creative resources at its disposal it locked up the defense and kept hoping for a single beam of good luck to score against all odds. It didn't come.

The host came close to scoring early when Trezeguet, sporting a fresh Ronaldo-like headshave, curled the ball the wrong side of the post from 12 yards.

The shave was about the only thing vaguely resembling Ronaldo, until the 20-year-old headed on to Blanc for the decisive volley for the winner.

In the 16th minute, Chilavert showed all his class when he batted away a bouncing shot from Bernard Diomede. Three minutes later a 20-yard shot from Djorkaeff went just wide.

Paraguay proved its defensive mettle that had already dumbfounded Spain and Bulgaria, with Celso Ayala and Carlos Gamarra holding tight.

And its forwards looked dangerous more than once.

Late in the first half, Jose Cardozo broke through the center twice. Once a bad control robbed him of a one-on-one against Fabien Barthez and his second clear he shot straight at the goalkeeper.

In the second half too, Paraguay looked threatening, with Miguel Benitez almost getting through twice. In the 56th minute, a header from Gamarra on the near post just went wide.

France increasingly found the going rough as the threat of elimination started to become a factor. The smooth offensive machinery started serving balls into no-man's land and passing combinations went nowhere.

At this point, the red-card suspension of playmaker Zinedine Zidane was acutely felt. Zidane returns for the Italy game.

France: Fabien Barthez; Lilian Thuram, Marcel Desailly, Laurent Blanc, Bixente Lizarazu; Didier Deschamps, Youri Djorkaeff, Emmanuel Petit (70, Alain Boghossian); Thierry Henry, (65, Robert Pires), David Trezeguet, Bernard Diomede (77, Stephane Guivarc'h).

Paraguay: Jose Luis Chilavert; Francisco Arce, Carlos Gamarra, Celso Ayala, Pedro Sarabia; Roberto Acuna, Carlos Parades (75, Denis Caniza), Julio Cesar Enciso; Miguel Benitez, Jorge Campos (56, Juan Carlos Yegros), Jose Cardozo (91, Aristides Rojas).

Referee: Mohamed Ali Bujsaim, United Arab Emirates.  

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The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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