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World Cup: Nigeria, Mexico back on track with victories.

By Jerry Langdon
Gannett News Service

(Saturday, June 13, 1998) -- Two promising teams that played miserably much of the spring, Nigeria and Mexico, posted victories today in their World Cup openers.

Nigeria surprised Spain 3-2 with two late goals in the first upset of the tournament. Mexico, playing one man up for 60 minutes, rallied for a 3-1 win against South Korea.

The Netherlands, one of the World Cup favorites, was held to a 0-0 draw by conservative Belgium.

"Yes, I know I look like the pope," Nigeria coach Bora Milutinovic said after the Group D shocker. "I feel like the pope."

His team fought from behind twice to win.

The turning point came in the 73rd minute when Garba Lawal scored a near-post goal from the end-line that was badly misplayed by goalkeeper Andoni Zubizarreta, deadlocking the match 2-2.

Then, five minutes later, Sunday Oliseh got the winning goal on a 30-yard rocket. "Eight years ago we would have lost this match, 4-0, with bad organization and discipline," he told Reuters, pointing out the benefits of most players participating in top European leagues. "In Europe, football is a business. In Africa, it is a pleasure, and that makes a difference. We have learned our lessons . . . and we are more confident."

Luis Hernandez of Mexico scored twice to break a 1-1 tie and defeat outclassed South Korea, which tired from having to play shorthanded without Ha Seok-ju, ejected for his tackle-from-behind on Ramon Ramirez two minutes after putting his team ahead 1-0 with a deflected free kick in the 28th minute.

"The call was a very harsh one," coach Cha Bum-kun said, then added, "I was quite disgusted when Ha went into the tackle. He should've been calmer in that situation."

The Netherlands had several good scoring chances, but Belgian goalkeeper Filip de Wilde was equal to the task.

The Dutch were shorthanded the final 12 minutes when striker Patrick Kluivert was ejected for elbowing Lorenzo Staelens in the chest after a tackle. TV replays indicated the contact was mild, but the Belgian defender fell to the ground theatrically. Referee Pierluigi Collina (Italy) threw him out after getting a report from the linesman.

"I surely wanted more than this," Netherlands wing Marc Overmars said. "We had great moves but you have to be able to get it into the net."

Group D

Nigeria 3, Spain 2

at La Beaujoire, Nantes

Spain -- Andoni Zubizarreta, Alberto Ferrer (Guillermo Amor 46), Rafael Alkorta, Sergi Barjuan, Ivan Campo, Miguel Angel Nadal (Alberto Celades 77), Fernando Hierro, Luis Enrique Martinez, Raul Gonzalez, Alfonso Perez (Joseba Etxeberria 58), Kiko Narvaez.
Nigeria -- Peter Rufai, Mobi Oparaku (Rasheed Yekini 70), Taribo West, Uche Okechukwu, Celestine Babayaro, Sunday Oliseh, Garba Lawal (Godwin Okpara 90), Jay-Jay Okocha, Mutiu Adepoju, Finidi George, Victor Ikpeba (Tijani Babangida 83).
Goals:Spain - Fernando Hierro 21, Raul Gonzalez 47. Nigeria - M-Mutiu Adepoju 25, Garba Lawal 73, Sunday Oliseh 78.
Shots at goal: Spain 11, Nigeria 16.
Shots on goal:Spain 5, Nigeria 11.
Yellow cautionary cards: Spain - Guillermo Amor 55, Angel Nadal 59, Ivan Campo 75. Nigeria - Uche Okechukwu 62.
Referee: Esse Baharmast (United States).
Attendance: 33,257.

Group E

Mexico 3, South Korea 1

at Gerland, Lyon

Mexico - Jorge Campos, Claudio Suarez, Duilio Davino, Pavel Pardo, Jesus Ramirez, Alberto Garcia Aspe (Marcelino Bernal 72), Jaime Ordiales (Jesus Arellano 46), Raul Lara, Braulio Luna (Ricardo Pelaez 46), Luis Hernandez, Cuauhtemoc Blanco.
South Korea Kim Byung-ji, Kim Tae-young, Lee Min-sung, Hong Myung-bo, Ko Jong-soo (Seo Jung-won 72), Lee Sang-yoon, Kim Do-keun (Choi Sung-yong 61), Ha Seok-ju, Yoo Sang-chul, Noh Jung-yoon (Jang Hyung-seok 56), Kim Do-hoon.
Goals:South Korea - Ha Seok-ju 28. Mexico - Ricardo Pelaez 51, Luis Hernandez 75, 84.
Shots at goal: Mexico 19, South Korea 5.
Shots on goal: Mexico 10, South Korea 2.
Yellow cautionary cards: South Korea - Lee Min-sung 20. Mexico - Jaime Ordiales 26, Alberto Garcia Aspe 27.
Red expulsion card: South Korea - Ha Seok-ju 30.
Referee: Guenter Benkoe (Austria).
Attendance: 37,588.

Group E

Netherlands 0, Belgium 0

at Stade de France, St. Denis

Netherlands -- Edwin van der Sar, Aron Winter, Jaap Stam, Frank De Boer, Arthur Numan, Philip Cocu, Ronald de Boer (Wim Jonk 77), Marc Overmars, Clarence Seedorf (Boudewijn Zenden 66), Patrick Kluivert, Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink (Dennis Bergkamp 66).
Belgium -- Filip de Wilde, Bertrand Crasson (Eric Deflandre 22), Lorenzo Staelens, Mike Verstraeten, Vital Borkelmans; Franky Van der Elst, Philippe Clement, Marc Wilmots, Danny Boffin, Luc Nilis, Luis Oliveira (Emile Mpenza 59).
Goals: none.
Shots at goal: Netherlands 23, Belgium 6.
Shots on goal: Netherlands 7, Belgium 1.
Yellow cautionary cards: Belgium - Lorenzo Staelens 20, Eric Deflandre 29.
Red explusion card: Netherlands - Patrick Kluivert 79.
Referee: Pierluigi Collina (Italy).
Attendance: 75,000.

Jerry Langdon is sports editor of Gannett News Service and can be e-mailed at