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."
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.
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.
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).
Jerry Langdon is sports editor of Gannett News Service and can be e-mailed at
Jerry Langdon is sports editor of Gannett News Service and can be e-mailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.