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World Cup: Yugoslavia struggles to beat Iran; Argentina, Croatia win.


By Jerry Langdon
Gannett News Service

(Sunday, June 14, 1998) -- The United States and Germany perhaps should forget about goal-differential against Iran in Group F of the World Cup.

Just ask Yugoslavia.

Heavily favored, Yugoslavia was fortunate to escape with a 1-0 victory today against Iran on a 73rd-minute curving 25-yard free kick by Sinisa Mihajlovich. The winners had an edge in overall play, but the game was not lopsided, and Iran had good scoring chances against a Yugoslavia team that did not show its advertised creativity.

Most prognostications had Iran as a heavy loser to co-favorites Germany and Yugoslavia, and a slight underdog to the United States. If goal-differential does become a factor vis-a-vis Iran, the outcome in St. Etienne likely is a "victory" for the Germans and Americans, who meet tomorrow in their opening match.

The goal came on a low kick that bent around the left side of the wall past an out-of-position goalkeeper Nima Nakisa, 23, playing his eighth international with veteran Ahmad Abedzadeh out due to an injury. "I am satisfied that we won but I am not satisfied with the performance of my team." Yugoslavia coach Slaobodan Santrac.

"They defended very, very tightly, and it was difficult to get through," midfielder Slavisa Jokanovic told Reuters. "We were really lucky to get these three points."

Iran coach Jalal Talebi: "We showed that we can hold our own against one of the best teams in the world. If we are going to go down, we will go down fighting. Our mission is not finished."

Particularly outstanding was Iran midfielder Karim Bagheri, who outplayed counterpart Dragan Stojkovic by a wide margin.

In Group H games:

* Croatia routed tiring Jamaica, 3-1, with Robert Prosinecki breaking a 1-1 tie with a goal off a free kick in the 53rd minute. He became the first player to score for two different countries in the World Cup. He had a goal at Italia '90, against United Arab Emirates, when Croatia was still part of a united Yugoslavia.

* Gabriel Batistuta scored in the 28th minute after Hiroshi Nanami lost possession of the ball in a failed clearance to lead dominating Argentina to a 1-0 win against Japan. The game had 60 fouls, 35 by Japan, including 11 on Argentine midfielder Ariel Ortega.

Group H

Argentina 1, Japan 0

in Toulouse

Argentina: Carlos Roa, Roberto Ayala, Roberto Sensini (Jose Chamot 74), Javier Zanetti, Nelson Vivas, Matias Almeyda, Diego Simeone, Juan Veron, Ariel Ortega, Claudio Lopez (Abel Balbo 62), Gabriel Batistuta.
Japan: Yoshikatsu Kawaguchi, Akira Narahashi, Masami Ihara, Eisuke Nakanishi, Yutaka Akita, Naoki Soma (Takashi Hirano 86), Hiroshi Nanami, Hidetoshi Nakata, Motohiro Yamaguchi, Shoji Jo, Masashi Nakayama (Wagner Lopes 68).
Goal: Argentina - Gabriel Batistuta 28.
Shots at goal: Argentina 21, Japan 13.
Shots on goal: Argentina 12, Japan 5.
Yellow cautionary cards: Japan - Ihara 26, Nakanishi 68, Hirano 92 (injury time).
Referee: Mario Van Der Ende (Netherlands).
Attendance: 33,400.


Group F

Yugoslavia 1, Iran 0

in St. Etienne

Yugoslavia: Ivica Kralj, Zoran Mirkovic, Goran Djorovic, Sinisa Mihajlovic, Zeljko Petrovic, Slavisa Jokanovic, Branko Brnovic (Dejan Stankovic 51), Vladimir Jugovic, Dragan Stojkovic (Darko Kovacevic, 69), Predrag Mijatovic, Savo Milosevic (Perica Ognjenovic, 59).
Iran: Nima Nakisa, Mohammad Khakpour, Mehdi Pasharzadeh, Medhi Mahdavikia, Karim Bagheri, Hamid Reza Estili (Ali Reza Mansourian 68), Nader Mohammad Khani, Javad Zarincheh, Mehrdad Minavand, Ali Daei, Khodadad Azizi.
Goal: Yugoslavia - Sinisa Mihajlovic 73.
Shots at goal: Yugoslavia 6, Iran 4.
Shots on goal: Yugoslavia 11, Iran 9.
Yellow cautionary cards: Yugoslavia - Zeljko Petrovic 42, Dragan Stojkovic 61.
Referee: Alberto Tejada Noriega (Peru).
Attendance: 30,392.


Group H

Croatia 3, Jamaica 1

in Lens

Jamaica: Warren Barrett, Ian Goodison, Ricardo Gardener, Frank Sinclair, Fitzroy Simpson, Peter Cargill (Darryl Powell 70), Theodore Whitmore, Robbie Earle (Andrew Williams 72), Onandi Lowe, Deon Burton, Paul Hall (Walter Boyd 82).
Croatia: Drazen Ladic, Zvonimir Soldo, Robert Jarni, Dario Simic (Goran Vlaovic 73), Igor Stimac, Slaven Bilic, Zvonimir Boban, Mario Stanic, Aljosa Asanovic, Robert Prosinecki, Davor Suker.
Goals: Croatia - Mario Stanic 27, Robert Prosinecki 53, Davor Suker 69.
Jamaica: Robbie Earle 45.
Shots at goal: Croatia 20, Jamaica 9.
Shots on goal: Croatia 11, Jamaica 4.
Yellow cautionary cards: Croatia - Zvonimir Soldo 5, Dario Simic 59. Jamaica - Deon Burton 62.
Referee: Manuel Melo Pereira (Portugal).
Attendance: 38,058.

Jerry Langdon is sports editor of Gannett News Service and can be e-mailed at jlangdon@gns.gannett.com.