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Argentina continues exit of soccer powers

Posted: Thursday, June 13, 2002

YOKOHAMA, Japan -- For soccer fans expecting a France-Argentina final, tune in four years down the road. Maybe it will happen then, but in this World Cup, both soccer powers couldn't get past the first round.

The defending-champion French going out without even scoring was shocking enough before pretournament favorite Argentina was eliminated Wednesday by Sweden. The Argentines failed to advance for the first time in 40 years.

''We've lost a dream to win the championship,'' Juan Veron said, ''and it was one we shared with all Argentines.''

The dream was shattered by the Swedes, who held Argentina to a 1-1 tie at Miyagi, Japan. Sweden won Group F and will play Senegal on Sunday in Oita, Japan.

England finished second in the sector after tying Nigeria 0-0 and plays Denmark on Saturday in Niigata, Japan.

''Now we have advanced and we're very happy,'' Sweden's Henrik Larsson said. ''But we can't afford to be satisfied. We have to concentrate hard on the next game. Senegal has a good team. They beat France 1-0 and it means you have to respect them, although France didn't have a good tournament.''

Nor did Argentina, which fell out mainly because of a 1-0 loss to archrival England.

''There have been a lot of surprises in this World Cup so far,'' England captain David Beckham said. ''Two of the biggest threats to any team have gone out, France and Argentina. So it does open it up a lot. And I am sure there will be a few more surprises along the way.''

The United States would like to be one of those surprise teams. It needs at least a tie against Poland on Friday in Daejeon, South Korea.

''Hopefully, we can win and get first place in the group, which is unheard of,'' midfielder DaMarcus Beasley said.

As unheard of as what happened to Argentina.

Anders Svensson scored on a free kick in the 59th minute and Sweden held on to the tie after Hernan Crespo put in the rebound when goalkeeper Magnus Hedman stopped Ariel Ortega's penalty kick in the 88th.

''This is going to be very difficult for me to forget,'' Veron said. ''We're going to face a lot of criticism, but we gave all we had on the field.''

So did Paraguay, which advanced in dramatic fashion. At Seogwipo, South Korea, Paraguay scored three times in the second half to take second place in Group B with a 3-1 win over Slovenia. Spain, already into the second round, beat South Africa 3-2 at Daejeon, giving Paraguay the edge over South Africa on goals scored, 6-5.

Spain plays Ireland at Suwon, South Korea on Sunday. Paraguay gets Germany on Saturday in Seogwipo.

Paraguay edged into the second round on Nelson Cuevas' second goal, in the 84th minute.

''We're a small country, but we have lots of quality players,'' Paraguay goalie Jose Luis Chilavert said. ''We played against a difficult opponent, but we played with pride.''

Slovenia lost all three games in its first World Cup.

Spain, the only team to go 3-0 in the first round -- Brazil and Mexico still can do it -- got two goals from Raul.

''They are a class team and they are worthy winners,'' South Africa's Benni McCarthy said. ''They can go as far as the final and win the World Cup.''

McCarthy was distressed that Paraguay went ahead and his nation was eliminated.

''We are all disappointed, because Paraguay is not a team that deserves to be in the second round,'' said McCarthy, who scored a goal. ''In today's game, we proved that we are the team that should go to the second round.''

The French soccer federation summoned coach Roger Lemerre to an emergency session Friday after his team became the first titleholder to exit without a goal. The French team was greeted at the Charles de Gaulle airport on Wednesday by consoling fans who shouted ''Merci, les Bleus!''

Five suspected hooligans, four from Britain and one from Ireland, were refused entry and detained at Japanese airports. A total of 15 people, all but one from Britain, have been denied entry into the country to attend the tournament.

Two Irishmen and a Briton were arrested Wednesday for trespassing at World Cup games. A 19-year-old American man was arrested for trying to scalp a ticket for the Sweden-Argentine game, and an Argentine was detained on suspicion of scalping tickets.



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