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Draw With Paraguay Leaves Spaniards Reeling

By Ciaran Giles
Associated Press
Friday, June 19, 1998; 6:34 p.m. EDT

 Spain's Sergi is awarded a yellow card, one of four in the match. (Reuters)
SAINT-ETIENNE, France — They came to the World Cup brimming with confidence, expecting to easily advance to the knockout round.

Now, the Spaniards who were so heavily favored in Group D are reeling, perhaps about to be counted out in the opening round.

Spain stood on the brink of a humiliating elimination Friday after it was held to a 0-0 tie by Paraguay.

"Wednesday will be like the final," said Coach Javier Clemente. "But if we beat Bulgaria and Nigeria do what they did to us against Paraguay, we can still make it."

Although the Spaniards forced Paraguay goalkeeper Jose Luis Chilavert to make several difficult saves, they could not dent his net. Following a 3-2 loss to Nigeria, the Spaniards have only one point, tied with Bulgaria.

Juan Pizzi, Luis Enrique and Raul Gonzalez couldn't find the target, and the second scoreless tie for Paraguay in the tournament clinched first place in Group D for Nigeria.

Paraguay has two points and Bulgaria and Spain have one each.

"It was a very difficult game for both teams," said Paraguay coach Paulo Cesar Carpeggiani. "Spain was under a lot of pressure. But we had a few chances and I think it was a just result.

"Now we play the best team in the group, Nigeria, and we will go all out for the best result for Paraguay. That is to win."

Clemente made five changes after the loss to Nigeria, when his team twice lost the lead.

"I think we're as strong as we can be, but just missing spark," he said.

But Paraguay created the first danger in the 15th minute when a low, 25-yard free kick by Miguel Angel Benitez got through the defensive wall.

The shot was confidently held by goalkeeper Andoni Zubizarreta, whose blunder gave Nigeria a gift goal last week.

A chance fell to Spanish striker Pizzi in the 21st minute when the Paraguayan defense failed to clear a cross. The striker headed it from 12 yards, but keeper Jose Luis Chilavert punched the ball acrobatically behind the net for a corner kick.

After Zubizarreta punched away a powerfully struck 25-yard shot from Benitez, Paraguay earned a free kick 30 yards out and Chilavert, who has scored three times for his country, moved up to take a shot at goal.

His well-hit free kick hit the defensive wall and deflected to Francisco Arce, whose shot was deflected for a corner kick.

Aristides Rojas then got through on goal, but was foiled by a well-timed tackle by Carlos Aguilera.

In the final minute of the first half, Raul wriggled clear of the defense and shot from 8 yards, only for Chilavert to dive to his right to get his hand to the ball. Pizzi ran in to try and force the ball home, but Celso Ayala got in a tackle to sweep the ball away.

Early in the second half, Zubizarreta saved a low shot from the ever-dangerous Benitez and then dived full length to his left to keep out a curling shot from the same player in the 63rd minute.

At the other end, Chilavert pushed a shot from Luis Enrique over the crossbar.

"We now depend on others. It hurts, but that's the way the competition goes," said Spanish forward Kiko Narvaez.

© Copyright 1998 The Associated Press

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