Jorge Hicks' penalty kick 17 minutes into the game gave Paraguay a 1-0 upset victory over Nigeria yesterday in the championship of the Embassy Cup soccer tournament at the John F. Kennedy Memorial Field on the Mall.
The victory gave Paraguay its first title in the five-year history of the tournament, which is held to promote harmony among local international organizations.
But harmony was not what was promoted in this match. Both teams played aggressively. While the Nigerians stayed healthy, five Paraguay players went down with injuries, although none were serious.
And the roughness almost overflowed into the crowd. Halfway through the second half, Paraguay's Jose Fuetes was kicked in the face by Nigeria's Sam Owoh as they went for a loose ball. Several Paraguay fans who were standing near the spot where the infraction took place felt the kick was intentional. The fans and several Nigerian players began shoving each other. The altercation was broken up by game officials before it got out of hand.
The goal came after Paraguay's Oscar Gaona lobbed a pass into the penalty area, where Owoh was whistled for pushing on a call that was disputed by Nigerian Coach Sonny Izevbigie.
"That was a tough luck call," he said. "My man had position on their man."
Hicks sent the penalty kick past goalie Peter Igiebor into the right corner of the net to give Paraguay all the scoring it would need.
"I just thought to kick it hard into one corner," Hicks said. "I picked the right side and prayed it would go in."
The favored Nigerian team, which defeated Haiti in the cup final in 1985 and Chile in 1986, controlled the ball for a great portion of the game.
But, said Izevbigie, "We did not have one good shot all day."
The Nigerians also felt the stoppages of play to attend to injured Paraguay players hurt their chances. "The referee was stopping the game a lot and the delays broke our rhythm," Nigeria's Friday Johnson said.
Paraguay also frustrated the Nigerians with its solid defense and crisp passing.
"Paraguay played really well," Johnson said. "Right now, they can compete with anybody."
Nigeria reached the final thanks to a last-ditch rally in its semifinal match last Saturday. Jacob Oneila scored in the last minute to tie the match with Bolivia, 1-1, and two Sylvanus Oriaikhi overtime goals won it. Paraguay reached the final by routing Italy, 4-0.
The tournament began on May 16 with 32 teams.