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14 June 1998 Group H Toulouse - Stadium Municipal
Twice winners Argentina, fancied by many for this World Cup, opened their Group H campaign with a less than impressive 1-0 triumph against Japan in the Stade Municipal, Toulouse. Gabriel Batistuta's world-class finish after 28 minutes secured all three points for Daniel Passarella's star-studded side who were pushed all the way by their Far Eastern rivals. The Japanese, in their first appearance in the finals, more than held their own against the Argentines in the opening exchanges and looked a tidy, well-drilled outfit with plenty of pace throughout the side. Nakata in midfield has been dubbed as the "Gazza of Japan", and the man with the dyed orange hair was the kingpin in the centre of the park whilst defenders Ihara and Akita dealt admirably early on with the threat of Batistuta and Ortega. A piece of good fortune led to Argentina taking the lead when the ball broke kindly to the feet of Batistuta, but there was nothing lucky about the goal as the striker known as the "Angel Gabriel" took his goal tally to 43 for his country with a divine finish. Batistuta then struck the woodwork with a superb header ten minutes later, but the Japanese refused to be intimidated and continued to push forward for the remainder of the half. After the interval the game opened up with Japan defending resolutely and working very hard to a man as they restricted Argentina time and space on the ball. Nakata became even more influential the longer the match went on and apart from a couple of scares from the numerous free-kicks awarded by an over fussy official, Argentina's closest effort came when Batistuta hit a post but was adjudged offside. The Japanese, full of self belief, pushed forward for the equaliser and went close when Akita's header across the face of goal just evaded onrushing team-mates, before Lopes goalbound shot was blocked by a last-ditch tackle. Argentina will be delighted with the points following a below-par showing and will be glad to see the backs of the Japanese who made life very difficult for them and did their fanatical supporters proud.

(1-0) Batistuta (28). Lopez's throughball broke kindly off Japanese midfielder Hiroshi Nanami into the path of the Argentine hitman who kept his cool to clip an exquisite 12-yard finish over the onrushing 'keeper Kawaguchi and into the corner of the net.

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