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Finals
 
24 June 1998 Group D Toulouse - Stadium Municipal
Nigeria Paraguay
Paraguay produced one of the results of the tournament so far to secure their place in the next round of France 98. Their 3-1 victory over group D winners Nigeria means that they will face France in Lens on Sunday. In what had been dubbed the 'Group of Death', the South Americans had been tipped as the whipping boys for Spain, Bulgaria and probably Nigeria - how wrong they were. The canny Paolo Cesar Carpeggiani produced a side which went through the first stage unbeaten. After playing in goalless draws against Spain and Bulgaria, Paraguay wasted no time in scoring their first goal of France 98, straight from the kick-off they pressed down the Nigerian left and were awarded a free-kick close to the corner flag. Arce whipped in a cross and Ayala rose, unmarked, at the near post to put the ball in the net. Shell-shocked, the Nigerians set about trying to restore parity and they were encamped in the Paraguayan half for the next ten minutes. Jose Luis Chilavert, the Paraguayan 'keeper, pulled off save after save but eventually the pressure was to prove too much. Sunday Oliseh and Tijani Babangida combined before the little right winger was upended in the area, the ball ran to Wilson Oruma and he made no mistake, side-footing the ball home across the diving Chilavert. Oliseh and Babangida were pulling in the strings in midfield and it seemed only a matter of time before Nigeria would add to their tally. Carpeggiani changed his formation after 20 minutes to cope with the onslaught, playing only one up front instead of the two which he started with. The change worked and the sides began to cancel each other out by the time the interval arrived. Bora Milutinovic replaced Oliseh at half-time, possibly to rest him for the second stage, but the change backfired just before the hour when the tireless Miguel Benitez unleashed a fantastic swerving shot. The ball moved through the air and Nigerian 'keeper, Peter Rufai only managed to get the faintest of touches, but not enough to stop the ball crashing in. Undoubtedly one of the goals of the tournament, but more importantly for Paraguay (and Spain), possibly the goal to see them through. Rather than trying to chase the game, Nigeria continued to play with a lack of any real urgency, all attacks went through the centre of the park and the ball came back down moments later. Tijani Babangida on the right hardly saw the ball during the second half and had to keep coming into the middle to be involved. The Paraguayans, encouraged by this, sensed that the victory they required was there to be taken and they pressed forward with ever burgeoning confidence. Nigeria seemed only to offer token opposition, in the form of the excellent Taribo West, and a third Paraguay goal was destined before full-time. With five minutes remaining, the ball was played back to Rufai and rather than clearing it straightaway, he decided to take a couple of touches, Jose Cardozo quickly closed the 'keeper down and his clearance went straight to Aristides Rojas on the Paraguay right. He played the ball straight back in to Cardozo and although the striker looked to be in an offside position, there was no whistle. He calmly controlled the ball, turned and then placed his shot across Rufai and inside the far post. It was the signal for the celebrations to begin and the planning for the next stage to start. Nigeria, despite the defeat, still finished the group as winners, an unassailable position before this evening's games kicked off, and should be fully rested before the weekend's second round match against Denmark. Aside of Benitez's wonder goal, the match was also remarkable in the fact that there were only 15 free-kicks during the entire 90 minutes. Referee Un-Prasert from Thailand tried to let the game flow at every opportunity, playing the advantage when and wherever possible - he should be held up by FIFA as the perfect example of refereeing and what is expected from all men in the middle for the rest of the tournament.

(1-1) Oruma (11). A Sunday Oliseh pass split the defence, allowing Tijani Babangida to cut across the area towards goal, he was brought down but the ball ran through to Wilson Oruma who side-footed the ball with his right foot back across Chilavert and into the net from 11 yards.

(0-1) Ayala (1). Nigeria conceded a free-kick near the left-hand corner flag straight from the kick-off, Francisco Arce whipped in the dead ball with his right foot and big centre-half, Celso Ayala rose at the near post to thunder his header home from five yards.

(1-2) Benitez (59). Carlos Paredes broke down the Paraguayan right, 25 yards out he cut the ball across for Miguel Benitez, he controlled the pass with his first touch, took a step forward and unleashed a right-footed shot which moved through the air from 20 yards out in front of goal, Rufai managed to get a hand to it but could only deflect it onto the underside of the bar and into the net.

(1-3) Cardozo (86). He put pressure on Peter Rufai after a backpass and the 'keeper kicked the ball straight to Rojas, the substitute played the ball back in to Cardozo who was seven yards from goal and looked to be in an offside position, he took one touch, turned and then shot right-footed across Rufai and inside the far post.

 
 
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