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26 June 1998 Group H Bordeaux - Stade Lescure
Argentina Croatia
Argentina maintained their seemingly faultless progress from Group H with their third consecutive victory following a single goal success over potentially their most troublesome group opponents, Croatia, in the heat of Bordeaux. In topping their section, Argentina became the only side to qualify from the first round without conceding a goal - a statistic which will worry their rivals for the World Cup crown, especially England, who face the South Americans in the last sixteen. Although both Argentina and Croatia had already ensured safe passage to the second phase before today's encounter their match was simply not a case of just going through the motions and Croatia were the first to threaten with Davor Suker sending a fifteen yard looping header just over. Soon after, Rablo Paz came close with two headers in as many minutes but the encouraging start was soon tempered by a succession of Croatian fouls as they overenthusiastically attempted to close down Argentinian dangermen Gabriel Batistuta and Ariel Ortega by whichever means deemed possible. Argentina's patient, considered build up play while in possession paid handsome dividends with an exquisitely taken goal by Hecter Pineda to break the deadlock nine minutes from half time, while Croatia by comparison were rarely seen as an attacking force. The East Europeans did not directly trouble Carlos Roa in the Argentina goal, with long range efforts from Robert Prosinecki and Zvanomir Boban high and wide. Indeed Argentina were desperately unlucky not to add a second right on the stroke of the first forty-five, when Marcelo Gallardo's sweatly struck shot was touched away by the diving Drazan Ladic. The woodwork denied Croatia a stunning equiliser just after the hour mark, following a flash of opportunistic brilliance from Boban. The firey midfielder unleashed a twenty-five yard snap shot which had Roa beaten, only to smack off the junction of bar and post. Not to be outdone, Argentinian young hope Marcelo Gallardo gave the capacity crowd a sight of his individual flair holding off the attentions of Everton's Slaven Bilic in midfield before racing into the box to shoot, but his effort crept agonisingly wide of the 'keeper's left hand post. Davor Suker toiled in the lone striker's role as Croatia struggled to find a glimpse of goal and as Argentina grew in confidence, they produced another excellent chance to increase their lead as sub Diego Simeone brought a fine save from the 'keeper. Croatia though were not too disheartened in defeat, with a place in the second round already guaranteed despite their loss but, a hazardous game against high-flying Romania awaits Miroslav Blazevic's side in St Etienne on Tuesday.

(1-0) Pineda (36). He latched onto Ariel Ortega's little chip over the defence from the edge of the area, he controlled the ball with his chest and shot with the outside of his left boot from ten yards, placing the ball between the advancing 'keeper and the near post.

 
 
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