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28 June 1998 Lens - Stade Felix-Bollaert
France Paraguay
After extra time.
Laurent Blanc was tonight the toast of France after his 114th-minute Golden goal decided the outcome of this tight and uninventive game against a stubborn and resilient Paraguayan side in the packed Stade Felix-Bollaert, Lens. With the match nervously approaching the dreaded penalty shoot-out, France threw caution to the wind in a last-ditch effort to kill off the South Americans, who appeared content with the likely one-on-one conclusion. Blanc's 14th goal for his country now sets up a mouthwatering all-European quarter-final clash against Italy in the Stade de France, St Denis, on Friday 3 July at 4.30pm. Three straight wins in their group matches had seen the French score nine goals and concede just the one, with a series of impressive performances. Meanwhile, Paraguay had shut up shop to force 0-0 draws against Spain and Bulgaria, before earning a vital 3-1 win over Nigeria. It was evident from the outset that the South Americans believed that their best chance of going through to the quarter-finals was by making life tough for the French and they adopted a very tight man-marking system all over the pitch with Carlos Gamarra the spare man at the back. Once again Youri Djorkaeff deputised for the suspended Zinedine Zidane, whilst Aime Jacquet, searching desperately for the best blend up front despite the nine goals, preferred David Trezeguet, Thierry Henry and Bernard Diomede in a three-pronged attack. Not surprisingly there was no real pattern to the game with the Paraguayan tactics asking questions as to France's ability to break down their defensive unit, and in the early stages it was the destroyers rather than the creators who held the upper hand. Even the supremely talented Miguel Benitez was sacrificed to a holding role to stop the French left-back Bixente Lizarazu from marauding forward, and subsequently the Paraguayans offered very little going in attack apart from the odd corner and free-kick. France almost took the lead in a flurry of activity in and around the Paraguayan box on 15 minutes when first Trezeguet's curling right-footed shot grazed Chilavert's post, before the extrovert 'keeper made a marvellous save low to his left to deny Diomede's bouncing shot. Totally against the run of play, but in line with the game-plan, Paraguay's Jose Cardozo broke through to test Fabian Barthez with his side's only shot on target in the first half after 38 minutes, but the 'keeper saved easily. This sparked France into their best moment of the half when Thierry Henry at last had the opportunity to demonstrate his lightening pace to outstrip the South American defence, and his excellent effort, beating Chilavert to his right, looked destined for the far corner only to strike the post and rebound to safety. After the break Paraguay pushed Benitez into a more forward role and their star man in France 98 began to cause the French defenders some problems without ever threatening Barthez's goal. However, as the match entered the last 30 minutes of normal time the Paraguayans again decided to sit back and defend, almost playing for the inevitable extra-time and penalties. With the expectations of the nation weighing heavily on their shoulders, the French players failed time and again to penetrate a stubborn rearguard action, in which Gamarra was quite outstanding for Paraguay. Trezeguet carved out a great chance for himself after 79 minutes, but rolled a left-footed shot just inches wide and Gamarra blocked a Djorkaeff effort with the Frenchman wanting far too much time on the ball. The capacity crowd of 42,000 now prepared themselves for the nail-biting Golden goal extra-time conclusion and the likelihood of the dreaded penalty shoot-out. France went out with the positive attitude of finishing the match in added time, with Chilavert saving efforts from Djorkaeff, Trezeguet and Alain Boghossian in the first period, before Laurent Blanc popped up to score the first Golden goal in World Cup history with just six minutes remaining on the clock. Pires played a ball into the area, that for once the Paraguayans failed to clear, and Trezeguet's delicate cushioned header was gleefully lashed home by Laurent Blanc to send France wild. The Paraguayans dropped to the turf in despair but they had played dangerous tactics, albeit superbly up until that moment, as France deservedly reach the last eight. Thierry Henry, who was injured and replaced on 65 minutes by Pires, hobbled on to join in the celebrations with an ice-pack on his ankle and he must be a slight doubt for Friday's game, however, Aime Jacquet will be able to recall the silky skills of Zidane whose promptings were badly missed this afternoon.

(1-0) Blanc (114). Substitute Pires picked up the ball on the right edge of the Paraguayan area and clipped a lofted pass into Trezeguet on the penalty spot, the striker cushioned a header into the path of the 32-year-old defender who rifled home a right-footed shot, low past the onrushing Chilavert from eight yards.

 
 
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