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SOCCER ROUNDUP

France Slumbers to Tie; Argentina Wins Solidly

April 18, 2002|GRAHAME L. JONES | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Defending world champion France was held to a drab 0-0 tie by Russia on Wednesday at Paris, but Argentina, the favorite to take the title away from the French at next month's World Cup, showed its potential by shutting out Germany, 1-0, at Stuttgart.

In an ill-tempered and foul-marred game in which Argentine midfielder Marcelo Gallardo was carried off on a stretcher after a second-half collision with German counterpart Jens Jeremies, the South Americans won thanks to a 48th-minute headed goal by Juan Pablo Sorin.

The nature and extent of Gallardo's injury was not immediately known.

"I think our victory was well-deserved," Coach Marcelo Bielsa said. "But no way was it an easy win for us against a German team for whom I had and still have great respect."

Countered German Coach Rudi Voeller: "Perhaps we had too much respect for this Argentine team. But ... they were the best team out there tonight and they could have scored a second goal at the end of the match."

On a day when 28 of 32 World Cup teams played warmup games ahead of the May 31-June 30 tournament, Denmark earned a 3-1 victory over Israel in front of 9,598 in the wake of a bomb threat and clashes at Copenhagen between police and anti-Israel protesters. More than 200 arrests were made.

England, meanwhile, shrugged off the recent loss of playmaker David Beckham to injury and routed Paraguay, 4-0, at Liverpool.

Michael Owen, who took over the captaincy after Beckham was sidelined with a broken foot, scored four minutes into the match. Danny Murphy and Darius Vassell had goals and Celso Ayala put the ball into his own net.

"We played against a team of superior category," Paraguay's Italian Coach Cesare Maldini said. "They're among the favorites for the World Cup with good reason."

Italy didn't fare as well, being held to a 1-1 tie by Uruguay at Milan and possibly losing defender Gianluca Pessotto for the World Cup after he suffered a knee injury seven minutes into the match.

"It is a suspected cruciate [ligament] injury," said Italy Coach Giovanni Trapattoni, who Wednesday signed a contract to remain as coach through July 2004.

Christian Panucci gave Italy the lead off a 73rd-minute corner kick and Sebastian Abreu tied the score four minutes later, deflecting in a cross by Gianni Guigou.

Four-time world champion Brazil played Portugal at Lisbon and managed only a 1-1 tie against the United States' first World Cup opponent. Sergio Conceicao put Portugal ahead, but Ronaldinho scored on a penalty kick to salvage a tie.

"It was made evident today that Portugal is capable of beating any [team]," Portugal Coach Antonio Oliveira said.

Poland, another team the U.S. will face in the first round, suffered its second consecutive loss, falling to Romania, 2-1, at Bydgoszcz. Poland was blanked by Japan, 2-0, last month.

In other results:

Spain ran over Northern Ireland, 5-0, at Belfast, where Raul scored twice; Nigeria upset Scotland, 2-1, at Aberdeen, with Julius Aghahowa scoring both goals; Croatia shut out Bosnia, 2-0, at Zagreb; Turkey beat Chile by the same score at Kerkrade, Netherlands, and Slovenia defeated fellow World Cup finalist Tunisia, 1-0, at Ljubljana.

Also, Costa Rica and co-host Japan finished 1-1 at Yokohama; Belgium was booed off the field at Brussels after a 1-1 tie against Slovakia; African and Olympic champion Cameroon was held by Austria, 0-0, at Vienna; Sweden tied Norway, 0-0, at Oslo, and Ecuador and South Africa played to a 0-0 tie at Murcia, Spain.

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