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Out With the Old, In With the New

Group F: After tie against Sweden, Argentina eliminated in opening round for the first time in 40 years.

June 13, 2002|MIKE PENNER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Welcome to the new World Cup order:

France and Argentina are out.

Scandinavia is in.

Twenty-four hours after Denmark eliminated defending champion France in the first round, Sweden did the same to tournament co-favorite Argentina Wednesday by scoring once, on a 59th-minute free kick by Anders Svensson, and then holding on for a 1-1 tie in Miyagi, Japan.

The draw, coupled with England's scoreless tie with Nigeria, gave Sweden first place in Group F, the so-called "Group of Death," while ending Argentina's World Cup in the first round for the first time since 1962.

"Nobody expected us to get a point from the 'Group of Death,' " said Sweden goalkeeper Magnus Hedman, who repeatedly frustrated the Argentines with his quick reflexes in front of the net, "and we have gone on and won it."

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Wednesday June 19, 2002 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 10 inches; 360 words Type of Material: Correction
World Cup soccer--Kily Gonzalez, Juan Veron and Hernan Crespo were second-half substitutes in Argentina's 1-1 tie with Sweden, not Claudio Caniggia, as was reported incorrectly in a Sports story Thursday.
*

Sweden and England both finished with five points at 1-0-2, with a plus-one goal differential and played to a 1-1 tie when they met in Saitama. Sweden takes first in the group by virtue of scoring more goals--four to England's two.

Argentina, which dominated South American World Cup qualification play and arrived in Japan with a roster stocked with some of the best attacking talent in the sport, managed but two goals in its three games--the second coming in the 88th minute against Sweden, on a penalty rebound.

Svensson's curling free kick, which hooked the upper left corner from 30 yards, came against the run of play. Argentina squandered numerous chances in the first half and outshot the Swedes, 15-7, for the match--although only four of those attempts were on target.

After Coach Marcelo Bielsa sent on substitutes Hernan Crespo and Claudio Caniggia in the second half, Argentina pressed forward with greater urgency. But Hedman and a composed Swedish back line blunted every challenge, until the 88th minute, when Mattias Jonson was cited for a foul on Ariel Ortega in the box.

Hedman blocked Ortega's penalty kick, but the rebound ricocheted straight to Crespo, who fired past Hedman. Coming only minutes from time, it was an academic goal, with the Swedes soon celebrating a most improbable first-place finish.

Svensson described his goal as "the best thing that's happened to me in my career. When I saw the ball going in, I went crazy.... It was incredible, [coming against] probably the best team I have ever played against."

After the goal, Sweden was faced with a more demanding assignment: trying to protect the lead for a frantic final half-hour.

"After we got our goal, they put us back on defense for a long, long time," Sweden Co-Coach Lars Lagerback said. "It showed the players' character, and Magnus Hedman made some good saves."

Argentina finished third in the group with four points at 1-1-1. Sweden next plays Group A runner-up Senegal in a second-round game Sunday in Oita, Japan.

"We are full of confidence," Hedman said. "We know we can compete with and maybe beat all the teams left in the way."

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