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Italy Survives, but Portugal Is Ousted

August 19, 2004|Grahame L. Jones | Times Staff Writer

ATHENS — Italy, considered the team most likely to give Argentina a run for the gold medal in men's soccer, crashed, 1-0, to Paraguay in front of 24,160 at Karaiskaki Stadium on Wednesday night but sneaked into the quarterfinals anyway.

Portugal was not so lucky.

Despite fielding a team that was, on paper, far superior to Costa Rica, the Portuguese suffered their second 4-2 loss of the tournament, with the Ticos duplicating Iraq's feat by winning at Heraklion.

Iraq's run of success also came to an end when it was defeated, 2-1, by Morocco at Patras, but the Iraqis still won their group and advanced.

The Italians can thank Japan for helping them reach the last eight. The Japanese edged Ghana, 1-0, at Volos and knocked the African country out of the tournament. Had Ghana won or tied, Italy would have been out.

The pairings for the quarterfinals produced some intriguing matchups.

Italy will play Mali in Athens, with Mali the lone team left to keep alive Africa's run of gold medals after Nigeria's victory in Atlanta in 1996 and Cameroon's in Sydney in 2000.

If the Italians win, they can look forward to playing the winner of the Argentina-Costa Rica quarterfinal in Patras. If the two matches go as expected, Italy and Argentina, the teams that were supposed to meet in the final, will face each other in the semifinals instead.

On the other side of the bracket, Iraq and Australia will play their quarterfinal in Heraklion, while Paraguay's success Wednesday earned it a game against South Korea at Thessaloniki.

One of those four teams, none of them recognized world powers, is guaranteed at least the silver medal.

Paraguay had to defeat Italy Wednesday to stay in the tournament, and Coach Carlos Jara's team did it the hard way. It scored early and then hung on desperately for 75 minutes to win.

Jara took the Olympic team to the Copa America in Peru in July and the experience it gained there was evident Wednesday. The South Americans were confident and creative, showing no fear of the Italians.

With a defense anchored by World Cup veteran Carlos Gamarra of Inter Milan and a forward line spearheaded by Toluca striker Jose Cardozo, Paraguay had top-quality players at both ends of the field, but it was a relative unknown who provided the breakthrough.

A fine ball crossed in from the left by overlapping defender Aureliano Torres saw forward Fredy Bareiro sprint past three Italian defenders to head the ball powerfully into the net 13:48 into the match.

Italy attacked relentlessly throughout the second half but could not find a way to beat Paraguay's defense and goalkeeper Diego Barreto.

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