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ATHENS 2004

Iraq Runs Out of Surprises

An unexpectedly strong run at the gold medal ends as Cardozo scores twice in Paraguay's 3-1 victory, setting up an all-South American final.

August 25, 2004|Grahame L. Jones | Times Staff Writer

THESSALONIKI, Greece — How many people in Baghdad knew of Jose Saturnino Cardozo before Tuesday night is unknown.

All of Iraq knows him now.

Cardozo, the Paraguayan striker who has scored more than 200 goals in the Mexican league and has been its scoring champion four times, ended Iraq's hopes of a soccer gold medal by leading his country to a 3-1 semifinal victory at Kaftanzoglio Stadium.

The 33-year-old forward scored twice in a 17-minute span in the first half, taking full advantage of a threadbare Iraqi defense that had not before been exposed to a top-class striker in the Olympics.

The two goals brought Cardozo's total to five in five matches in Greece and, more important, assured that he and his teammates will win at least a silver medal when the final is played in Athens on Saturday.

That game will be an all-South American affair for only the second time because Argentina clinched the other berth Tuesday with a 3-0 victory over Italy.

The last South American team to win the gold was Uruguay in 1928, when it defeated Argentina in the final.

Cardozo, who has such leading clubs as Universidad Catolica of Chile and Toluca and Cruz Azul of Mexico on his resume, tormented the Iraqi defense all night -- or at least until he was taken out after 75 minutes with Paraguay comfortably in command.

"He was one of the best players in the game," said Iraq Coach Adnan Hamad Majeed.

"Jose is a natural player, and today he showed again why he deserves to be on this team," said Coach Carlos Jara, who has led Paraguay to four Olympic victories. Its only loss was to Ghana in the first round.

Iraq goalkeeper Nour Sabri was introduced early to Cardozo when he was forced to make a smart save from the striker when the game was only a few minutes old. It was a sign of things to come.

Paraguay, looking like the vastly more experienced and settled team, took charge of the match from the outset. The Iraqis, even though they had the louder fan support, appeared nervous and out of sorts.

So it came as no surprise when Cardozo put the South Americans ahead just 17 minutes into the game.

Receiving the ball from the right wing, he held off Iraqi defender Haidar Jabar in the penalty area and managed to unleash a left-foot shot that bounced once before sailing past the helpless Sabri.

Seventeen minutes later, Cardozo doubled Paraguay's lead, but this time there was considerable controversy attached to the goal.

Cardozo gained possession and was running at the Iraqi defense when he slipped the ball through the defense to the left. The problem was, fellow forward Fredy Bareiro was in the area, in a clearly offside position.

But Bareiro, either because he had his wits about him or because the maneuver had been planned, ignored the ball and walked away from it while the Iraqi defenders stopped to appeal for offside.

Cardozo ran onto his own pass and fired the ball past Sabri before defender Haidar Abdul Amir, who was rushing back to cut him off, could arrive. Iraq's Bassim Abbas raised his arm to appeal in vain for offside.

French referee Eric Poulat and his linesmen ruled that Bareiro was in a "passive" offside position -- in other words, not interfering with the play -- and the goal stood.

"FIFA decides the rules and we are a member of FIFA so we have to play according to the rules, but it was offside," Majeed, Iraq's coach, said through an interpreter.

Trailing by two goals at the half, Iraq sent on some fresh legs in the second 45 minutes but to no avail.

Bareiro scored his fourth goal of the tournament, making it 3-0 in the 68th minute, when he smacked in the rebound of a shot that diving goalkeeper Sabri had pushed onto the right post with his fingertips.

Razzaq Farhan scored a consolation goal in the 83rd minute to set the Iraqi fans' flags flying and drums beating once again, but it was too little, way too late.

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