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ATHENS 2004

Tevez Casts His Own Shadow

Young forward, who many say is the next Maradona, scores the only goal to lead Argentina to soccer gold.

August 29, 2004|Grahame L. Jones | Times Staff Writer

ATHENS — Standing on the victory podium at the Olympic Stadium on Saturday, oblivious to his Argentine teammates or the remnants of a crowd of 41,116, Carlos Tevez took a closer look at the gold medal around his neck, then punched the air in silent delight.

At 20, Tevez had finally separated himself from his shadow, Diego Maradona, the player to whom he is constantly compared.

Tevez, "the next Maradona," has a gold medal. The "first" Maradona never won one.

The Boca Juniors player -- at least until he makes a huge-money move to Europe -- earned his gold by scoring the only goal as Argentina defeated Paraguay, 1-0. It was Argentina's first gold medal in any sport since 1952 and its first soccer gold.

Paraguay's silver medal was its first medal in any Olympic sport.

Tevez's 18th-minute strike was his tournament-high eighth goal of the Olympics, and the shutout meant that Argentina became the first team in history to go through the Olympic soccer tournament unbeaten and unscored on.

Serbia and Montenegro, Tunisia, Australia, Costa Rica, Italy and, finally, Paraguay, all fell without beating Argentina's defense and goalkeeper German Lux.

What it all will mean, however, was not something Argentina Coach Marcelo Bielsa was willing to reflect on. Asked how he might reshape the team to have a realistic chance to win the World Cup in Germany in 2006, Bielsa sidestepped.

"These are two completely independent competitions," he said, "and success here does not mean we're going to get anything at the World Cup."

In one of the stranger questions asked of a coach at these Games, the unsmiling Bielsa was asked if he had cried after the victory.

"I did not cry, but do not think that is a sign I am not happy," he replied.

The outcome was never really in doubt after Tevez's goal 17:28 into the match.

Fabricio Coloccini started the move with a surging run out of the defense. Once past the halfway line, Coloccini passed the ball out wide to Mauro Rosales on the right, and Rosales crossed it back into the penalty area.

Tevez, running diagonally, broke between defenders Carlos Gamarra and Julio Manzur and got a foot on the ball, sending it spinning into the back of goalkeeper Diego Barreto's net before wheeling away, arms outstretched.

Paraguay was in trouble even before stepping on the field. Jose Cardozo, its top scorer with five goals in the tournament, injured ligaments in his knee in practice and didn't play.

After falling behind, things got worse for Coach Carlos Jara's team when his players began picking up yellow cards. Referee Kyros Vassaras cautioned seven Paraguay players and only one Argentine.

Paraguay defender Emilio Martinez was ejected for elbowing midfielder Andrea D'Alessandro in the face in the 66th minute, and forward Diego Figueredo also was tossed after getting a second yellow card in the 82nd minute for trying to punch or slap the ball into the net, a la Maradona's "Hand of God" goal in the 1986 World Cup.

Virtually the same Argentine team lost on penalty kicks in the final of the Copa America in Peru last month, and defender Gabriel Heinze remembered that loss.

"After what happened to us in the Copa America," he said, "this is a very special moment."

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