WORLD CUP : These British Keep Coming On, 3-0 : England Tops Paraguay, Faces Argentina in Quarterfinals
Two goals by Gary Lineker and another by Peter Beardsley gave England a 3-0 victory over Paraguay here Wednesday afternoon in the second round of the World Cup soccer tournament.
For English fans, that was the good news. Now for the not-so-good.
On Sunday, also at Azteca Stadium, England must face highly regarded Argentina in a quarterfinal match already being billed as Falklands II. Or, in deference to Argentine supporters, Malvinas Dos.
England and Argentina went to war in 1982 over the Falkland Islands, and hostilities between the countries have not officially been ended. After Wednesday’s victory, English Coach Bobby Robson was asked by an Argentine radio reporter what effect that will have on the game.
“I’m a football manager, not a politician,” Robson snapped back. “Don’t ask me questions like that.”
The English coach, trying hard to hide his pleasure over Wednesday’s result, was perfectly willing to discuss how his team, after poor showings against Portugal and Morocco, has been able to score consecutive 3-0 victories over Poland and Paraguay.
“We did slightly change the formation,” he explained. “We played four in midfield as opposed to three, and we left out the winger.
“Against Portugal, the team played well enough but we didn’t take our chances. We didn’t play badly. The margin between winning and losing can be very narrow, and it was.
“Against Morocco, we had to play with 10 men for 50 minutes in searing heat (after Ray Wilkins had been ejected). So, in a sense, the team played very well that day to keep a useful point.”
England, which played all three of its first-round games in Monterrey, was beaten by Portugal, 1-0, and held to a scoreless tie by Morocco before rebounding in its last two games. Even in those two, however, it started out by surviving scares.
“In the last two matches, our goalkeeper (Peter Shilton) has actually made two world-class saves when the score was 0-0,” Robson said. “We could have been in a losing position in both matches, but the ‘keeper made a good save, and from that we went on and won.
“We had a marvelous match against Poland, and I think we’ve done marvelously well again today. If, before the match, people had said we could win, 3-0, I think everybody would have been quite delighted and surprised at that score line.
“I think it’s been a great team effort. This lad (Lineker) has taken two marvelous chances, which he’s very adept at. The whole team played very well around him. I thought we were very good in defense because there was a bit of intimidation going on, but we kept cool, didn’t get involved. That helped us enormously.
“On counterattacks, which we pretty well sustained, I think we might have been disappointed not to have scored two more (goals). I was and I’m sure the team was, but we’re not complaining because it’s been a great result.”
With about 90,000 Mexican fans in Azteca Stadium undecided about which team to support, England survived some early jitters before taking control.
In the seventh minute, Terry Butcher made a saving tackle on Paraguay’s Alfredo Mendoza after Roberto Cabanas had broken through and set up Mendoza.
Minutes later, Shilton had to smother a shot by Mendoza, then in the 28th minute, he flung himself upward and tipped a scorching shot by Adolfino Canete over the crossbar.
Shilton’s biggest scare, however, was caused by his own defender, Butcher, who carelessly passed the ball back toward his goalkeeper without realizing that Mendoza was lurking nearby.
Mendoza intercepted the pass and sent the ball out to Canete on the right. Canete’s shot was barely stopped by Shilton, scrambling desperately to get back into the nets.
Less than a minute later, England went ahead, courtesy of the fast break. Steve Hodge, sprinting down the right wing, crossed the ball into the middle, and Lineker, England’s player of the year in 1985, was there to drive it home.
The goal brought a renewed burst of singing from the 5,000 or so Union Jack-bedraped English fans in the stands, and they almost saw another goal immediately.
This time, it was Beardsley who broke free and passed to Lineker, but Paraguayan goalkeeper Roberto Fernandez made a memorable save, one that even Lineker applauded.
Leading, 1-0, at halftime, England was not yet home safely. Paraguay had shown its ability to trouble the English defense with its quick, darting runs and unpredictable short passes.
But as Paraguayan Coach Cayetano Re said afterward, it was not Paraguay’s day.
Nearly 11 minutes into the second half, shortly after Lineker had been felled by an elbow to the throat, Beardsley sealed the South American team’s fate.
Glenn Hoddle’s corner kick from the right wing found Butcher temporarily unguarded, and Butcher fired a low shot straight at Fernandez. The goalkeeper bobbled the ball, and it rolled free. Beardsley, rushing in, jabbed it into the net.
Paraguay, in its frustration, began resorting to increasingly rough play and arguments with Syrian referee Jamal Al-Sharif. Neither tactic helped.
In the 73rd minute, Lineker made it 3-0 with another goal from close range, this one set up by Hoddle and Gary Stevens.
Lineker has scored five of England’s six goals in the tournament and ranks as the World Cup’s co-leading scorer with Spain’s Emilio Butragueno going into Sunday’s showdown against Argentina.
After Wednesday’s game, Lineker was asked if he believes he has a chance to finish as the top goal scorer in the tournament.
“I hope so,” he said. “If the team keeps playing the way we are doing at the moment and it keeps creating the chances and, hopefully, we get to the final, then of course I will have a chance.
“It’s the dream of everybody to be the top goal scorer in the World Cup, and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have that dream, as well.”