WORLD CUP ’90 : Argentina Surprises Brazil, 1-0 : Soccer: Maradona is stymied for 80 minutes, then sets up goal by Caniggia as defending champions advance.
For exactly 80 minutes Sunday, Diego Armando Maradona did absolutely nothing.
Then, in the 81st minute, he struck. The result knocked three-time champion Brazil out of the World Cup, 1-0, and moved defending champion Argentina into the quarterfinals.
Maradona, who was whistled and booed every time he touched the ball by the largely pro-Brazilian crowd of 61,381, did not score the goal that gave Argentina its victory--that pleasure went to Claudio Caniggia--but he did create it.
For well over an hour, Brazil hammered at Argentina’s defense, setting up one chance after another to score. Somehow, it never did. One attempt hit the left post, another was tipped onto the right post by the goalkeeper. Some shots flew barely wide, others were saved. None went in.
And while all this was happening, Maradona waited, biding his time, choosing his moment. He was seldom involved in the play, preferring to stay out of the action until Argentina counter-attacked. Even then, his diamond and gold ear ring sparkled much more than his performance.
He received his share of bumps and bruises. The Brazilians knew they had to contain him, and they did so by means fair and foul. Maradona was tripped, Maradona was shoved, Maradona was upended. But, in the end, he was not stopped.
Brazil’s offensive thrusts were becoming increasingly desperate in the second half as its two strikers, Careca and Muller, struggled to find the back of the net. And the more the Brazilians pressured Argentina, the more susceptible they became to the Argentines’ counter-attack.
Finally, in the 81st minute, it happened.
Maradona collected the ball about 40 yards from goal and set off on a run directly down the throat of Brazil’s defense. He eluded one would-be tackle from Alemao, shrugged off another from Dunga and, with three defenders closing in on him, sent a superb pass between them to the unrushing Caniggia.
The latter, left unguarded, had the simple task of rounding Brazilian goalkeeper Claudio Taffarel and side-footing the ball firmly into the open net.
Never mind that Brazil took 11 shots to only six for Argentina. Never mind that Brazil had 11 corner kicks and Argentina four.
All that mattered in the end was that single run by Maradona, that single pass and that single goal. Soccer is sometimes a cruel game, and the Brazilians know it all too well.
This is the third World Cup in a row in which they have been one of the favorites and the third in a row in which they have been sent home early. In 1982, Italy knocked them out; in 1986, it was France. And now Argentina.
It might have been different had Dunga’s powerful header not rebounded off the left post in the 21st minute, or if Careca’s shot had been tipped into the net rather than onto the right post by Argentine goalkeeper Sergio Goicoechea in the 53rd minute.
Goicoechea, in fact, played exceptionally well. Seconds after Muller’s attempt, he flung himself to his left to turn a fierce shot from Alemao around the post for a corner kick. With each save, his confidence grew, and Brazil’s hopes evaporated in the 81-degree heat.
“That’s football for you,” Brazil Coach Sebastiao Lazaroni said. “Sometimes it makes us very sad. Argentina had one chance to score in the entire game and it took it. We just needed a goal.”
It almost came in the game’s dying seconds.
Reduced to 10 men after French referee Joel Quiniou ejected Brazilian captain Ricardo for a foul against Jose Basualdo two minutes after Caniggia’s goal, Brazil continued to attack. First, however, it had to survive Maradona’s free kick that Taffarel did well to save.
With time running out and the Argentine bench on its feet pleading with the referee to sound the final whistle, Brazil staged one last foray. It ended with Mueller one-on-one against the goalkeeper, but Mueller’s off-balance shot sailed wide and Brazil’s last chance was gone.
At the final whistle, Brazil’s fans sat in stunned silence, many in tears, while the Argentine players celebrated. Then the Brazilians folded their green and gold flags, turned their backs on the Argentines and filed quietly out of the stadium.
Argentina next will play the winner of Tuesday’s Spain-Yugoslavia match.
Brazil goes home to prepare for 1994.
World Cup Note
The Italian news agency ANSA reported that police will ask authorities to expel from Italy 19 English fans who attacked two Tunisians Sunday, injuring one slightly with a bottle.