Football: Chilavert forages in vain

Nankov is tournament's first sending-off as Bulgaria fail to revive the spirit of '94

THE BACKBONE of the Bulgarian team who claimed God must be a compatriot after beating Germany to reach the semi-finals of USA 94 were present in body, if not in spirit, yesterday as Fifa's new cleansing edict claimed its first victim.

In the first goalless draw of these World Cup finals, Anatoli Nankov became the earliest recipient of a red card for a tackle from behind in this competition, a decision which drew a stinging rebuke from the Bulgarian coach, Hristo Bonev.

Nankov, one of the few privileged younger players to be allowed into the side among Stoichkov, Ivanov and company, had already been cautioned for a 27th-minute foul on Jorge Campos when, with two minutes remaining, he slid in from behind to fell Juan Carlos Yegros.

The Saudi Arabian official, Abdul Al Zeid, had as little hesitation in plucking out his red card as Bonev did in saying afterwards: "Fifa will regret what they are doing with the new rule. It is going to make football soft.

"People come to the World Cup to watch a man's game, but what Fifa are doing will change all that. The people will not be happy. I thought the decision on my player was harsh. He is the first victim of the new rule."

The distraction of the dismissal could not mask the reality, however, that Bulgaria had let slip a total dominance of this game and they ended somewhat gratefully with a single point.

The sight of Paraguay's eccentric goalkeeping captain, Jose Luis Chilavert, rushing the full length of the field to take a 73rd-minute free-kick had seemed destined to complete Bulgaria's fall from grace.

Chilavert, a beloved, if controversial, iconoclastic figure in South American football, is not to be taken lightly when he forages forward to within sight of his opposite number's goal. The four goals he has scored for his country include one in the draw in Argentina that helped ensure qualification for France 98.

These past few days he has been witnessed staying behind after training practising his dead-ball kicks. And from 25 yards yesterday, with all the finesse of David Beckham, his strike curled menacingly towards the top corner, requiring Zdravko Zdravkov to make the save of the game.

Yet Bulgaria started with the belief and swagger that suggested the advancing years would not hold them back from picking up where they left off in America; Euro 96 might, after all, have been just a blip.

Stoichkov, all shrugs and snarls, suddenly came alive when Roberto Acuna gifted him a sight of goal, but the former Barcelona striker's left-footed shot hit the post.

Stoichkov has relinquished the captain's armband to Trifon Ivanov who, despite wearing his hair shorter these days, retains that loveable "wolfman" image. When he started pacing slowly back in preparation for a 40 yard free-kick strike shortly before half-time, Krassimir Balakov nipped in to play the ball short. Ivanov was furious. It is to be hoped Balakov, the stylish but temperamental Stuttgart midfielder, has his health insurance sorted.

From the moment Jose Cardozo insipidly shot wide when running through in injury time in the first half, however, Paraguay - who, after all, only qualified one point behind Argentina - cast aside their inferiority complex in their first World Cup finals match since Gary Lineker's goals eclipsed them in Mexico 12 years ago.

In a group where Spain would appear to stand head and shoulders above the other teams, a winning start was crucial. If Miguel Benitez had shown more composure in front of goal in the second half, Paraguay would have achieved such a feat. Chilavert, typically dominant at the post-match press conference, said: "We played well and we should have won. But we weren't talented enough to take our chances."

PARAGUAY (3-4-3): Chilavert (Velez Sarsfield); Sarabia (River Plate), Ayala (River Plate), Gamarra (Corinthians); Acuna (Real Zaragoza), Enciso (Internacional Porto Alegre), Paredes (Olimpia), Morales (Gimnasia Jujuy); Cardozo (Necaxa), Benitez (Espanyol), Campos (Guoan Peking). Substitutes: Caniza (Olimpia) for Morales, 41; Ramirez (Sporting Lisbon) for Cardozo, 70; Yegros (Cruz Azul) for Campos, 78.

BULGARIA (4-2-2-2): Zdravkov (Istanbulspor); Nankov (Locomotiv Sofia), Yordanov (Sporting Lisbon), T Ivanov (CSKA Sofia), I Petkov (Litex Lovetch); Kishishev (Bursaspor), Yankov (Besiktas); Iliev (Bursaspor), Balakov (VfB Stuttgart); Stoichkov (CSKA Sofia), Penev (Compostela). Substitutes: Kostadinov (CSKA Sofia) for Penev, 68; Borimirov (1860 Munich) for Iliev, 78

Referee: Abdul Al-Zeid (Saudi Arabia).

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
On set of the Secret Cinema's Back to the Future event
filmBut why were Back to the Future screenings cancelled?
Susan Sarandon described David Bowie as
peopleSusan Sarandon reveals more on her David Bowie romance
Lewis Hamilton walks back to the pit lane with his Mercedes burning in the background
Formula 1
Arts and Entertainment
The new characters were announced yesterday at San Diego Comic Con
comic-con 2014
Arsenal supporters gather for a recent ‘fan party’ in New Jersey
Arts and Entertainment
No Devotion's Geoff Rickly and Stuart Richardson
musicReview: No Devotion, O2 Academy Islington, London
newsComedy club forced to apologise as maggots eating a dead pigeon fall out of air-conditioning
Life and Style
Balmain's autumn/winter 2014 campaign, shot by Mario Sorrenti and featuring Binx Walton, Cara Delevingne, Jourdan Dunn, Ysaunny Brito, Issa Lish and Kayla Scott
fashionHow Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Commercial Litigation

Highly Attractive Salary: Austen Lloyd: CITY - SENIOR COMMERCIAL LITIGATION SO...

BI Developer - Sheffield - £35,000 ~ £40,000 DOE

£35000 - £40000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: My client is...

Employment Solicitor

Highly Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: MANCHESTER - Senior Employment Solici...

Senior Risk Manager - Banking - London - £650

£600 - £650 per day: Orgtel: Conduct Risk Liaison Manager - Banking - London -...

Day In a Page

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

Jokes on Hollywood

With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on
Edinburgh Fringe 2014: The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee

Edinburgh Fringe 2014

The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee
Evan Davis: The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing to take over at Newsnight

The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing

What will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
Finding the names for America’s shame: What happens to the immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert?

Finding the names for America’s shame

The immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert
Inside a church for Born Again Christians: Speaking to God in a Manchester multiplex

Inside a church for Born Again Christians

As Britain's Anglican church struggles to establish its modern identity, one branch of Christianity is booming
Rihanna, Kim Kardashian and me: How Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Parisian couturier Pierre Balmain made his name dressing the mid-century jet set. Today, Olivier Rousteing – heir to the house Pierre built – is celebrating their 21st-century equivalents. The result? Nothing short of Balmania
Cancer, cardiac arrest, HIV and homelessness - and he's only 39

Incredible survival story of David Tovey

Tovey went from cooking for the Queen to rifling through bins for his supper. His is a startling story of endurance against the odds – and of a social safety net failing at every turn
Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride