Football: Hierro hopes to make amends

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The Independent Online
THE PRESSING need to achieve a victory over Paraguay in St Etienne today after an opening 3-2 reverse against Nigeria is being felt acutely by Spain's beleaguered players.

"We all really want to make up for what happened, to go out and play another game to demonstrate that we really are a good team, that what happened the other day was just an accident, bad luck," said Fernando Hierro, one of the squad's most influential players.

As well as trying to eliminate the defensive blunders that handed victory to Nigeria, the Spanish coach, Javier Clemente, is planning to make changes to the attack. One possibility is to bring in Real Madrid's robust young striker Francisco Morientes, who has scored four goals in his two appearances for the national side.

Guillermo Amor could be drafted in to link with Hierro and add punch to the centre of Spain's midfield but the veteran goalkeeper Andoni Zubizarreta seems certain to start despite having made a mistake which led to Nigeria's second goal.

The South Americans are equally concerned about their continued inability to score. In the goalless Group D draw against Bulgaria, their most dangerous moment came from a free-kick by their adventurous, goalscoring goalkeeper Jose Luis Chilavert.

"Spain absolutely have to win this game. For us, with the point we have, we are going to take advantage of that. If I get a chance to score against Spain, I'll take it," Chilavert said.

Paraguay scored only 21 goals in 16 qualifying matches. Many of those were scored by defenders and one of the most crucial, a free-kick in Argentina, by Chilavert.

Paulo Cesar Carpeggiani, the coach, could replace the striker Jose Cardozo with Cesar Ramirez, the 21-year-old Sporting Lisbon forward. Other possibles are the veteran Aristides Rojas or the temperamental Hugo Brizuela.

Nigeria, meanwhile, are refusing to countenance defeat in Group D's other match today, against Bulgaria in Paris. Victory at the Parc des Princes would take the Olympic champions through to the second round for the second successive finals. However, unlike Spain and Paraguay, who have not met at international level, Nigeria and Bulgaria staged a memorable match at the last World Cup. Meeting at the group stage at USA 94, Nigeria emerged 3-0 winners.

Nigeria have extra incentive today, with the authorities in Lagos promising match bonuses of $15,000 (pounds 9,300) per man for a win.