World Cup: Batistuta swats Jamaica aside

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Argentina 5 Ortega 32, 55, Batistuta 73, 79, pen 83 Jamaica 0 Att: 48,500

ARGENTINA, NOTORIOUSLY intolerant of upstart islands on the Atlantic seaboard, swatted aside the brave challenge of Jamaica yesterday. A marvellous double from Ariel Ortega, twice chipping goals after bursting through from midfield, put the former world champions on course for a possible meeting with England in the first knock-out round.

On this form, they will be fearsome opposition. Glenn Hoddle's men have more motivation than ever to win their own group to avoid them.

Gabriel Batistuta hit the easiest hat-trick he will ever score against the tiring 10-men Jamaicans in the last 15 minutes, promoting him instantly to the highest scorer in the competition with four goals. The late deluge - equalling the highest score so far - left Argentina comfortably ahead of Croatia on goal difference. The two meet to dispute the championship of Group H in Bordeaux on Friday.

An Argentina team packed with players from the Italian and Spanish leagues easily outclassed a Caribbean blend of locals and English-born also-rans. Jamaica lost Darryl Powell to a clumsy challenge and the second yellow card on the stroke of half-time. But the game was up long before that.

In the early stages, Jamaica's pace and strength in wide positions troubled the South Americans. Ricardo Gardner on the left began to embarrass the right wing-back, Javier Zanetti, Harbour View taking on and beating Internazionale. In the 12th minute, Gardner seemed to be tripped in the area when clean through but Mr Pedersen, the Norwegian referee, saw no fault.

The Argentines were content to bunch behind the halfway line and tried to surprise a sometimes ponderous Jamaican defence. It seemed only a matter of time before one of the bewildering interchanges of passes between the blue and white shirts paid off. Claudio Lopez, unmarked on the left, headed fiercely down but wide from a good cross by Zanetti. Ortega dribbled past two defenders on the half-hour, only to shoot weakly at Warren Barrett.

Four minutes later, Ortega made no mistake. After a sharp one-two with Batistuta, Juan Veron saw the midfielders run into the right edge of the box. He stroked the ball into Ortega's path and the little man chipped the ball sweetly over Barrett.

Deon Burton, Jamaica's best player in the first half, mysteriously failed to appear after the interval. Peter Cargill joined the midfield, leaving Paul Hall alone up front. It seemed that Rene Simoes, Jamaica's Brazilian trainer, had decided that his 10 men should keep the score down. But the marvellous Jamaican fans deserved better.

In any case, it was to no avail. In the 60th minute Ortega performed an encore, this time swooping from the left. He exchanged high-speed passes with Lopez and scooped the ball over Barrett and into the far corner of the net.

Jamaica rallied briefly. Theodore Whitmore shot narrowly wide from the edge of the penalty area and Ian Goodison headed over from a free-kick but all the real threat continued to come from the men in the striped shirts. In the 76th minute, Ortega completed an impressive match, finding Batistuta unmarked on the right side of the box. The striker fired a glorious cross-shot past Barrett. Six minutes later, with Jamaica flagging cruelly, he strode through the middle to score his second. Two minutes from the end Chris Dawes pushed Ortega over in the area and Batistuta scored from the spot.

ARGENTINA (3-3-2-2): Roa (Mallorca); Chamot (Lazio), Ayala (Napoli), Sensini (Parma); Zanetti (Internazionale), Almeyda (Lazio), Simeone (Internazionale); Veron (Sampdoria), Ortega (Valencia); Batistuta (Fiorentina), Lopez (Valencia). Substitutes: Vivas (Lugano) for Sensini, 25; Gallardo (River Plate) for Lopez, 75; Pineda (Udinese) for Simeone, 80.

JAMAICA (3-5-2): Barrett (Violet Kickers); Sinclair (Chelsea), Dawes (Galaxy), Goodison (Olympic Gardens); Whitmore (Seba Utd), Powell (Derby County), Malcolm (Seba Utd), Simpson (Portsmouth), Gardener (Harbour View); Hall (Portsmouth), Burton (Derby County). Substitutes: Cargill (Harbour View) for Burton, h-t; Boyd (Arnett Gardens) for Malcolm, 62; Earle (Wimbledon) for Whitmore, 74.

Referee: R Pedersen (Norway).