The second World Cup weekend was dragging with a bunch of dull games, including two scoreless ties.
So Spain's Michel and just about everyone on the Belgian team decided to do something about it. Like score goals.Both Spain and Belgium were impressive 3-1 winners Sunday night, with Belgium qualifying for the second round and Spain just about doing the same.
Michel, the marvelous midfielder who was stymied in his team's opener - another ugly 0-0 tie, with Uruguay - took charge. He scored the first hat trick of the tournament with three distinctly different but sensational goals against South Korea.
"The beauty of being a soccer player is that you can change your own luck from one day to the next," said Michel, who was heavily criticized by the media after his lackluster first game. "I never lost my head because of the criticism. If I had, I wouldn't have had the luck I had today."
He also had lots of skill. He put Spain ahead in the 24th minute with a hard right-footed volley off a pass by Francisco Villaroya.
He broke a 1-1 tie in the 62nd minute with a curling free kick from 30 yards, then finished his superb night with his most creative effort. In the 81st minute, Michel put home a short shot after dribbling through two defenders.
After the match, he gave his father his game jersey.
"He was the one who was hurt the most by the criticism, but he couldn't go out onto the field and do anything about it," Michel said.
Belgium's best player for the second straight game was Enzo Scifo, who had one of the three pretty goals against Uruguay. Lei Clijsters and Belgian captain Jan Ceulemans also scored, with Ceulemans doing so in the first minute of the second half as Belgium played shorthanded. Defender Eric Gerets had been ejected with two yellow cards in the first half.
"We played a beautiful match, with good defense and perfect ball control," said Coach Guy Thys, who guided his nation to fourth place in the 1986 World Cup. "The entire team, except Gerets, was great. They fought hard.
"Scifo confirmed today his reputation. Everything on his side was perfect."
There was nothing perfect about the afternoon match, a dull 0-0 tie between Ireland and Egypt, leaving all four games in Group F as draws.
"I didn't like the game. I didn't like the way the Egyptians played," Ireland coach Jack Charlton said, his face blushed red. "I didn't like their time-wasting tactics one little bit. We didn't score goals, but at least we tried.
"It was all so frustrating. Football is about scoring goals. We had four chances. The Egyptians had none."
Tonight, Argentina needs at least a tie against Romania for a chance to advance. Diego Maradona, who led Argentina to the 1986 World Cup crown, left practice Sunday with pain in his right knee.
"I'm haunted by bad luck," Maradona said. "It hurts, but I'll play at any cost. I think I'll be all right."
Team physician Raul Madero said, "It looks like he took a misstep, but I don't think it's anything serious."
Also tonight, surprising Cameroon, already headed to the next round, plays the winless Soviets.
Sometime today, 39 Romanians who formally sought asylum in Italy might find out whether the Interior Ministry will consider the requests. Fans in Telese, where 1,000 Romanians have stayed during the tournament, said as many as 100 people would try to defect because they think Romanian president Ion Iliescu has subverted their revolution.
At Cagliari, Sardinia, English soccer fans reportedly assaulted a Japanese television correspondent and his cameraman Sunday, smashing their camera.
The Italian news agency ANSA reported the incident near the main railway station. The report said the journalists were punched and kicked as they filmed a group of English fans. Their camera was grabbed and smashed on the ground, leaving it unusable.
Witnesses said a police patrol came to their rescue and took them to a local hospital for treatment. The report made no mention of any arrests.
Earlier Sunday, British officials praised Italian police for taking charge Saturday and preventing a clash between English and Dutch soccer fans at Cagliari, where the teams played, yes, a 0-0 tie. In that game, English goalie Peter Shilton played in a record 120th international game.
"I am grateful to the police for their swift, tough and decisive action, which defused this situation and prevented other incidents, avoiding serious confrontation between English and Dutch supporters," British Minister for Sport Colin Moynihan said in a statement.
In the one skirmish between about 1,000 English fans and Italian police before the game, the fans stormed a police security cordon and stoned the officers. Police reinforcements using tear gas and truncheons quickly dispersed the crowd, with nearly 600 English fans detained by police.
But only three were arrested for that and four were jailed for other offenses, also before the game.
Steve Beauchampe, the World Cup coordinator for England's Football Supporters Associationl criticized Moynihan's statement as one-sided.
"Police launched a violent attack on England supporters, which helped contribute to making the problem worse," he said.