Even on one leg, Diego Maradona finds a way.
He found that way in the 61st minute of the second half with a corner kick that set up Argentina's goal in a 1-1 tie with Romania. That was enough to qualify the struggling defending champions for the next round of the World Cup.Gavril Balint tied it eight minutes later for Romania, which moved on for the first time in five appearances in the soccer championships. The Romanians wound up second in Group B to Cameroon, a 4-0 loser to the Soviet Union on Monday night. Argentina finished third but will be among the top four third-place squads and will be in the second round - probably against West Germany or Brazil.
Maradona's right leg was so bad team doctor Raul Madero wanted to bench him at halftime. If he had, the Argentines might be heading home today.
"Maradona said, `I want to play, until death, if necessary,"' Coach Carlos Bilardo said.
The ankle and knee injuries occurred Sunday in a practice session. But, in Naples, before the fans who call him "Saint Maradona" for leading Napoli to the Italian League title, he was not going to quit.
He now gets a few days off to recover and see if he can turn around his personal fortunes. Maradona did not score a goal in the opening round after being the dominant player in the 1986 World Cup.
"I'm full of sorrow because I did not fulfill expectations," he said.
As usual, Maradona was hacked time and again when he had the ball. "They fouled me a lot, but soccer is soccer," he said.
Romanian Coach Emerich Jenei admitted he had called for a rugged defense against Maradona.
"I analyzed the whole of the team," Jenei said. "We knew what we had to do to destroy him."
The Romanians could have been destroyed by concerns over recent confrontations in Bucharest between police and anti-government dissidents. It was on their minds, Jenei said, but they still played well enough to advance.
"What has happened left traces in our heart," Jenei said. "We are always thinking what we left behind us. We hope that equality will triumph."
The Soviet Union's triumph - Cameroon's first loss in a World Cup game after three ties in 1982 and two wins earlier in this tournament - got it nothing. After two earlier defeats, the Soviets, runners-up to the Netherlands in the 1988 European championships, are going home.
Cameroon goes on, hopefully educated from the rout. "A defeat makes people ask themselves questions about what went wrong and forces them to look for solutions," captain Stephen Tataw said.
The U.S. team makes what figures to be its last appearance at this World Cup tonight, against Austria. Only a lopsided victory would give the Americans any chance to advance, and a slim one at that. And the United States has shown virtually no offensive creativity.
"If this is the last game for us, then we'll try to go out firing," forward Chris Sullivan said. "We want it to be a memorable game."
The 39 Romanian soccer fans who sought asylum from the Italian government on Saturday were hoping to get a positive answer today. They got no answer Monday, then were criticized by compatriots at the game in Naples.
"We have real fans here and people who came here to look for political asylum," said Sandu Virgul, a teacher. "There is no need to ask for asylum."
"Some want to stay here for business reasons," added Mihail Bumbac.
English fans may have ruined their clubs' chances of returning to European competitions this year by their behavior. Banned since 1985, English teams aren't likely to be allowed back this year, according to UEFA president Lennart Johansson.
"They will probably have to wait one more year," Johansson said.