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Blanc is France’s golden boy

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With a sweep of his foot, Laurent Blanc allowed 60 million Frenchmen to breathe again.

Blanc's short shot 24 minutes into overtime Sunday lifted France to a 1-0 victory over Paraguay and into the quarterfinals of the World Cup. It was the first sudden-death score to decide a World Cup game; the so-called "golden goal" is being used in the tournament for the first time."You shouldn't put forward the one who scores, but the whole team," Blanc said. "We were fighting, fighting, and we got our reward in the very last minutes."

Nigeria didn't get any reward for winning its first-round group. It got a Denmark squad that took advantage of gaping holes in the Africans' defense for a 4-1 romp.

"We're on a high, definitely a high," Danish goalkeeper Peter Schmeichel said.

France plays Italy and Denmark takes on Brazil in the quarterfinals.

The French couldn't finish off dozens of penetrations through the Paraguay defense. Instead, goalkeeper Jose Luis Chilavert made 24 saves and his defenders cleared away ball after ball.

But they couldn't do it all day at Lens, and Blanc, a defender, finished the game by joining the attack. He moved into the penalty area and took a header from forward David Trezeguet and volleyed it home

"This is the most incredible joy to score in this way," Blanc said. "We have criticized the golden goal in the past, yet here we profitted from it. What went through me when I scored was just indescribable."

Authorities in Saint-Etienne, where England plays Argentina on Tuesday, will double the number of police, and warned of a "heavy hand" to prevent violence.

"We will not hesitate. Those engaged in violence will be arrested and punished immediately," Saint-Etienne Chief of Police Jean-Ives Audin said.

French police, backed by English and Argentine officers that include hooligan spotters, are to work at both the city's main train station and airport.


All through the game, the French attacked and the Paraguayans withstood, rarely venturing upfield. The South Americans, who were an outsider to get to the second round, seemed intent on taking the game to a shootout.

"Should we have gotten to penalty kicks, we would have won," Francisco Arce said. "The pressure of facing Chilavert would have destroyed the French players' nerves."

We'll never know.

France clearly missed star playmaker Zinedine Zidane, who was finishing off a two-game suspension.

"He is the most relieved man of all," France coach Aime Jacquet said. "He gets to play another day in the World Cup for his country."


This one never was a contest. The Danes, who barely threatened opposing nets in the first round, scored in the third minute and the 12th and might have had a few more before halftime had they not misplayed other opportunities.

"It was fantastic," coach Bo Johansson said. "This reminded me of the good old Danish playing style.

"It's not about preparation and tactics. It is about players who suddenly find their way of playing."

Nigeria never found the way at Saint-Denis. It was a disappointing end to what started out as a superb tournament for the Nigerians, who beat Spain and Bulgaria to clinch their group.

"That's soccer, isn't it," Finidi George said. "Denmark has a very good attack. We only had a few chances."