Here's one way to sneak into the second round of the World Cup: Make sure your final first-round opponent is a powerhouse with little motivation.
No one accused Brazil, France or Nigeria of not trying, but they lacked the do-or-die urgency of opponents Norway, Denmark and Paraguay in games over the last two days.As a result, those three teams played well enough against the best in the world to render anyone else's hopes meaningless.
As the first round neared an end, the tournament's chief of referees defended the embattled officials today, saying the level of officia-ting was higher than four years ago.
David Will, the referee chairman, said three of the first 40 games had been graded unacceptable. The rest, he said, were averaging 8.3 out of 10, with most getting 8 or 9 in post-match evaluations.
Cup referees have been criticized for inconsistency and leniency against hard fouls.
Lens imposed a strict alcohol ban and deployed hundreds more police ahead of Friday's England-Colombia match, where some feared the violence could widen to German-English clashes.
Spain set a tournament-high in goals Wednesday night in a 6-1 victory over Bulgaria, but it wouldn't have mattered if the Spaniards had punctured the net 100 times. Paraguay won 3-1 for an upset over a Nigerian team that had already clinched first place and rested seven of its starters.
SPAIN 6, BULGARIA 1: Spain trounced Bulgaria for its first win, but still failed to qualify for the next round because of Paraguay's victory over Nigeria.
King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia looked on as Spain demonstrated speed and skill unseen in its first two matches, a loss to Nigeria and a tie vs. Paraguay. It controlled possession for much of the game.
Fernando Hierro converted a penalty kick in the sixth minute, Kiko and Francisco Morientes each had two goals and Luis Enrique one.
Bulgaria, which went to the semifinals four years ago, was 0-2-1 this time.
PARAGUAY 3, NIGERIA 1: A header in the opening 51 seconds by Celso Ayala helped Paraguay move into the second round.
The victory over the already-qualified Africans made sure the South Americans clinched second place in Group D. They will face host France in Lens on Sunday for a place in the quarterfinals. Nigeria faces Denmark in Saint-Denis the same day.
Ayala's header was the fastest World Cup goal since Bryan Robson's 27-second strike for England against France in 1982.
FRANCE 2, DENMARK 1: Emmanuel Petit's goal 10 minutes into the second half gave France a 2-1 win over Denmark on Wednesday, advancing the hosts as Group C winners and the Danes as runners-up.
France won after a scramble in the penalty area. The ball was cleared to Petit, who hit a powerful left-footed drive from 18 yards past Peter Schmeichel.
By beating Denmark, France became the first team to win its three opening-round games.
SOUTH AFRICA 2, SAUDI ARABIA 2: South Africa's remote hopes of reaching the second round ended as Saudi Arabia got both its goals on penalty kicks.
Sami al-Jaber scored in first-half injury time and Youssef al-Thyniyan scored in the 74th minute for the Saudis, who salvaged a point after two losses that ensured the team's first-round elimination and cost coach Carlos Alberto Parreira his job.