Topics of the day:
Iran 0 - Serbs 1, Thanks to Imam Hussein and three hours of mourning.
Soccer-World Cup-Dreary Yugoslavia anger coach 03:44 p.m Jun 14, 1998 Eastern
By Simon Evans
ST ETIENNE, June 14 (Reuters) - Yugoslavia sneaked past Iran 1-0 in their World Cup Group F game on Sunday but angered coach Slobodan Santrac with a disjointed performance.
A 73rd minute free-kick from 25 metres by Sampdoria midfielder Sinisa Mihajlovic gave them the three points against a determined and well-organised Iranian team.
But Santrac was far from pleased with his side's lacklustre opening performance and suggested they had underestimated the Iranians.
``Before the game I told my players that Iran were a strong team but no one believed me. I am not satisfied with my team's performance,'' he said.
A slippery playing surface hardly helped the game as a spectacle nor did the absence through injury of Yugoslavia's Dejan Savicevic.
Without the 'Montenegrin Magician' to link midfield with attack, Yugoslavia were sorely short of options and failed to create any clear cut chances from open play.
Defender Goran Djorovic came close to scoring in the 15th minute when his header from a Dragan Stojkovic corner clipped the crossbar.
But it was a rare moment of Yugoslav forward play in a first half largely controlled by the Iranians.
Iran's defence, so often leaky during qualification games, was solid and comfortably dealt with Yugoslavia's frontmen -- Predrag Mijatovic and Savo Milosevic.
In midfield it was Iran's Karim Bagheri who was the creative force in the game rather than Yugoslavia' Dragan Stojkovic who was strangely subdued and later substituted.
Bagheri was behind Iran's best effort in the 24th minute when he linked well with Ali Daei to put Mehdi Mahdavikia within shooting range.
Mahdavikia fired hard and low but Ivica Kralj got down well to save at his near post.
The Iranians showed less ambition in a scrappy second period with most of the action restricted to midfield.
Desperate for his side to at least threaten the Iranian goal, Santrac threw on strikers Perica Ognejenovic and Darko Kovacevic along with attack-minded midfielder Dejan Stankovic.
That had the effect of putting the Iranians under more pressure but there was little fluency to the Yugoslav attacks.
It took a fine curling strike from free-kick specialist Mihajlovic, nicknamed the Bomber of Borovo, to save face for the Yugoslavs but the goalscorer ackowledged his side barely deserved the victory.
``We didn't play well, we played as individuals rather than as a unit, he said.
Iran coach Jalal Talebi took heart from his side's performance.
``There was nothing shameful in this game for us,'' he told reporters, ``We played a fair game and we did our best.''
And he vowed that the Iranians, would not go home without giving their all.
``We will be fighting until we are standing,'' he said. ``If we are going to die then we will die standing, we will fight to the last.''
Asian teams struggle to make an impact
04:14 p.m Jun 14, 1998 Eastern
By Ken Ferris
ST ETIENNE, June 14 (Reuters) - Asia's teams arrived at the World Cup with high hopes of making an impact after years in football's wilderness.
But Yugoslavia's defeat of Iran on Sunday consigned all of them to the bottom of the pile in world football's prime competition after the opening games.
The one saving grace was that the margin of defeat was just a single goal in the case of Saudi Arabia, Japan and Iran.
Only South Korea suffered a heavy loss, but they had to play most of their match against Mexico with 10 men before going down 3-1 in Lyon.
Despite being pointless so far, Asia's teams seem to at least have narrowed the gap with the powers of world football.
Iran certainly surprised Yugoslavia with their solid performance and gained the respect of Yugoslav match-winner Sinisa Mihajlovic who plays his club football at Sampdoria.
``Iran are a very good team and won't be easy opposition for Germany or the United States,'' he said.
Iran coach Jalal Talebi gave an indication of what Asia's teams are up against with his impression of Yugoslavia.
``They have a lot of very good individual players with good technique and a lot of experience,'' said Talebi.
Those skills have been honed at some of the best club sides in Europe and throw into sharp relief the fact that Iran only has three players at European clubs, all in Germany.
Japan also gave a good account of themselves against Argentina in Toulouse and with games against Croatia and Jamaica to come will still hope to get through from Group H.
But none of Japan's team has played outside the country, although they have learned from stars such as Dunga of Brazil and Yugoslavia's Dragan Stojkovic who play in the J-League.
Saudi Arabia produced one of the biggest shocks of USA 94 when they reached the second round. But with a tough game to come against hosts France and another with the unpredictable South Africans their chances of a repeat performance look slim.
Even the experience of World Cup-winning Brazilian coach Carlos Alberto Parreira was unable to fashion domestic league players into a team capable of beating Denmark.
Meanwhile, South Korea's modest ambition at this World Cup is just to win a game. They have qualified for the last four finals but have yet to chalk up a victory in the finals.
Coach Cha Bum-kun has staked his reputation on winning a game, but with the Netherlands and Belgium still to come in Group E the chances of achieving his goal look slim.
All of South Korea's players play their football at home or in nearby Japan.
If Asia's teams are to make more of an impact in world football the key seems to be gaining experience abroad.
Japan's midfield star Hidetoshi Nakata wants to move to Italy or Spain and that's an ambition Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger believes is vitally important for Japanese football.
After watching the Japanese squad training in Aix-Les-Bains south-east of Lyon last week Wenger told reporters, ``It's important for these players to play in Europe and there's no reason why some of them shouldn't after the World Cup.''
With Japan and South Korea hosting the first World Cup in Asia in 2002 there may still be time to for Asian football to stake a claim amongst world football's elite.
PRESS DIGEST - Iran - June 14 02:33 a.m. Jun 14, 1998 Eastern
TEHRAN, June 14 (Reuters) - These are some of the leading stories in Iranian newspapers on Sunday. Reuters has not verified these stories and does not vouch for their accuracy.
- Industry minister Gholamreza Shafei said Iran welcomes new foreign investments in its industries in order to create jobs for young people and gain a bigger share of the world trade.
- In response to a call for his impeachment, moderate Interior Minister Abdollah Nouri informed parliament speaker Ali Akbar Nateq-Nouri that he will appear before the 270-seat assembly on the last day of a 10-day grace period.
- National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC) Director for International Affairs said that several energy projects are on the table for international tenders, adding that there was ``no bar on American companies.''
- The commander of Iran's revolutionary guards said his forces should be armed with faith, efficient management and latest technology to defend the ideals of the Islamic revolution and the country's borders.
- A proposed visit to the United States by Iranian journalists was cancelled because of the ``inadequate number of journalists registered for the trip'' and ``politicisation of the visit by the expected interview to be given by the U.S. seccretary of state, an official at the Culture and Islamic Guidance Ministry told the newspaper.
- The local chief of the judiciary of the southern city of Jiroft was kidnapped by unidentified armed men on Friday evening.
- Iran's national soccer team will mobilise all its might in Sunday's match against Yugoslavia, head coach Jalal Talebi said.
Iran seeks foreign help on jobs, trade 04:55 a.m. Jun 14, 1998 Eastern
TEHRAN, June 14 (Reuters) - Iran welcomes new foreign investment to provide jobs and gain more overseas trade, the country's industry minister told a visiting economic commission.
Gholamreza Shafei said the Islamic republic needed to create employment opportunities for its young population and gain a bigger share of world trade.
There was no shortage of talent, he told the opening session in Tehran of the first Iran-Austria Joint Economic Commission on Saturday.
Austria's Economics Minister Johann Farnleitner was among the members of the commission.
``Iran's capacity to produce steel and cement in recent years has reached six and 23 million tonnes respectively, while there have been considerable investments in food, petrochemical, auto parts, non-metal minerals as well as some ferrous industries,'' the daily Iran News quoted him as saying.
``The annual automobile production capacity has reached 200,000 vehicles, and Iran has built a number of hydroelectric and other types of power plants...
``Iran has invested $500 million in auto industries to create new jobs this year, which brings the total investment in the sector to $1 billion.''
The minister did not say what period was covered by the $1 billion investment.
``The Islamic republic is interested in new investments to produce auto parts, and presently is cooperating with France and South Korea in this field.''
Shafei said Austria could make use of Iran's transport facilities to gain access to Central Asian markets.
He called for cooperation between the two countries in developing Caspian Sea oil fields.
He added: ``Iran has access to one-ninth of the overall Caspian coastline and intends to increase its oil-related activities in the area. Austria can be a good partner for Iran in this area.''
World Cup Soccer Recap (Yugoslavia-Iran)
Posted: Sun June 14, 1998 at 3:13 p.m. EDT
YUGOSLAVIA 1, IRAN 0
Defender Sinisa Mihajlovic scored on a free kick in the 73rd minute to spoil a surprisingly strong effort from Iran and give Yugoslavia a 1-0 victory in World Cup Group F action in Saint-Etienne.
Mihajlovic struck the free kick with his left foot from 23 yards and curled the ball around the Iranian wall of defenders and inside the left post, past diving goalkeeper Nima Nakisa. The goal was the seventh goal of the backliner's international career.
Yugoslavia (1-0-0, in Group F) was not able to get its lethal attack going against Iran (0-1-0), which is making its first World Cup appearance since 1978. Iran was able to use its speed in the midfield to frustrate the Yugoslavs, who were handed the only two cards of the game -- both yellow -- by referee Alberto Tejada Noriega of Peru. Iran was charged with 30 fouls, compared to only 11 for Yugoslavia.
Iran's only threat to even the score came on a header from 10 yards out by striker Ali Daei, which was stopped by 'keeper Ivica Kralji.
"An incredibly difficult match," Yugoslavia coach Slobodan Santrac said after the match. "I can't explain exactly what happened in the 90 minutes of play. Yet, I still believe we won on merit."
Iran coach Jalal Talebi was happy with his team's play. "After 20 years of absence from the World Cup, I consider that we had a good debut. This according to the fact that we were scored upon just from a set play. I think our supporters are pleased with our performance, even if we lost the match."
Yugoslavia controlled most of the play after it scored, as Iran pushed forward for the equalizer but were unable to mount continuous play in Yugoslavia's end, leading to counterattacks by the opposition.
The first half of the match featured shaky play from Nakisa, who fumbled a crossing header in the 14th minute of play and had to crawl several feet to in an effort to retrieve the ball, which went over the end line to give Yugoslavia a corner kick. Goran Djorovic was able to head the corner off the crossbar from just five yards.
Yugoslavia had seven corner kicks to only two for Iran.
Predrag Mijatovic, Yugoslavia's star striker, was unable to get free from the shockingly tight Iran defense throughout the half. Misplayed balls intended for him were quickly sent in the opposite direction by the speedy Iranians, who were equally unable to set up Daei.
Coach Santrac tried to get younger legs into the lineup for Yugoslavia, inserting three players age 24 and younger in the second half. The move did not change the run of play significantly until the goal was scored.
Iran was the last qualifier for the World Cup and little was expected from them, but today's result served notice it will be no pushover for fellow Group F sides United States and Germany.
Iran's next match will be against the United States on Sunday, June 21 in Lyon. Yugoslavia will take on Germany in Lens that same day.
© 1998 Sportsticker Enterprises, LP
Yugoslavia 1, Iran 0
By Dusan Stojanovic Associated Press Writer Sunday, June 14, 1998; 1:53 p.m. EDT
SAINT-ETIENNE, France (AP) -- A trademark free kick by Sinisa Mihajlovic gave Yugoslavia a 1-0 victory over Iran Sunday.
In a game between two countries returning to the World Cup following politically related absences, Mihajlovic took the kick from about 25 yards, slightly to the left of the goal.
Mihajlovic is famous for scoring such crucial goals and curved his low shot around the Iranian wall to beat diving goalkeeper Nima Nakisa in the 73rd minute.
A tie between these teams would have greatly helped the United States, which plays in the same group. The U.S. team opens play against Germany Monday.
The Iranians, making their first World Cup appearance since the Islamic revolution, played defensively, making frequent but ineffective counterattacks.
And they appeared tired in the second half, perhaps because of a lengthy religious ceremony the team held the previous night. Instead of getting a full night's sleep, the Iranian team was awake until midnight performing a ritual in which players beat their chests and wept for the death of a 7th century Shiite saint.
But attacker Ali Daei, who plays in Germany's Bundesliga, nearly tied the game when he soared over two Yugoslav defenders to head a cross into the arms of Yugoslavia's goalie Ivica Kralj with three minutes remaining.
Yugoslav striker Predrag Mijatovic was well guarded for most of the match. His one opportunity came in the 82nd minute when Nakisa palmed away his shot from 8 yards after Mijatovic had drilled his way into the Iranian box.
Yugoslavia was barred from all sporting events -- including the 1994 World Cup in the United States -- after its forces attacked Muslim Slavs during the Bosnian war. The country now is shelling Muslim Albanians in Kosovo province, a move that may invite U.S.-led NATO airstrikes. Iran's Islamic government supports Muslims in Bosnia and Albania.
© Copyright 1998 The Associated Press
World Cup-Iran coach vows to fight to the last
(adds quotes) ST ETIENNE, June 14 (Reuters) - Iran's coach Jalal Talebi said on Sunday his side would "fight to the last" despite Sunday's 1-0 World Cup defeat by Yugoslavia. "We played a fair game and did our best and there was nothing shameful in this game for us," Talebi said. "Our mission is not finished, we have to play against the U.S. and Germany and we know they will be hard games. "Each game has a different meaning for us but we will fight to a standstill. If we are going to die, then we will die standing. We will fight to the last." Yugoslavia won thanks to a 73rd minute goal from Sinisa Mihajlovic who scored direct from a free kick from just outside the Iranian penalty area. Yugoslav coach Slobodan Santrac said he had been disappointed by his team's performance and thought they might have overtrained before the finals started. "The first half was very difficult for us and you can see that in the World Cup every game is difficult. But it wasn't so much the tough opponents as our own weaknesses in the first half, particularly in midfield. "We played better in the second half but I don't know the reasons why the team didn't play as well as they can.
"The hard preparations we had in Switzerland took their toll and I hope we will have enough time to recover by the time we play Germany." Yugoslavia's Slavisa Jokanovic said his side had been lucky to win the group F match. "It was a very difficult game, they defended very, very tightly and it was difficult to get through. We were really lucky to get these three points," he said.
© Reuters Limited Sun Jun 14 21:51:59 1998
World Cup-Yugoslavia say lucky to beat Iran
ST ETIENNE, June 14 (Reuters) - Yugoslavia's Slavisa Jokanovic said on Sunday his side had been lucky to beat Iran 1-0 in a World Cup group F match. "It was a very difficult game, they defended very, very tightly and it was difficult to get through. We were really lucky to get these three points," he said. Yugoslav coach Slobodan Santrac said: "The first half was very difficult for us and you can see that in the World Cup every game is difficult. "We played better in the second half but I don't know the reasons why the team didn't play as well as they can." Yugoslavia won thanks to a 73rd minute goal from Sinisa Mihajlovic who scored direct from a free kick from just outside the Iranian penalty area.
Yugoslavia and Iran Open Play in Group F By Anne Swardson Washington Post Foreign Service Sunday, June 14, 1998; Page D18
SAINT-ETIENNE, France, June 13—"The mood of the team is good," said Iranian national team coach Jalal Talebi. "Players just want to play the best football possible."
That may be, but there was no way of verifying it today, the day before Iran meets Yugoslavia here in the first game between teams in Group F, which also includes the United States and Germany. Not only was the Iranian team's training session closed, reporters barely got a glimpse of the players.
Surrounded by a gaggle of security guards, players walked directly from their bus into a tent, through a tunnel and into the stadium as reporters were shooed away. As a result, the few glimpses that could be had from a distance just looked like a bunch of guys in shorts kicking a soccer ball.
The Yugoslavs, by contrast, looked large, leggy and big-footed at their open practice. A glance at the rosters shows they aren't really bigger than the Iranians, they just look that way.
The Yugoslav coach, Slobodan Santrac, tried to sound concerned about Sunday's game.
"We're always worried before each match," he said after practice. "Iran is a national team that must be respected." The Yugoslav players -- all but four of whom play professionally for top teams in Europe and Japan -- echoed his line. But in private they were saying the real opponent is Germany. That game is June 21, the same day the United States plays Iran.
Two strong Yugoslav players, fullback Nisa Saveljic and forward Dejan Savicevic, will not start Sunday because of injuries; Saveljic said he thinks he will be ready for the Germany game. And he tried to take Iran seriously. "Their only weak point is their lack of experience," he said.
Iran, five of whose players play outside the country, probably will play without its No. 1 goalkeeper, Ahmad Abedzadeh, and certainly without halfback Reza Shahroudi, Talebi said.
Despite the closed practice, Iran seems to have recovered some confidence in the closing days of its warmup season. Its last game, a 2-0 loss to Croatia, was played well, Talebi said. He was not promoted to coach until May 20, after a thorough drubbing by AS Roma led to the firing of Tomaslav Ivic. But Talebi seems to have connected with the players in a way Ivic did not.
"I believe we have reached the point we need to be for the game," Talebi said. "You will see tomorrow we are 100 percent ready for the game." He wasn't promising a win, just a good show.
"We want to play good football, we want to play fair football and we want to win," he said. "If our play is good we will be happy but if our play is bad we will not be happy."
Talebi and Santrac agreed on one thing: Neither would speculate on which possible outcome of Monday's United States-Germany game would be better for their respective teams. Talebi said he wanted a draw; Santrac said it was too soon to say. "For now we are concentrating on Iran," he said.
© Copyright 1998 The Washington Post Company