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Spain, Venezuela advance in U20 WCup

SPAIN and Venezuela advanced to the knockout round of the Under-20 World Cup yesterday, both winning their second straight games to wrap up Group B.

But host Egypt failed to get the better of 10-man Paraguay and lost 2-1 when the South Americans scored with virtually the last kick of the match in Cairo.

"It was a tough game, we played well in the first half after Paraguay's sending off," Egypt coach Miroslav Soukup said. "I warned the players not to think it was easier to win or draw because they had 10 players. I don't know what happened to my players in the second half, they were tense and lost concentration."

Paraguay took a corner from the right and midfielder Aldo Paniagua swept home a shot from close range.

Paraguay went ahead in the 27th minute when Robin Ramirez tore through Egypt's defense, and passed to Federico Santander who scored with an angled shot.

Afroto equalized from a free kick in the 38th, but then missed a great chance to win the match late on when he swiped at the ball and missed it with the goal gaping.

Italy and Paraguay have four points in Group A, Egypt has three.

Earlier, Arsenal midfielder Fran Merida scored twice for the Spaniards in a 2-0 win over Nigeria. Venezuela thrashed Tahiti 8-0 after Yonathan Del Valle scored three goals in the last 12 minutes, adding to three already provided by Jose Rondon.

"I think we had a very tough game against Nigeria, they made it very difficult for us but I think we can play better than that," Merida said. "Scoring goals is secondary, what I would like the most is to win the trophy. It's nice to score but I'm happy for the team."

Venezuela coach Cesar Farias was keen to keep up the momentum going into the final group match against Spain.

"All this is new for Venezuelan football, and every step we take will be historic," he said. "But that doesn't take us away from our goal, which is to play each game with the utmost intensity."

Tahiti, suffered its second consecutive 8-0 defeat, and felt further embarrassment yesterday, having two players sent off in the first half. It will set a new record for conceding the most goals at an under-20s tournament if Nigeria scores in Thursday's final group game. Indonesia also conceded 16 goals in 1979.

Tahiti coach Lionel Charbonnier, a Frenchman who was on the World Cup winning squad in 1998, was angry with referee Subkhiddin Mohd Salleh.

"There were two key players in this game tonight. One of them is mine (on my team), the other one isn't. Everyone can understand," Charbonnier said. "I don't want to talk about someone I don't know. I prefer to talk about my team, because today I could be very bitter. So I prefer to speak calmly, rather than react on the spur of the moment."

In Group A, Italy got its first win, with goals from Michelangelo Albertazzi and Silvano Raggio securing a 2-1 win over Trinidad & Tobago.

Spain had won its first game by trouncing Tahiti. But Spanish coach Luis Milla said yesterday's match felt very different to the easy opener.

"Nigeria tested us physically and technically," Milla said. "We had trouble playing our normal game."

Nigeria muscled Spain off the ball early. But the Spaniards gained control and Merida twice came close to scoring before making it 1-0 in the 33rd minute with a lob over Nigeria goalkeeper Uche Okafor.

Merida got his second with a penalty in the 83rd, after Nigeria's Rabiu Ibrahim tripped Ander Herrera.


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