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Spain tallies late to take tie against rival France

Published Sep. 16, 2005

They won't smile about the way they played, but they're giddy about the result.

Flat and outplayed for most of the game, Spain looked about to lose a crucial men's soccer Group B match to archrival France on Monday.

But Oscar Garcia, the man who gave the Spaniards the late game-winner in a victory over Saudi Arabia on Saturday, provided the heroics again when he buried the equalizer in the 85th minute to salvage a 1-1 tie before 16,633 at the Florida Citrus Bowl.

"At the end of it, we're pretty satisfied," said Spanish coach Javier Clemente. "Not satisfied with the way we played but satisfied with the outlook."

The tie leaves both France and Spain at the top of the group with four points, although France holds the advantage with a 2-1 goal difference. Australia, which defeated Saudi Arabia 2-1 and will play Spain in Miami on Wednesday, is second with three points. The top two teams advance to the quarterfinals.

"We did not play that well but at the end we played a lot of heart," said Clemente. "What we did was done with heart."

For every Spanish grin, their was a French grimace. Dominant for most of the game, the French put the ball in the net three times but had two of them disallowed _ one on an offside in the 62nd minute, the other on a goalkeeper foul six minutes from the end.

Just 60 seconds later, Garcia took a bouncing cross from forward Raul Blanco and slammed his shot past French goalie Lionel Letizi to save the day for Spain.

The goal was sweet redemption. Early in the second half, Garcia broke through the French defense and was tripped by Patrick Moreau to force a penalty kick. His 12-yard blast, however, was saved by Letizi.

"That's the first penalty kick I've missed in three years," Garcia said. "But I was able to make up for it."

Said French coach Raymond Domenech: "After 15 or 20 minutes into the game, I would have settled for the tie. But for them to get the equalizer at the end is very frustrating."

Both teams showed little inspiration for most of the opening half. Spain enjoyed success against Saudi Arabia using the high cross and adopted the same gameplan against their European rivals in the beginning moments of the game. The strategy soon changed as France adjusted its defensive positioning.

France, 2-0 winners over Australia in Saturday's opening game, showed little of the flash that is commonly associated with French soccer. The team struggled to control the midfield and continuously lost control of the ball.

But in the 36th minute, France forced a left-side corner after a persistent effort from winger Tony Vairelles. The ensuing corner, taken by midfielder Claude Makelele, sailed across the Spanish goal mouth unchallenged onto the head of Sylvain Legwinsky who calmly headed it into the goal to give France a 1-0 lead at half.

USA 2, Tunisia 0

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. _ Jovan Kirovski scored on a direct kick in the first half as the United States stayed alive with a 2-0 victory over Tunisia.

The United States (1-1) will need at least a tie and probably a victory against Portugal on Wednesday to advance to the second round for the first time at the Olympics. Portugal (1-0-1) tied Argentina 1-1 Monday. Australia beat Saudi Arabia 2-1 in other action Monday.

A crowd of 45,687 watched the game at Legion Field. The United States' first game on Saturday drew more than 83,000. When this one was over, the U.S. players toted a banner around the stadium that said, "Thanks, Birmingham." The next stop for the Americans is Washington, D.C.

After storming Tunisia's net with scoring chances late in the first half, the Americans finally broke through when Kirovski was pulled down in front of the penalty area. The forward then blasted the ball over a wall of Tunisian players and past goalkeeper Chokri El Ouaer for a 1-0 lead with seven minutes left in the half.

The U.S. team held a two-man advantage when Brian Maisonneuve scored in the 90th minute.

The start of the game was delayed 15 minutes by a thunderstorm packing heavy rain, lightning and 30-40 mph winds.

Information from Times wires was used in this report.