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Crespo, Saviola help Argentina beat Ivory Coast 2-1

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June 12, 2006

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HAMBURG, Germany: Argentina kept the Elephants from dancing in their World Cup debut.

Hernan Crespo and Javier Saviola took advantage of some shaky defence to score first-half goals, leading Argentina over Ivory Coast 2-1 Saturday in the first game of what many think is the toughest group at the World Cup.

Didier Drogba, a key to Chelsea’s two straight English Premier League titles, got Ivory Coast’s goal in the 82nd minute, just missing a header, and then converting from out in front after the ball was played back.

Argentina won their fourth straight World Cup opener and next play Serbia-Montenegro on Friday, when Ivory Coast meet the Netherlands.

Ivory Coast, which got past African power Cameroon to qualify for the first time, were dressed in bright orange jerseys, and so was their fans. The supporters serenade the team with “When the Elephants dance, it’s the ground that suffers” after wins, but they didn’t have much to sing about. Argentina fans, in their blue-and-white-striped shirts, filled the other end.

Lionel Messi, Argentina’s rising 18-year-old star who plays for European champion FC Barcelona, did not get into the game, which featured entertaining, end-to-end action.

After being outplayed early, Argentina nearly went ahead in the 14th minute when Roberto Ayala had a powerful header from about 10 metres off Juan Roman Riquelme’s corner kick. The ball bounced off the hands of goalkeeper Jean-Jacques Tizie and his right post, then came back at least partially — and may be completely over the line.

Tizie, his back to the field, bobbled it before gathering it in, and Argentine players argued after Belgian referee Frank De Bleeckere failed to signal a goal.

Crespo scored in the 24th off a free kick by Riquelme. The ball bounced off a leaping Drogba and bounced into the penalty area, where Crespo kicked it in from about 5 metres for his 30th goal in 56 international appearances. Drogba

argued to no avail that he had been fouled by Gabriel Heinze.

Saviola got Argentina’s second goal in the 38th, breaking ahead to receive Riquelme’s through ball.

Tizie came out and Saviola slotted the ball in from the left of the penalty spot for his 10th international goal. Replays showed that Saviola and Crespo, who was on the left side, were nearly offside.

Before a crowd of 49,480, Ivory Coast had plenty of scoring chances. Kader Keita may have had the best in the first half, a point-blank header in the 35th from 6 metres after a flick header by Drogba, but Keita was stopped by goalkeeper Roberto Abbondanzieri.

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