Subject: I think they doth protest too much Date: Apr 3, 1997 You will find below the new standings and the complete results from tonight's South American qualifiers for the 1998 Mondial. I went down to my local Latin American place and consumed a couple beer, a couple cokes, a couple empanadas and the Paraguay-Colombia game - certainly one of the wildest I've seen in a long time. I don't know (Ariel, maybe the game in La Paz was just as nuts, based on what I read, but I don't know that it could match the game in Ascuncion for quality of play.) The first half started with a bang, Paraguay getting a free kick well to the right of the Colombian penalty area for what looked like a legitimate challenge from the side (though I suspect we've all seen that sort of thing called a foul before). A neat low, swinging kick was curled in, and a confused Mondragon flapped at it as it bounced in front of him (to defend him _somewhat_, it seemed like a Paraguayan attacker was ready to get to it in before him, so he may have been thinking to react to that), and the entire Colombian team showed that it still lacks a certain defensive culture, as the ball took a funny bounce and went in off the thigh of the Paraguayan #4, whose name I have now forgotten for the third time tonight. 1-0, 8'. Gamarra, that's it. Colombia then proceeded to play a wonderful first half, with Asprilla missing three clear chances including two breakaways (including one that was incorrectly called offside on a wonderful pass from Valderrama, who was in great form - again - it didn't matter, Asprilla hit it softly and Chilavert stopped it anyway). Colombia's midfield (Lozano in place of Rincon) was really positive and creative and clearly outplayed Paraguay's midfield. Paraguay's defense, seemed less sure than I've seen for a handful of games. But they rode their luck to a 1-0 halftime lead. There were no changes to start the second half, and it really wasn't as good as the first half, though Valderrama hit a wicked shot off the crossbar, I no longer remember at what time. But at about 79', things got weird - call it a Latin American moment? (no, that's not a cigarette brand) The game had been played in a very good spirit, only two yellow cards had been given, and the refereeing had been firm, but fair. On a Colombian corner, Asprilla, who had been doing some really good things until it came time to shoot (his only good shot, where he deked out three defenders, then faked right and shot left while _everyone_ seemed to be moving right) was blocked by a fellow attacker who'd drifted into an offside position! (not Aristazabal, the guy with the anglo-sounding name who'd just come on for him). uh, where was I? Asprilla, on this corner seemed to push a defender from behind - fairly lightly, but enough to call a foul. Well, the thespian came out in the defender (I _think_ Ayala) and he began playing the foul up. The camera showed Chilavert come up behind Asprilla, not menacingly at all, then panned upfield where a free kick was being directed. Within 5 seconds, all eyes are back in the area, Chilavert is lying on the ground, Asprilla is being ejected, and can't decide whether to cry or laugh. He trudges off, then 45 seconds later (play had not yet restarted), the referee pulls out a red card for Chilavert and orders a penalty against Paraguay! This leads to some very dramatic scenes involving Chilavert attempting to convince the referee that, because he is captain, he cannot be sent off. Maybe 3 minutes later, he takes his long walk and hugs #22 Ruiz Diaz, who shall come on to replace him. Now, we get real weird. I swear to god, Paraguay have already made 3 substitutions prior to this! I _think_ this is what Valderrama is on about too, because all of a sudden, he is physically holding back and then shoving Ruiz Diaz, preventing him from entering the pitch. Then we see, Mondragon attempting to calm Valderrama, and he and Valderrama begin having a set-to which comes really close to getting physical - then, all hell breaks loose! The Paraguayan police/army whatever come flying in, I believe in an attempt to break up scuffling between Colombian players and ?? (Paraguayan players?) on the sidelines. Aristazabal, already substituted, is sent to the dressing room, presumably for his own safety (?). Chilavert and Asprilla, the expelled ones, hang out watching this on the sidelines, and the police press the Colombian group back towards their covered area. Alvarez acted as conciliator between Valderrama and Mondragon. Ruiz Diaz and Valderrama come to a heartwarming understanding around the penalty spot, which ends in smiles and then Chicho Serna doesn't repeat the error he made in Barranquilla - he ties it up with the penalty. My guess is that there should be about 10 minutes left at this point. The TV people finally find a _very_ long angle shot of the altercation between Asprilla and Chilavert and it looks like the jostled lightly, then Chilavert went down as if injured. Who knows... From the time Paraguay scored, they rarely looked dangerous, and one began to wonder if Colombia was actually going to steal a win. Of course, you know what's going to happen... Maybe 2 minutes later, Paraguay gets a free kick, maybe 35 yards from Colombia's net, it drifts to an attacker on the right, who Galeano has rather forgotten about, he heads it diagonally across the front of the net, heading just past the far post, and in comes Soto, I think, at 100 mph, to slide in and put it in an empty net! Again, it just seemed the whole Colombian defense went to sleep, and Mondragon must take some of the blame for that goal too. A minute or two later, De Avila comes on for Alvarez, he has one chance, but wastes it woefully. Colombia don't really seem to believe in themselves at this point. But they've got about 5 minutes, plus any injury time, I figure. Except, the referee then whistles the end of the game! Certainly, the crowd at the place I was at were shocked, and that includes the handful of non-Colombian fans. So, there you go, 2-1 Paraguay, the wacko referee was the Brazilian Mendonca ("ahhh, see?", says Ariel), some excellent football, some wonderful dramatic interpretations, and this correspondent has a handful of questions for you all: 1. What the hell happened between Asprilla and Chilavert? 2. Why was Chilavert sent off so much later than Asprilla? 3. What merited the penalty? I can try a guess that the referee was alerted by his linesman that Chilavert was acting, but did that merit 2 and 3? 4. What the hell happened on the sidelines? The police act like they had been specifically commanded by god to urgently restore order in the entire continent... 5. Paraguay had already made 3 subsitutions, hadn't they? If so, how the hell were they allowed to make a fourth? 6. What the hell happened to the time at the end of the game? 7. Was one pattie and two empanadas really enough to eat for dinner? 8. Should I have been more forward with Alejandra, the cute girl from Barranquilla? Any answers that can be provided will be greatly appreciated.