Argentina 2, Bulgaria 0
MEXICO CITY (AP) _ Jorge Valdano scored in the third minute and Argentina rarely was challenged after that in a 2-0 victory over Bulgaria Tuesday that clinched the World Cup Group A soccer competition for the Argentines.
Argentina, which won the Cup in 1978 and is one of the favorites this year, will play a third-place qualifier next Monday in Puebla.
Bulgaria, which had tied defending champion Italy and South Korea, finished 0-1-2 and only has an outside chance of advancing to the second round. Bulgaria never has won in 15 World Cup games.
Argentine star Diego Maradona, a victim of frequent hard tackles and fouls in the tournament, was fouled for the first time after 30 seconds.
Soon after, Argentina struck for its first goal. Defender Jose Cuciuffo went around Alexander Markov, down the right side, and his pinpoint pass was headed into the net by Valdano. It was the striker’s third goal of the tournament.
The goal forced the Bulgarians to attack but they showed little imagination or power on offense. Their best chance came in the 23rd minute.
Goalie Borislav Mihailov gave Anyo Sadkov a clear run through the middle with a fine pass. But 10 yards outside the penalty area, he was stopped in his tracks by Cuciuffo, who was cautioned for the foul.
It was a wise move by Cuciuffo since, once again, the free kick was wasted as it sailed into the Argentine blocking wall.
In the 35th minute, Maradona found himself with an unusual amount of space on the right. When three defenders challenged him, he dribbled around them all but lost control and could not get off a shot.
Maradona came close again when he left two Bulgarian defenders behind in midfield but misdirected his shot wide of the goalpost.
The crowd got on the Argentines in the second half when they appeared to be playing only to protect the lead.
In the 62nd minute, Argentina created the first opening of the half when a neat interchange between Valdano and Oscar Garre ended with Valdano heading his shot narrowly wide.
In the 76th minute, Jorge Burruchaga clinched it by heading a centering pass from Maradona high into the net.
Maradona, who had begun to fade after his impressive first half, suddenly broke down the left and his pass found the head of Burruchaga, who was perfectly positioned on the far post.