• Jerzy Dudek
    Consider Group H the World Cup's gift to JAPAN. The host with the most is in the group with the least, and passage to second round - and perhaps the quarterfinals - looks well within grasp. Experienced RUSSIA will have plenty to say about this, and so might BELGIUM. If the pressure of playing at home doesn't affect performance, Japan could be one of the Cup's surprises. Frenchman Philippe Troussier has the finest generation of Japanese talent at his disposal, but injury, illness and difficult seasons for players abroad haven't helped preparations. Japan's speed and tactical superiority must …
  • Ahn Jung Hwan
    Consider Group H the World Cup's gift to JAPAN. The host with the most is in the group with the least, and passage to second round - and perhaps the quarterfinals - looks well within grasp. Experienced RUSSIA will have plenty to say about this, and so might BELGIUM. If the pressure of playing at home doesn't affect performance, Japan could be one of the Cup's surprises. Frenchman Philippe Troussier has the finest generation of Japanese talent at his disposal, but injury, illness and difficult seasons for players abroad haven't helped preparations. Japan's speed and tactical superiority must …
  • Pauleta
    Consider Group H the World Cup's gift to JAPAN. The host with the most is in the group with the least, and passage to second round - and perhaps the quarterfinals - looks well within grasp. Experienced RUSSIA will have plenty to say about this, and so might BELGIUM. If the pressure of playing at home doesn't affect performance, Japan could be one of the Cup's surprises. Frenchman Philippe Troussier has the finest generation of Japanese talent at his disposal, but injury, illness and difficult seasons for players abroad haven't helped preparations. Japan's speed and tactical superiority must …
  • Ronaldinho
    Consider Group H the World Cup's gift to JAPAN. The host with the most is in the group with the least, and passage to second round - and perhaps the quarterfinals - looks well within grasp. Experienced RUSSIA will have plenty to say about this, and so might BELGIUM. If the pressure of playing at home doesn't affect performance, Japan could be one of the Cup's surprises. Frenchman Philippe Troussier has the finest generation of Japanese talent at his disposal, but injury, illness and difficult seasons for players abroad haven't helped preparations. Japan's speed and tactical superiority must …
  • GROUP H: Friendly draw spurs Japan's hopes
    Consider Group H the World Cup's gift to JAPAN. The host with the most is in the group with the least, and passage to second round - and perhaps the quarterfinals - looks well within grasp. Experienced RUSSIA will have plenty to say about this, and so might BELGIUM. If the pressure of playing at home doesn't affect performance, Japan could be one of the Cup's surprises. Frenchman Philippe Troussier has the finest generation of Japanese talent at his disposal, but injury, illness and difficult seasons for players abroad haven't helped preparations. Japan's speed and tactical superiority must …
  • GROUP G: Italy blessed with a smooth path
    ITALY may have the best selection of forwards. But can they take penalty kicks? It's been three straight World Cups in which the Italians went home after a tiebreaker from the spot: quarterfinals against France in 1998; final against Brazil in 1994; and semifinal against Argentina in 1990. Such a record should have Coach Giovanni Trapattoni pondering how to parlay his potent strike force into emphatic victories that don't require overtime. Unlikely. The defensive-minded coach will probably instruct his Azzurri to play their usual, patient game - going forward intermittently. He has, in order to get his …
  • GROUP F: Only the strongest will survive
    Those teams thrown into this pit must navigate treacherous territory, then face a probable meeting with defending champion France in either the round of 16 or the semifinals. ARGENTINA is stocked deeply and richly at every position and has adapted so well to Coach Marcelo Bielsa's basic 3-3-1-3 formation that it is the strongest challenger to France's title. His roster teems with skilled flank players but is also strong down the middle and firm at the back. It has enough attackers to relegate Gabriel Batistuta to the bench in favor of Hernan Crespo, Claudio Lopez and Ariel …
  • Group E: Indomitable Lions ready to pounce
    ''Six-foot-two, eyes of blue, Mick McCarthy's after you!'' sang the Irish fans at the 1990 World Cup, IRELAND's first appearance in the finals. McCarthy captained that team, which reached the quarterfinals, marking the zenith of Irish soccer. (Their USA '94 run would end in the round of 16.) McCarthy turned coach in 1996. Although failing to qualify for World Cup '98 and the 2000 European Championship, he reconstructed the team in a manner that may serve it well. Under McCarthy's predecessor, Jack Charlton, Ireland relied on grit and long, high balls. That style's limitations were reflected by …
  • GROUP D: Fearsome threesome awaits U.S.
    Standing between the UNITED STATES and the second round are three opponents, two of which are seeking to reclaim past glories and one desperate to save face. PORTUGAL could be poised for its best World Cup showing in 36 years or set up for a great fall. The talent is unquestioned. Midfielder Luis Figo is the reigning World Player of the Year, strikers Pauleta, Joao Pinto and Nuno Gomes wield sharp finishing strokes, and the tackles and tirades of captain Fernando Couto are feared throughout Europe. The pressure is stultifying. No less than the great Eusebio, hero …
  • GROUP C: Brazilian bullies' eyes on prize
    Ronaldo is back, and so is Bora, but only one of them will matter much when Group C kicks off June 3 in Ulsan. It's a quartet with a distinct top (BRAZIL) and bottom (CHINA), promising an intriguing battle for the second sweet-16 spot. Brazil is, no matter its struggles since France '98, among the contenders for the trophy, which would be its fifth. It may not be reward enough to soothe millions of critics back home. As always, there exists impeccable talent - Ronaldo, finally past a horrendous string of injuries, plus Rivaldo, Roberto Carlos, Ronaldinho, Juninho …
  • The Arena Aura Examined
    With Bruce Arena's honesty comes some tactlessness, with his sharp wit comes a dose of acidic sarcasm and with his confidence comes a bit of arrogance: qualities that have elevated Arena to the top of soccer in this country on several levels. It was in 1998, Bruce Arena's last year at D.C. United, that the MLS club reached the height of its prowess. The two-time defending MLS champions dominated the regular season and despite a loss to Chicago in MLS Cup, captured the CONCACAF Champions Cup, a regional club competition. Nevertheless, Arena needled team president Kevin Payne about his …
  • U.S. History
    That SPAIN's soccer is the world's best is a widely accepted notion in that country - and proof lies in its extraordinary success in European club competitions. But getting a Spaniard to rave about his national team? That would be futile. At best, fans believe Coach Jose Antonio Camacho's squad can reach the second round - something Coach Javier Clemente failed to do after his team arrived in France '98 as a favorite to win it all. Theories abound as to why Spain has managed only one semifinal (1950) appearance in 10 World Cups. Outsiders speculate that the …
  • GROUP B: Strong Spain haunted by history
    That SPAIN's soccer is the world's best is a widely accepted notion in that country - and proof lies in its extraordinary success in European club competitions. But getting a Spaniard to rave about his national team? That would be futile. At best, fans believe Coach Jose Antonio Camacho's squad can reach the second round - something Coach Javier Clemente failed to do after his team arrived in France '98 as a favorite to win it all. Theories abound as to why Spain has managed only one semifinal (1950) appearance in 10 World Cups. Outsiders speculate that the …
  • Group A: The Monsters of the Midfield
    As World Cup openers go, FRANCE-SENEGAL May 31 in Seoul shapes up to be a cracker. It's the 1998 World Cup, 2000 European and 2001 Confederations Cup champions vs. the 2002 African runners-ups. The Bleus vs. the Lions of Teranga. The French foreign legion vs. the Senefs. The teams know each other very well. Twenty of the 23 Senegalese players are based in France. Many players on both teams grew up together in the French youth system. The opener should be decided in midfield, where it will be the battle of the monsters. Senegalese-born Pat Vieira, the …
  • On the Road in Korea
    France star Zinedine Zidane has been ruled out at least through the opener on Friday against Senegal. ... England's David Beckham was a full participant in training for the first time since suffering a broken bone in his foot a month ago. ... Sweden officials have said the severity of attacking midfielder Fredrik Ljungberg's hip injury has been exaggerated. ... German defender Marko Rehmer is unlikely to be ready for a Saturday clash with Saudi Arabia. ... Italy forward Filippo Inzaghi, who trained on Wednesday, believes he'll recover from his knee injury suffered Sunday in time for Monday's match with …
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