The wait is over; from the U.S.’s bid for redemption to France’s bid to repeat as champion, here is our comprehensive guide to the planet’s biggest sporting event

The wait is over; from the U.S.’s bid for redemption to France’s bid to repeat as champion, here is our comprehensive guide to the planet’s biggest sporting event – The 2002 World Cup

MORE THAN TWO YEARS AFTER World Cup qualifying humbly began with CONCACAF first-round wins by El Salvador, Honduras, and Trinidad and Tobago, the 32 finalists will take the field. Co-hosted by Japan and South Korea, the World Cup kicks off on May 31 and runs through June 30.

Here is our look at the 2002 World Cup finals field:

GROUP A

FRANCE

Number of finals appearances: 11

World Cup finals record: 21-14-6

Coach: Roger Lemerre

Probable lineup (4-5-1): Fabien Barthez; Bixente Lizarazu, Frank Lebouf, Marcel Desailly, Lilian Thuram; Emmanuel Petit, Patrick Viera, Zinedine Zidane, Thierry Henry, Christophe Dugarry; David Trezeguet

Most of the team that took the victory lap at Stade de France four years ago is back. That could be a blessing or a curse.

The biggest difference between then and now is that the 2002 squad has a pair of legitimate strikers: Thierry Henry, who terrorizes defenders with his speed, and David Trezeguet, the team’s most accomplished finisher. Zinedine Zidane, who turns 30 in June, still runs the midfield. The team will sorely miss Robert Pires, who wrecked his knee in March.

If there is a worry, it is the defense, the team’s strength in 1998. The aging back line averages 32 years a man, and Fabien Barthez’s weaknesses have been exposed during his time in the Manchester United net. If France wins, it will become the first country to earn back-to-back crowns since Brazil in 1958 and 1962.

Bottom line: Anything less than a first-place finish will be considered a disaster.

DENMARK

Number of finals appearances: Three

All-time World Cup finals records: 5-3-1

Coach: Morten Olsen

Probable lineup (4-2-3-1): Thomas Sorenson; Jan Heintze, Rene Henriksen, Martin Laursen, Thomas Helveg; Thomas Gravesen, Stig Tofting; Jesper Gronkjaer, Martin Jorgenson, Jon Dahl Tomasson; Ebbe Sand

For a country with only 5.3 million people, Danish soccer has acquitted itself well over the past decade. A last-minute replacement for the suspended Yugoslavia at Euro `92, Denmark won the whole thing. It then reached the quarterfinals of France `98, losing to Brazil in one of the Cup’s best matches.

The only recent aberration was Euro 2000. But after the not-so-great Danes struggled there–no goals in three losses–they rebounded nicely, going undefeated in Cup qualifying (6-0-4). The strengths of this revamped side are central midfielders Thomas Gravesen and Stig Tofting and Bundesliga star Ebbe Sand.

Bottom line: The Danes will get out of the group and perhaps pull off a surprise or two in the later rounds.

URUGUAY

Number of finals appearances: 10

All-time World Cup finals records: 15-14-8

Coach: Victor Pua

Probable lineup (4-4-2): Fabian Carini; David Rodriquez, Washington Tais, Paolo Montero, Alejandro Lembo; Gonzalo de los Santos, Gianni Guigou, Pablo Garcia, Nicolas Olivera; Dado Silva, Alvaro Recoba

According to ancient World Cup history, Uruguay produced some of soccer’s greatest teams. The South Americans captured gold medals in the 1924 and 1928 Summer Olympics and won the first World Cup, in 1930. The Uruguayans also surprised host Brazil to win the 1950 World Cup title. This year, however, is their first trip to the finals since 1990.

Victor Pua’s side allowed a region-low 13 goals in 18 matches. The attack, however, was anemic, scoring only 19 goals. Dario Silva (six goals) did his part, but superb dribbler Alvaro Recoba must improve his play.

Bottom line: This year, the Uruguayans will be hard-pressed to make history.

SENEGAL

Number of finals appearance: One

Coach: Bruno Metsu

Bottom lineup (5-3-2): Tony Sylva; Omar Daf, Larime Diatta, Pape Sarr, Aliou Cisse, Ferdinand Coly; Pape Bouba Diop, Makhtar N’Diaye, Khalilouu Fadiga; El Hadji Diouf, Henri Camara

Life is difficult enough for World Cup debutantes, but Senegal faces a double whammy when it meets mighty France in the event’s opener. French soccer fans will know both teams well: Twenty-two Senegal players perform in the French First Division, many of whom were born and raised in that country.

Senegal, a former French colony, has gone from an also-ran to an elite African side in recent years, placing second at the 2002 African Nations Cup. The team’s key players include Khaililou Fadiga, who nearly became a Belgian citizen in order to play for that country’s national team, and El Hadji Diouf, who scored eight of the team’s 18 goals during qualifying.

Bottom line: Coach Bruno Metsu, also a Frenchman, has his work cut out for him. The last World Cup finals newbie to advance was Costa Rica, in 1990.

GROUP B

PARAGUAY

Number of finals appearances: Six

All-time World Cup finals record: 15-6-4

Coach: Cesare Maldini

Probable lineup (3-5-2): Jose Luis Chilavert; Celso Ayala, Carlos Gamarra, Francisco Arce; Guido Alvaernga, Julio Cesar Enciso, Carlos Paredes, Roberto Acuna, Estanislao Struway; Jose Cardozo, Roque Santa Cruz

Paraguay was unlucky to go home after the second round in `98, ousted by a golden goal against France, and is confident it will have at least as much success this year. Unfortunately, recently appointed coach Cesare Maldini may do more harm than good. Former coach Sergio Markarian led the team to its best recent performances–wins over Brazil, Colombia, and Uruguay–before falling out with the federation. Enter Maldini, who b_as made changes, insisting on the three-back set favored by Italians.

No matter how many defenders it fields, the team’s strength win be that unit, just as it was in `98. Goaltender Jose Luis Chilavert takes penalty kicks and free kicks as well as striking fear into opposing attackers. In front of him are sweeper Celso Ayala and the physical duo of Carlos Gamarra and Francisco Arce. Unlike 1998, Paraguay now has a star striker, Roque Santa Cruz. The lanky, precocious Bayern Munich man is a legitimate game-breaker.

Bottom line: Paraguay will find itself playing a couple of extra matches if its effort isn’t undermined by Maldini’s tactics.

SPAIN

Number of finals appearances: 11

All-time World Cup finals records: 16-15-9

Coach: Jose Antonio Camacho

Probable lineup (4-4-2): Santiago Canizares; Sergi, Nadal, Hierro, Carlos Puyol; Guardiola, Vicente, Gaizka Mendieta, Ivan Helguera; Raul, Fernando Morientes

Spain is keen to erase the memory of its first-round ouster from France `98, another disappointing performance for a nation that has brimmed with talent but hasn’t advanced beyond the World Cup quarterfinals in more than 50 years.

The time to grasp international glory may have passed for too many of Spain’s key players. The defense is aged, to say the least. Central defenders Hierro and Nadal and left back Sergi–among the world’s greatest in the mid- to late 1990s–are, incredibly, still on the lineup card.

The midfield is no less of a worry, full of skilled players who recently suffered through periods of inactivity, most notably Guardiola (banned for four months for a failed drug test) and Gaizka Mendieta (out of favor at Lazio). The good news is Raul, the world’s best marksman, leads the forward line.

Bottom line: Spain tore through a weak qualifying group, but once the minutes accumulate for the aged defense and out-of-form midfield, things will turn sour.

SLOVENIA

Number of finals appearances: One

Coach: Srecko Katanec

Bottom lineup (3-4-2-1): Marko Simeunovic; Marinko Galic, Aleksander Knavs, Zeljko Milinovic; Ales Ceh, Djoni Novak, Miran Pavlin; Zlatko Zahovic, Mladen Rudonja; Milan Osterc

This is an unlikely second straight appearance in a major championship for Slovenia, which also qualified for the Euro 2000 finals. This intelligent group carefully picks its moments to push forward and aims not necessarily for wins but to avoid losses. In qualifying, the approach worked: Slovenia only won six of 12 games but never lost, despite stiff competition from Russia, Yugoslavia, and Romania.

The leader of the team is co-attacking midfielder Zlatko Zahovic, an influential figure who has netted more than 30 goals for his country. Zahovic excels as a playmaker as well, and will be charged with creating opportunities for fellow front-runners Mladen Rudonja and Milan Osterc.

Defensively, the team enters the tournament on shaky ground with an injury worry to Bundesliga regular Alesander Knavs and unpredictable goaltending.

Bottom line: a opponents can remove Zahovic’s influence, Slovenia will be sunk.

SOUTH AFRICA

Number of finals appearances: Two

All-time World Cup finals record: 0-1-2

Coach: Jomo Sono

Probable lineup (4-4-2): Hans Vonk; Bradley Carnell, Pierre Issa, Mark Fish, Mbuelo Mabizela; Eric Tinkler, Quinton Fortune, Sibusiso Zuma, Thabo Mngomeni; Shaun Bartlett, Benni McCarthy

After an encouraging 1998 Cup, at which South Africa’s only loss was to France, the team has regressed, finding it difficult to inject new talent into the lineup.

In a last-ditch rescue effort, South Africa switched coaches following its dismal 2002 African Nations Cup performance (one win in four matches). An easy qualifying draw left South Africa with an inflated sense of self-belief. Worse, its best player, Leeds star Lucas Radebe, will miss the finals due to injury.

MLS watchers may be surprised to learn that Shuan Bartlett is the team’s top striker and captain. South Africa’s all-time leading goal-scorer crapped out in the U.S. but rejuvenated his game in the English First Division.

Bottom line: Even in a group without much pedigree, it’s difficult to believe this team can match its one-loss, two-draw record from four years ago.

GROUP C

BRAZIL

Number of finals appearances: 17

All-time World Cup finals records: 53-13-14

Coach: Luiz Felipe Scolari

Probable line-up (44-2): Roberto Carlos, Cafu, Edmilson, Lucio; Emerson, Juninho, Rivaldo, Ronaldinho; Luizao, Ronaldo

It doesn’t matter where a World Cup is held–Europe, South America, Asia, or the moon–Brazil is usually considered a favorite. But this Brazilian team is differentiate went through three coaches in the past two years and struggled to qualify. [See our feature on Brazil on page 50.]

The Brazilians eventually settled on Luiz Felipe Scolari, a no-nonsense, defense-first coach. By the time “Big Phil” and his team secured a 17th Cup berth (that’s every World Cup ever played), an unstable Brazil had used an incredible 62 different players in 18 matches.

Speculation about the Brazilian attack still focuses on the three R’s: Romario, Ronaldo, and Rivaldo. Romario is past his prime, but has the full support of Brazilian fans. Ronaldo is struggling with injuries at a time when he should be in his prime. Rivaldo is in his prime but rarely plays his best for his country.

Others must step forward and play key roles. Among the candidates are fox-in-the-box Luizao; Ronaldinho, who fell out of favor with Brazil’s previous coach; and dynamic Denilson, the team’s supersub.

Bottom line: The group should be no trouble; Brazil’s real challenge lies in the second round and beyond.

TURKEY

Number of finals appearances: Two

All-time World Cup finals record: 1-2-0

Coach: Senol Gunes

Probable lineup (3-5-2): Rustu Recber; Umit Ozat, Alpay, Emre Asik; Hakan Unsal, Okan Buruk, Ergun Penbe, Yildiray Basturk; Arif Erdem, Hakan Sukur

The last time Turkey participated in the event, Pele was four years away from making his World Cup debut. That was 48 years and 11 World Cups ago. This time the Turks will avoid the humiliation of 1954, when they lost to West Germany, 4-1 and 7-2.

Turkey’s best players are Hakan Sukur, who scored in six of 11 qualifiers, and Rustu Recber, one of Europe’s best goalkeepers. Sukur’s running mate up front is his Galatasaray partner, Arif Erdem.

Bottom line: Grouped with weaklings Costa Rica and China, Turkey should advance to the next round. But don’t expect much more after that.

COSTA RICA

Number of finals appearance: Two

All-time World Cup finals record: 2-2-0

Coach: Alexandro Guimaraes

Probable lineup (3-5-2): Erick Lonnis; Reynaldo Parks, Gilberto Martinez, Harold Wallace; Carlos Castro, Jervis Drummond, Maurico Solis, Walter Centeno, Ronald Gomez; Ronaldo Fonseca, Paolo Wanchope

In 1990, Costa Rica turned heads, reaching the second round at the expense of more fancied competition. The Central Americans will be hard-pressed to duplicate that feat, but they shouldn’t be counted out, thanks to coach Alexandre Guimaraes. Costa Rica forged an 8-1-2 qualifying record under the Brazilian.

Costa Rica’s success could depend on the health of Manchester City’s Paulo Wanchope (seven qualifying goals), who injured his knee in March. His availability for June is in question. American fans will notice some familiar names: former MLS midfielders Mauricio Solis and William Sunsing.

Bottom line: The Costa Ricans are on the first-round bubble. Advancement will come down to their match against Turkey.

CHINA

Number of finals appearances: One

Coach: Bora Milutinovic

Probable lineup: (44-2): Hang Jim; Wu Chengying, Sun Jihai, Fan Zhiyi, Li Weifeng; Ma Mingyu, Li Xiaopeng, Li Tie, Qi Hong; Qu Bo, Hao Haidong

The star of the team is coach, Bora Milutinovic, the only man to direct five countries to the World Cup finals: Mexico (1986), Costa Rica (1990), the U.S. (1994), Nigeria (1998), and China (2002). Impressively, each of the first four reached the second round.

Like most Milutinovic teams, China is strong in the back. Led by Fan Zhiyi, it allowed only five goals in 14 qualifiers. Hao Haidong, 31 and considered one of the best-ever Asian forwards, finally gets an opportunity to shine on a world stage.

Bottom line: A tie would be considered a major victory for China.

GROUP D

PORTUGAL

Number of finals appearances: Three

All-time World Cup finals record: 6-3-0

Coach: Antonio Oliveira

Bottom lineup (4-2-3-1): Ricardo Pereira; Rui Jorge, Frecaut, Fernando Couto, Jorge Costa; Petit, Rui Costa; Luis Figo, Joao Pinto, Sergio Conceicao; Pauleta

This is the end of the road for Portugal’s “golden generation,” the skillful group that came to prominence when it won the 1989 and `91 World Youth Championships.

Since then, those players have been individually marvelous–particularly the peerless Luis Figo–but have yet to succeed as senior internationals. Incredibly, this is their first World Cup. Their introduction is eased by a dream draw–the team is the clear favorite in this group.

In the run-up to the Cup, however, all did not go according to plan. Rui Costa suffered an ankle injury that may cause him to miss the finals, and Portugal’s squad players were put to the test in March against Finland and failed miserably, losing at home, 4-1.

Bottom line: In less than a year, Portugal has gone from a darkhorse to outside favorite to a potential disappointment.

UNITED STATES

Number of finals appearances: Seven

All-time World Cup finals records: 4-12-1

Coach: Bruce Arena

Probable lineup (4-4-2): Kasey Keller; David Regis, Jeff Agoos, Eddie Pope, Tony Sanneh; Chris Armas, John O’Brien, Earnie Stewart, Claudio Reyna; Bilan McBride, Clint Mathis

For the U. S., it has been a long four years since disorganization, infighting, and a lack of confidence resulted in a three-loss, 32nd-place finish in France. New coach Bruce Arena cheekily insists that the team’s goal is to improve on its 1998 performance.

On one hand, there’s no reason to think this team can’t succeed. It breezed through the first half of World Cup qualifying, enjoyed wins over Argentina and Germany in the past couple of years, outplayed Italy on the road for 45 minutes in March, and won the Gold Cup with a largely MLS-based squad. On the other hand, the U.S. collapsed in the second half of the Hexagonal and was issued a harsh wake-up call when Germany physically overpowered it in a 4-2 March loss.

The team’s worst showings have coincided with injuries to midfielders Claudio Reyna and John O’Brien. Their ability to control a game and hold and move the ball under pressure cannot be replaced. They also free Chris Armas to do his excellent bulldog work in front of the back line. Add Clint Mathis’ heroics and world-class goaltending, and the U.S. should squeeze into the second round. The weak link is a defense that features sluggish centermen and outside backs that invite calamity with every touch.

Bottom line: Arena wants to do better than the U.S. did in 1098 and Mathis wants to win the Cup. The reality is that the U.S. should reach the second round, which should please both men–and long-surfering U.S. fans.

POLAND

Number of finals appearances: Six

All-time World Cup finals record: 13-7-5

Coach: Jerzy Engel

Probable lineup (4-4-2): Jerzy Dudek; Michal Zewlakow; Tomasz Waldoch, Tomasz Hajto, Tomasz Klos; Radoslaw Kaluzny, Marek Kozminski, Bartosz Karwan; Piotr Swierczewski; Pawel Kryszalowicz, Emmanuel Olisadebe

Poland’s lumbering, physical approach doesn’t inspire a lot of respect, but this is easily the most successful World Cup nation in the group, placing third in both the 1974 and 1982 Cups.

Poland has momentum after plowing through qualifying and is led by a solid, intimidating back line. The stars of the defense–the Tomaszs’ Waldoch, Klos, and Hajto–play in the Bundesliga and are battle-tested. That’s a good thing considering Poland’s shaky midfield often leaves them and star goalie Jerzy Dudek stranded.

The rest of the team isn’t as prepared for the Cup grind. Even Emmanuel Olisadebe, Poland’s naturalized, Nigerian-born star striker, has had a difficult time finding the lineup with Panathanaikos.

Bottom line: If coach Jerzy Engel can rally the offense, the Poles will advance.

SOUTH KOREA

Number of finals appearances: Six

All-time World Cup finals records: 0-10-4

Coach: Guus Hiddink

Bottom lineup (3-5-2): Ahn Jung-Hwan; Hong Myung-Bo, Choi Sung-Young, Chul Yoo-Sang; Song Chong-Gug, Kim Nae-Il, Lee Eul-Yong, Lee Chun-Soo, Choi TaeWook; Hwang Sun-Hong, Choi Yong-Soo

No host country has failed to advance beyond the first stage of the World Cup. South Korea will likely be the first.

South Korea is Asia’s most experienced World Cup nation, having qualified for five previous Cup finals–including the past four–yet the Koreans are still looking for their first World Cup win.

There is new optimism, however, thanks to coach Guus Hiddink. The Dutch tactitian was toasted early in his tenure after wins over Australia and Mexico, but victories have been rare in recent months.

Hard-working and physical, the South Koreans prefer a direct approach and excel on the counterattack. Their lack of talent is masked by heart, and the team should receive a boost from its home crowds.

Bottom line: Although ifs not out of the question that the Koreans will advance, it’s not likely either.

GROUP E

GERMANY

Number of finals appearances: 15

All-time Cup finals record: 48-16-14

Contact: Rudi Voller

Probable lineup (3-5-2): Oliver Kahn; Jens Nowotny, Christian Worns, Marko Rehmer; Jens Jeremies, Sebastian Deisler, Michael Ballack, Marco Bode, Bernd Schneider; Carsten Jancker, Oliver Neuville

The Germans barely kept their perfect World Cup qualification record alive after being taken apart at home by England, 5-1, in September 2001, but they soon returned to their dominant selves, trashing their next four opponents, including the U.S., by a combined score of 16-4.

The team’s famous steel and confidence restored, it still must struggle against injuries and a surprising lack of skill. Coach Rudi Voller has quite a few selection questions as well, chief of which is whether two of his three defensive midfielders–Jens Jeremies, Dieter Hamman, and Carsten Ramelow–can play together (and, if not, which to field).

Injuries could simplify the selection process. Alexander Zickler and Markus Babbel are already out, and Bayern Munich star Mehmet Scholl will likely be forced to the sidelines, too. Fortunately, Sebastian Deisler recovered from a knee operation in time to support the attack.

Bottom line: Despite the recent struggles, don’t be surprised if the Germans advance further than predicted. After all, this is the nation that broke the hearts of the two greatest teams never to win the World Cup: Hungary’s Magical Magyars in 1954 and the Total Football team of the Netherlands in 1974.

CAMERON

Number of finals appearances: Five

All-time World Cup finals record: 3-5-6

Coach: Winfried Schafer

Probable lineup (3-5-2): Boukar Alioum; Raymond Kalla, Rigobert Song, Bill Tchato; Pierre Wome, Geremi Njitap, Lauren, Salomon Olembe, Marc-Vivien Foe; Samuel Eto’o, Patrick Mboma

The reigning African and Olympic champion, Cameroon is no longer a plucky outsider. This darkhorse team has a solid defense to match its skilled attack, a rare combination for an African side.

German coach Winfried Schafer, appointed in November 2001, led the team to a successful defense of the African Nations Cup, but this bunch is scattered across Europe and plays in vastly different systems. That could be a problem.

The only African team to qualify for five World Cup finals, Cameroon is led by striker Patrick Mboma, hardman defender Rigobert Song–whose rough tactics got him tossed out of games in each of the past two Cups–and Arsenal’s Lauren.

Bottom line: If it advances out of this competitive group, battle-tested Cameroon could go as far as the semifinals.

IRELAND

Number of finals appearances: Three

All-time World Cup finals record: 2-3-4

Coach: Mick McCarthy

Probable lineup (4-4-2): Shay Given; Ian Harte, Steve Staunton, Gary Breen, Gary Kelly; Roy Keane, Mark Kinsella, Damien Duff; Jason McAteer; Robbie Keane, Clinton Morrison

Entering the World Cup finals, few teams have Ireland’s momentum. But that still may not be enough to overcome a difficult draw. Irish hopes have been raised by the emergence of Damien Duff, who could be one of the breakout stars of the tournament. The nifty left wing orchestrated a 3-0 thrashing of Denmark in March.

Manchester United captain Roy Keane will lead the team from central midfield alongside either Matt Holland or Mark Kinsella. The forward duo of Robbie Keane and Clinton Morrison should score its share of goals. Unfortunately, a central defensive pairing of Steve Staunton and Gary Breen should guarantee that the Irish allow plenty of goals, despite goal-tender Shay Given.

Bottom line: The draw was hardly lucky for the Irish, but so far McCarthy’s boys have succeeded. If it advances, Ireland is capable of reaching the quarterfinals.

SAUDI ARABIA

Number of finals appearances: Three

All-time World Cup finals records: 2-4-1

Coach: Nasser Al-Johar

Probable lineup (4-4-2): Mohammed Al-Deayea; Hussain Sulimani, Mohammed Al-Khilaiwi, Abdullah Zubromawi, Ahmed Dukhi Al-Dosari; Omar Al-Ghamdi, Mohammed Al-Shlhoob, Abdullah Al-Shahrani, Nawaf Al-Temyat; Obaid Al-Dosari, Sami Al-Jaber

Japan and Iran get more plaudits, but Saudi Arabia has quietly emerged as Asia’s most consistent team. The Saudis have played in five consecutive Asian Cup finals and have qualified for the past three World Cup finals. In 1994, Saudi Arabia became the first Asian team to advance in a World Cup since North Korea in 1966.

This year the Saudis won’t be as lucky. Already unsettled, using eight coaches in the past six years, an injury to defensive midfielder Khamis Al-Dosari may have been the fatal blow. On the plus side, the Saudis play solid, entertaining soccer. This is a technicaUy adept team that has a dynamo worth watching in forward Sami Al-Jaber.

Bottom line: This capable team was unfortunate in the draw and will likely have to seek solace in moral victories.

GROUP F

ARGENTINA

Number of finals appearances: 13

All-time World Cup finals record: 29-18-10

Coach: Marcelo Bielsa

Probable lineup (3-3-1-2-1): German Burgos; Roberto Ayala, Nestor Sensini, Walter Samuel; Diego Simeone, Ariel Ortega, Juan Pablo Sorin; Juan Sebastian Veron; Kily Gonzalez, Javier Zanetti; Hernan Crespo

In 1978, the Argentine economy and inflation rates spun out of control, and it took a World Cup crown to quell the nationwide uneasiness. A generation later, history could repeat itself–Argentina is the Cups co-favorite amidst the country’s recent financial woes. There is one major difference: Twenty-four years ago, Argentina was the host nation.

Coach Marcelo Bielsa enjoys an embarrassment of riches–especially up front, where he has the country’s past (Gabriel Batistuta), present (Hernan Crespo), and future (Javier Saviola) strikers. Bielsa insists that he’ll only play one “alpha” striker so no matter whom he chooses (most likely Crespo), his decision will be controversial.

The team’s overflow of talent doesn’t stop there. The Argentines boast an intimidating midfield, which includes Juan Sebastian Veron, the focal point of the attack; Ariel Ortega, who has inherited Diego Maradona’s No. 10 and temperamental nature; and Diego Simeone, who is recovering from knee surgery.

Bottom line: Virtually everyone’s favorite to reach the title game, the Argentines have everything to lose.

ENGLAND

Number of finals appearances: 11

All-time World Cup finals record: 20-12-13

Coach: Sven Goran-Eriksson

Probable lineup (4-4-2): David Seaman; Ashley Cole, Sol Campbell, Gareth Southgate, Gary Neville; Steven Gerrard, Keiron Dyer, David Beckham, Paul Scholes; Michael Owen, Emile Heskey

When Swede Sven Goran-Eriksson took over as coach in 2001, the English Football Association was severely criticized by many fans and observers for hiring a foreigner. At the time, England was a pitiful 0-1-1 in qualifying and in sad shape. No one is complaining now. Eriksson has organized the team into a dangerous side, removing the long ball and adding some continental flavor.

England’s hopes fall on the boots of 22-year-old Michael Owen, who will partner up front with either current Liverpool teammate Emile Heskey or former Reds mate Robbie Fowler. David Beckham should recover from an April ankle injury in rime to direct the midfield.

Bottom line: England has a history of disappointing its followers, but this year the results could match expectations.

SWEDEN

Number of finals appearances: 10

All-time World Cup finals records: 14-15-9

Coaches: Tommy Soderberg and Lars Lagerback

Bottom lineup (4-4-2): Magnus Hedman; Erik Edman, Patrick Andersson, Kleber Saarenpaa, Olof Mellberg;, Tobias Linderoth, Frederik Ljungberg, Niclas Alexandersson, Anders Svensson; Marcus Allback, Henrik Larsson

This small country without a high-profile league has acquitted itself well at the World Cup. The Swedes finished second to Brazil in 1958 and took third at USA `94. However, getting into the second round in 2002 would be nearly as spectacular.

That isn’t to say the Swedes don’t have skill–they just surfer a difficult draw. Sweden is not only talented, but its also well organized. And it should be: In one of the most unusual coaching scenarios in Cup history, two men–Tommy Soderberg and Lars Lagerback–guide the team.

The Swedes were forced to rebuild in the middle of qualifying, jettisoning some stale vets. It worked. Forward Marcus Allback and midfielder Tobias Linderoth are among the new stars who provided much-needed zest. Forward Henrik Larsson, who connected for eight goals in 10 qualifiers, is still the star man.

Bottom line: This solid side happens to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

NIGERIA

Number of finals appearances: Three

All-time World Cup finals record: 4-4-0

Coach: Festus Onigbinde

Probable lineup (44-2): Ike Shorunmu; Joseph Yobo, Taribo West, Ifeanyi Udeze, Isaac Okoronkwo; Garba Lawal, Jay-Jay Okocha, Finidi George, Sunday Oliseh; Julius Aghahowa, Kanu

The 1996 Olympic gold medalist has achieved little at the World Cup, bowing out in the second round in 1994 and `98.

After a disappointing third-place finish in the 2002 African Nations Cup, Nigeria fired Shaibu Amodu and hired Festus Onigbinde as coach. Onigbinde decided to shake things up and leave off a number of internationally tested veterans for spring friendlies. This ploy could come back to bite the Nigerians. Assuming Onigbinde opts for experience, he has some solid players. Taribo West leads the back line, Jay-Jay Okocha and Garba Lawal run the midfield, and Kanu stars up front.

Bottom line: If Nigeria gets its act together on and off the field, look out. That’s unlikely, however, so a last-place finish isn’t out of the question.

GROUP G

ITALY

Number of finals appearances: 15

All-time World Cup finals record: 38-15-13

Coach: Giovanni Trapattoni

Probable lineup (4-3-1-2): Gianluigi Buffon, Paolo Maldini, Fabio Cannavaro, Ales-sandro Nesta, Gianluca Pessotto; Damiano Tommasi, Gianluca Zambratto, Demetrio Albertini; Francesco Totti; Christian Vieri, Alessandro Del Piero

The three-time world champion plays not to lose, and that strategy has worked: The team has only lost two matches in regulation in the past five World Cup finals and has been knocked out of the past three on penalty kicks. Plus, in the Euro 2000 final it took a last-gasp, 120th-minute goal from France to defeat the Italians. The defense is outstanding. Left back Paolo Maldini is a legend and Fabio Cannavaro and Alessandro Nesta are the world’s best central defensive pair.

If attackers Christian Vieri, Francesco Totti and Alessandro Del Piero–who suffered through a miserable tournament four years ago–are all in form, Italy could take the Cup.

Bottom line: Italy has the fortune of being drawn in the bracket opposite of France and Argentina and has the best chance of meeting one of those two in the final.

CROATIA

Number of finals appearances: Two

All-time World Cup finals record: 5-2-0

Coach: Mirko Jozic

Bottom lineup: Stipe Pletikosa; Robert Kovac, Dario Simic, Igor Stimad, Igor Tudor; Zvonimir Soldo, Robert Jarni, Robert Prosinecki, Mario Stanic; Alen Boksic, Davor Suker

In 1998, Croatia finished third in its first World Cup, led by the heroics of Golden Boot winner Davor Suker. The Croats believe they can repeat that success.

In Suker, Alen Boksic, and Robert Prosinecki, Croatia has a dynamic attacking trio. Croatia doesn’t make any attempt to hide that group’s influence, dedicating most of its lineup to players with defensive duties–including center back Igor Tudor and Robert Kovac, two of the world’s best.

Bottom line: The Croats should get out of the first round, but the team’s offensive stars may no longer have the imagination or elegance to achieve in the later stages.

MEXICO

Number of finals appearances: 12

All-time World Cup finals record: 8-21-8

Coach: Javier Aguirre

Probable lineup (4-4-2): Oscar Perez; Rafael Marquez, Manuel Vidrio, Helvin Brown, Claudio Suarez; Alberto Garcia Aspe, Johan Rodriquez, Braulio Luna, Geraro Torrado; Cuauhtemoc Blanco, Francisco Palenda

CONCACAF’s traditional power faced the unthinkable: Midway through the final round of Cup qualifying, Mexico had one win and little hope. Enter Javier Aguirre The fiery Aguirre shook up the team and the CONCACAF standings. Satiated veterans were out, and hungry young players were in. It worked. In the second hall of the Hexagonal, Mexico earned 14 of 15 points and squeezed into the finals.

Since then, the reconstruction effort has hit a few snags. Inspirational midfielders Alberto Garcia Aspe and Claudio Suarez and striker Cuauhtemoc Blanco–the experienced players Aguirre didn’t drop–were injured in the run-up to the Far East, damaging Mexico’s preparation. The personnel problems don’t end once the team steps off the plane, either. Jesus Arellano will miss the first two games of the finals due to suspension.

Bottom line: Hard luck will probably undermine the team’s hard work.

ECUADOR

Number of finals appearances: One

Coach: Hernan Dario Gomez

Probable lineup (4-4-2): Jose Francisco Cevallos; Paul Guerron. Ivan Hurtado, Giovany Espinoza, Ulises de la Cruz; Edwin Tenorio, Cieber Chala, Edison Mendez, Alex Aguinaga; Agustin Delgado, Ivan Kaviedes

The biggest surprise in South American qualifying wasn’t Brazil’s struggle but Ecuador’s success. The tiny Andean nation, which had never qualified for a Cup, placed second, thanks to a 6-1-2 record in its high-altitude home games.

Ecuador must control the midfield and keep the opposition off of its the flanks if it is to succeed. Ironically, the defense is particularly susceptible in the air. Strikers Agustin Delgado and Ivan Kaviedes–an opportunistic pair–must take advantage of their limited opportunities.

Bottom line: Ecuador would be a favorite to advance–if the finals were in Quito.

GROUP H

RUSSIA

Number of finals appearances: Nine

All-time World Cup finals record: 16-12-6

Coach: Oleg Romantsev

Probable lineup (3-8-2): Ruslan Nigmatullin; Igor Chugainov, Victor Onopko, Yuri Nikiforov; Daniel Alenichev, Yuri Kotvun, Valeri Karpin, Yeger Titov, Dmitri Khokhlov; Alexander Panov, Vladimir Beschastnykh

This certainly isn’t the Soviet Bloc days. Oleg Romantsev–the national team boss and coach and president of Moscow Spartak–has combined veterans and new blood into a team that, unlike the plodding Soviets, has flair and skill.

Blossoming forward Vladimir Beschasmykh is the side’s dominant goal-scorer (seven qualifying goals, including two game-winning diving headers). Vital veterans include midfielder Valeri Karpin and goalkeeper Ruslan Nigmatullin, who regularly bails out a weak defense.

Bottom line: Barring a total collapse, the Russians will move into the next round.

JAPAN

Number of finals appearances: Two

All-time World Cup finals record: 0-30

Coach: Philippe Troussier

Probable lineup: (3-8-2): Yoshikatsu Kawaguchi; Koji Nakata, Ryuzo Morioka, Naoki Matsuda; Junichi Inamoto, Kazuyuki Toda, Shinji Ono, Yasuhiro Haro, Hidetoshi Nakata; Takayuki Suzuki, Atusushi Yanagisawa

Japanese soccer has grown by leaps and bounds over the past 10 years. In 1993, the J-League made its debut. In 1998, Japan participated in its first World Cup. This time, Japan could advance to the second round and beyond.

Don’t laugh. Considering the success of French coach Philippe Troussier, it’s not that crazy of a notion. He guided Japan’s Under-20 team to a second-place finish in the world championships in 1999, and at the 2000 Olympics he directed Japan to the quarterfinals. Later that year, Japan captured the Asian Cup.

The star players are Hidetoshi Nakata and Shinji Ono. The team’s forwards–Atsushi Yanagisawa (the playmaker) and Takayuki Suzuki (the goal-scorer)–are J-League teammates.

Bottom line: The Japanese will reach the knock-out stages. After all, no Cup host has stalled in the opening round. (South Korea could be a different story.)

BELGIUM

Number of finals appearances: 11

All-time World Cup finals record: 10-16-6

Coach: Robert Waseige

Probable lineup (4-4-2): Geert De Vlieger;, Nico Van Kerckhoven, Joos Valgaeren, Eric Van Meir, Eric Deflandre; Yves Vanderhaeghe, Bart Goor, Marc Wilmots, Johan Walem; Gert Verheyen, Wesley Sonck

When one thinks of the Belgian national team, the first word that comes to mind is dour. Belgium’s plodding game isn’t much to get excited about, but the Bendelux nation has the distinction of being the only country to advance to the past six World Cup finals without the aid of an automatic nod.

The Belgians are a hard-working side, led by a gritty midfield that includes team captain Marc Wilmots and Wesley Sonck. Striker Gert Verheyen, whose play wouldn’t win any beauty contests, leads the attack.

Bottom line: The Belgians will have to work their tails off to get out of the opening round in one piece.

TUNISIA

Number of finals appearances: Three

All-time World Cup finals record: 1-3-2

Coach: Henri Michel

Probable lineup (4-4-2): Chokri El Ouaer;, Emir Mkademi, Raouf Bouzaiene, Radhi Jaidi, Hatem Trabelsi; Kaies Ghodhbane, Riadh Bouazizi, Hassen Gabsi, Zoubeir Baya; Ali Zitouni, Ziad Jaziri

After an abysmal showing in the African Nations Cup (three losses, no goals), former coach Henri Michel quit, leaving puzzled and embarrassed Tunisian soccer officials holding a bag that was more half-empty than half-full. Tunisia’s success, won’t be measured in wins or ties, but rather in how close it can keep the final score and whether it can find the back of the net.

Bottom line: The bottom of the barrel.

The 20025 World Cup TV Schedule

Subject to change

All times Eastern

DATE MATCH TIME CHANNEL

May 31 France vs. Senegal 7:25 a.m. ESPN2

June 1 Ireland vs. Cameroon 2:25 a.m. ESPN2

June 1 Uruguay vs. Denmark 4:55 a.m. ESPN2

June 1 Germany vs. Saudi Arabia 7:25 a.m. ESPN

June 1 Best match of the day (replay) 3:30 p.m. ABC

June 2 Argentina vs. Nigeria 1:25 a.m. ESPN2

June 2 Paraguay vs. South Africa 3:25 a.m. ESPN

June 2 England vs. Sweden 5:25 a.m. ESPN2

June 2 Spain vs. Slovenia 7:25 a.m. ESPN

June 2 Best match of the day (replay) 3:30 p.m. ABC

June 3 Croatia vs. Mexico 2:25 a.m. ESPN2

June 3 Brazil vs. Turkey 4:55 a.m. ESPN2

June 3 Italy vs. Ecuador 7:25 a.m. ESPN2

June 4 China vs. Costa Rica 2:25 a.m. ESPN2

June 4 Japan vs. Belgium 4:55 a.m. ESPN2

June 4 South Korea vs. Poland 7:25 a.m. ESPN2

June 5 Russia vs. Tunisia 2:25 a.m. ESPN2

June 5 United States vs. Portugal 4:55 a.m. ESPN2

June 5 Germany vs. Ireland 7:25 a.m. ESPN2

June 5 United States vs.

Portugal (replay) 3:00 p.m. ESPN or ESPN2

June 6 Denmark vs. Senegal 2:25 a.m. ESPN2

June 6 Cameroon vs. Saudi Arabia 4:55 a.m. ESPN2

June 6 France vs. Uruguay 7:25 a.m. ESPN2

June 7 Sweden vs. Nigeria 2:25 a.m. ESPN2

June 7 Argentina vs. England 7:25 a.m. ESPN2

June 7 Argentina vs. England (replay) 4:00 p.m. ESPN or ESPN2

June 8 South Africa vs. Slovenia 2:25 a.m. ESPN2

June 8 Italy vs. Croatia 4:55 a.m. ESPN2

June 8 Brazil vs. China 7:25 a.m. ESPN

June 8 Best match of the day (replay) 4:00 p.m. ABC

June 9 Mexico vs. Ecuador 2:25 a.m. ESPN2

June 9 Costa Rica vs. Turkey 4:55 a.m. ESPN2

June 9 Japan vs. Russia 7:25 a.m. ESPN

June 10 United States vs. South Korea 2:25 a.m. ESPN2

June 10 Tunisia vs. Belgium 4:55 a.m. ESPN2

June 10 Portugal vs. Poland 7:25 a.m. ESPN2

June 10 United States vs. South

Korea (replay) 4:00 p.m. ESPN or ESPN2

June 11 Denmark vs. France 2:25 a.m. ESPN

June 11 Senegal vs. Uruguay 2:25 a.m. ESPN2

June 11 Cameroon vs. Germany 7:25 a.m. ESPN

June 11 Saudi Arabia vs. Finland 7:25 a.m. ESPN2

June 12 Sweden vs. Argentina 2:25 a.m. ESPN

June 12 Nigeria vs. England 2:25 a.m. ESPN2

June 12 South America vs. Spain 7:25 a.m. ESPN

June 12 Siovenla vs. Paraguay 7:25 a.m. ESPN2

June 13 Costa Rica vs. Brazil 2:25 a.m. ESPN

June 13 Turkey vs. China 2:25 a.m. ESPN2

June 13 Mexico vs. Italy 7:25 a.m. ESPN

June 13 Costa Rica vs. Brazil (replay) 2:30 p.m. ESPN2

June 13 Mexico vs. Italy (replay) 7:00 p.m. ESPN2

June 14 Tunisia vs. Japan 2:25 a.m. ESPN

June 14 Belgium vs. Russia 2:25 a.m. ESPN2

June 14 Portugal vs. South Korea 7:25 a.m. ESPN

June 14 Poland vs. United States 7:25 a.m. ESPN2

June 14 Poland vs. United

States (replay) 3:00 p.m. ESPN

ROUND OF 16

DATE MATCH TIME CHANNEL

June 15 Game 1: Group E winner vs.

Group B second place 2:25 a.m. ESPN2

June 15 Game 2: Group A winner vs.

Group F second place 7:25 a.m. ESPN

June 15 Group E winner vs.

Group B second place (replay) 3:30 p.m. ABC

June 15 Group A winner vs.

Group F second place (replay) 6:00 p.m. ABC

June 16 Game 3: Group F winner vs.

Group A second place 2:25 a.m. ESPN2

June 16 Game 4: Group B winner vs.

Group E second place 7:25 a.m. ESPN

June 16 Best match of the day (replay) 1:30 p.m. ABC

June 17 Game 5: Group G winner vs.

Group D second place.. 2:25 a.m. ESPN2

June 17 Game 6: Group C winner vs.

Group H second place.. 7:25 a.m. ESPN2

June 18 Game 7: Group H winner vs.

Group C second place 2:25 a.m. ESPN2

June 18 Game 8: Group D winner vs.

Group G second place.. 7:25 a.m. ESPN2

June 18 Best match of the day (replay) 2:00 p.m. ESPN or ESPN2

QUARTERFINALS

DATE MATCH TIME CHANNEL

June 21 Game A: Game 2 winner vs.

Game 6 winner 2:25 a.m. ESPN2

June 21 Game B: Game 1 winner vs.

Game 5 winner 7:25 a.m. ESPN2

June 22 Game C: Game 4 winner vs.

Game 7 winner 2:25 a.m. ESPN2

June 22 Game D: Game 3 winner vs.

Game 8 winner 7:25 a.m. ESPN

June 22 Game C (replay) 1:30 p.m. ABC

June 22 Game D (replay) 9:30 p.m. ESPN or ESPN2

SEMIFINALS

DATE MATCH TIME CHANNEL

June 25 Game B winner vs.

Game C winner 7:25 a.m. ESPN2

June 25 Game B winner vs.

Game C winner (replay) 3:00 p.m. ESPN or ESPN2

June 26 Game A winner vs.

Game D winner 7:25 a.m. ESPN2

June 26 Game A winner vs.

Game D winner (replay) 3:00 p.m. ESPN or ESPN2

June 29 Game B winner vs.

Game C winner (replay) 2:30 a.m. ESPN orESPN2

June 29 Game A winner vs.

Game D winner (replay) 4:30 a.m. ESPN or ESPN2

THIRD-PLACE MATCH

DATE TIME CHANNEL

June 29 6:55 a.m.

(live) ESPN

June 29 1:30 p.m.

(replay) ABC

WORLD CUP FINAL

DATE TIME CHANNEL

June 30 6:30 a.m.

(live) ABC

June 30 12:30 p.m.

(replay) ESPN or ESPN2

July 3 2:30 p.m.

(replay) ESPN2

World Cup Stadiums

JAPAN

City Stadium Capacity

Sapporo Sapporo Dome 42,300

Miyagi Miyagi Stadium 49,133

Ibaraki Kashima Soccer Stadium 41,800

Saitama Saitama Stadium 2002 63,700

Yokohama Yokohama International Stadium 70,592

Niigata Niigata Stadium Big Swan 42,300

Shizuoka Shizuoka Stadium Ecopa 51,349

Osaka Nagai Stadium 45,409

Kobe Kobe Wing Stadium 42,000

Oita Oita Stadium Big Eye 43,000

SOUTH KOREA

City Stadium Capacity

Seoul Seoul World Cup Stadium 62,618

Inchon Inchon Munhak Stadium 52,179

Suwon Suwon World Cup Stadium 43,468

Taejon Taejon World Cup Stadium 41,439

Chonju Chonju World Cup Stadium 42,477

Kwangju Kwangju World Cup Stadium 42,757

Taegu Taegu World Cup Stadium 70,140

Ulsan Ulsan Stadium 42,152

Pusan Pusan Sports Complex Main Stadium 60,686

Sogwipo Sogwipo World Cup Stadium 42,256

Quarterfinalists Semifinalist Championship

Argentina Argentina Italy over

Cameroon Cameroon Argentina

France France

Germany Italy

Italy

Japan

Portugat

Russia

RELATED ARTICLE: Livin’ la vida copa.

IT HAS BEEN HIDDEN UNDER A BED, STOLEN TWICE, AND was most likely melted. The World Cup trophy–the most sought-after piece of hardware in sports–has enjoyed a colorful history. On June 30, the second incarnation of the trophy will wind up in the fortunate hands of the captain of the 2002 World Cup winners and paraded around Yokohama Stadium.

The first trophy–the Jules Rimet Trophy, named for the Frenchman who helped create the World Cup–was retired after Brazil captured its third word championship in 1970. In the final months of World War II, FIFA vice president Ottorino Barrassi of Italy hid it in a shoe box under his bed to safeguard it while the German army retreated from–and pillaged–his country.

Only months before the 1966 Cup in England, the trophy was stolen while on display at a stamp exhibition in London. Luckily, Pickles, a black-and-white dog of undetermined pedigree, found the trophy buried under a tree.

In 1983, thieves broke into the Brazilian Soccer Confederation and stole the cup. It has never been located. Authorities believe that it was melted down and sold. Kodak Brazil paid for its replacement.

In 1997, a Milanese sculptor designed a new, 18-karat gold trophy–unimaginatively named the FIFA World Cup trophy. With the names of seven winning countries already inscribed on its base, there is still enough room to honor champions until the 2038 Cup–provided it isn’t displayed at another stamp exhibition.

RELATED ARTICLE: And the winner is …

WITH SO MUCH PARITY IN WORLD SOCcer, little is certain about which teams will succeed at this year’s World Cup finals. World and European champions France and South American power Argentina have been co-favorites ever since qualifying began and–outside of the injury to Robert Pires–very little has happened to change this view. Unfortunately, if they advance, those teams could play as soon as the second round and cannot meet any later than the semifinals.

Most of the world’s other top soccer nations have struggled en route to the Cup. Traditional powers Brazil and Germany are lacking skill. While underachievers such as Portugal and England have had bursts of inspiration, injuries to key players slowed those team’s preparations. The potential darkhorses–Cameroon, Ireland, Sweden–have the misfortune of being drawn into the most difficult first-round groups and may not even advance to the later stages.

So who will win? In 1998 we swam against the tide and correctly chose France. This year, we’re doing it again and selecting the Italians to break the France-Argentina juggernaut.

Here then, are SOCCER DIGEST’S predictions for the knockout stages:

COPYRIGHT 2002 Century Publishing

COPYRIGHT 2002 Gale Group