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Heart of Asia: Going Back to the 2002 World Cup

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20 DECEMBER 2001

193 teams entered the qualifiers for the 2002 World Cup, which began way back in March 2000. Now, after 21 exhausting months, they have been whittled down to 29, who will join holders France and co-hosts South Korea and Japan in the finals next summer.

 

There have been a few major casualties on the way. 1998 bronze-medallists Croatia were eliminated from the UEFA qualifiers quite early, while England failed to make the Playoffs, which was where Portugal and Spain faltered. On other continents, perhaps the only real shock was that Saudi Arabia couldn't get automatic qualification from the AFC and ultimately lost in an Intercontinental Playoff.

 

Several nations have made it through to their first World Cup, though I doubt any of them were particularly surprising. Okay, maybe we weren't expecting Bosnia & Herzegovina to top Spain's qualifying group... but it's not as if anyone like Malta or the Cape Verde Islands qualified (as was the case in a previous CM00/01 save of mine).

 

The latest FIFA World Rankings were released today - close to a fortnight after the final whistle was blown on the final qualifying match. The refreshed standings should give us a very rough idea of where our finalists lie in the pecking order.

 

Yes, a few of the rankings may seem a bit weird. Yes, the co-hosts are ranked extremely low because they haven't played competitively for ages. Yes, the points system looks so complicated that it might well have been devised by John Nash, Hans Rosling and 'Bubble' from Big Brother 2. However, it's the least-bad system we've got right now, so we might as well use it:

 

                                   PTS
1.          Brazil                 853.67
2.          Argentina              830.70
4.          Czech Republic         802.74
5.          Netherlands            799.02
6.          Italy                  795.37
7.          Mexico                 787.25
8.          Morocco                781.94
9.          France                 759.47
10.         South Africa           746.05
12.         Romania                734.59
13.         Russia                 732.25
15.         USA                    717.44
16.         Iran                   704.80
17.         Tunisia                704.06
18.         Denmark                702.89
19.         Colombia               700.51
21.         Germany                693.30
23.         Uruguay                678.45
24.         Cameroon               675.56
25.         Sweden                 674.92
27.         Ukraine                666.20
28.         Paraguay               661.00
30.         Scotland               641.68
36.         Belgium                623.39
42.         Jamaica                608.05
44.         Nigeria                593.54
47.         Finland                581.48
48.         China PR               571.13
63.         Bosnia & Herzegovina   544.53
80.         South Korea            492.35
114.        Wales                  416.23
122.        Japan                  404.27

Portugal (#3), Yugoslavia (#11), Spain (#14) and Ivory Coast (#20) are the highest-ranked nations who failed to qualify.

 

The draw for the Group Stage takes place in a week's time, on 27 December. In the meantime, I think I'll share a few facts and stats with you...

 

Facts

New kids in town

Bosnia & Herzegovina, China PR, Finland and Ukraine will all make their World Cup debuts. Bosnia & Herzegovina and Ukraine had been represented at previous finals by Yugoslavia and the Soviet Union respectively. This will also be the Czech Republic's first appearance at the tournament under their current guise, having previously competed as part of Czechoslovakia.

 

Of those five teams, only Finland have never participated in a real-life World Cup as of 2018. The Finns probably spend too much time coding mobile-phone games about infuriated avians while relaxing in their saunas to become any good at team sports.

 

Part of the furniture

Brazil are the only country to have competed at every World Cup since its inception in 1930, and this will be their 17th appearance. Germany continued their record of qualifying for every tournament they entered (only missing the 1930 and 1950 events). They make their 15th appearance, as do Italy, while Argentina are present for the 13th time.

 

Ch...ch...changes

Nine teams who didn't qualify for the 1998 World Cup have made it through in 2002. Those teams are (in alphabetical order) Bosnia & Herzegovina, China PR, Czech Republic, Finland, Russia, Sweden, Ukraine, Uruguay and Wales.

 

The teams that they replaced (i.e. the France '98 finalists who failed to qualify this time) were Austria, Bulgaria, Chile, Croatia, England, Norway, Saudi Arabia, Spain and Yugoslavia.

 

This isn't how I remembered it!

There are 12 changes between the real-life 2002 World Cup line-up and the in-game line-up. The dozen teams who didn't qualify in reality but did in this CM universe are Bosnia & Herzegovina, Colombia, Czech Republic, Finland, Iran, Jamaica, Morocco, Netherlands, Romania, Scotland, Ukraine and Wales.

 

And here are the sides who couldn't replicate their real-life qualifications in-game: Croatia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, England, Poland, Portugal, Republic of Ireland, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Slovenia, Spain and Turkey.

 

That's... actually, not that bad. In that old CM00/01 save I mentioned earlier (the one with Malta and Cape Verde), exactly HALF the 2002 World Cup teams were different from real-life. Heck, even Wales qualif... oh.

 

Perfection

Only one team made it to the World Cup having won every single qualifying match they played. Take a bow, Italy! Surely only a dodgy Ecuadorean referee can stop them from global domination now!

 

A few other countries also had unbeaten records in the qualifiers. China PR, Iran, Morocco, Mexico and - I can scarcely believe this myself - Scotland emerged from the preliminaries unscathed, though they all drew matches along the way.

 

Records & Statistics

Team Records

Highest Attendance: 104,996 - Brazil vs Colombia (CONMEBOL Qualifiers, 25/04/01).

Lowest Attendance: 1,131 - Montserrat vs Antigua & Barbuda (CONCACAF Caribbean Zone Round 1 Leg 2, 18/03/00).

 

Most Games Played: 22 - Barbados.

Most Games Played by a Qualified Nation: 20 - Paraguay.

 

Biggest Win: Bangladesh 1-7 China PR (AFC Round 1 Group 4, 10/06/01).

Highest-Scoring Game: Bangladesh 1-7 China PR (AFC Round 1 Group 4, 10/06/01), Syria 5-3 Kuwait (AFC Round 2 Group 2, 12/10/01).

Most Consecutive Wins: 9 - Iran and New Zealand.

Most Consecutive Defeats: 10 - Barbados and Luxembourg.

Most Consecutive Games Without Losing: 16 - Mexico and Uruguay.

Most Consecutive Games Without Winning: 11 - Bolivia.

 

Most Goals Scored: 45 - United States of America.

Fewest Goals Scored by a Qualified Nation: 13 - Wales.

Fewest Goals Scored: 0 - various teams.

Most Goals Conceded: 53 - Barbados.

Most Goals Conceded by a Qualified Nation: 26 - Colombia.

Fewest Goals Conceded by a Qualified Nation: 1 - Morocco.

 

Most Yellow Cards: 32 - Paraguay.

Most Red Cards: 5 - Paraguay.

 

Player Records

Most Goals: 16 - Obaid Al-Dosary (Saudi Arabia).

Most Goals In One Game: 5 - Samuel Eto'o (Cameroon, vs Mali - CAF Round 2 Group 5, 14/07/01), Alex Bunbury (Canada, vs Barbados - CONCACAF Final Round, 12/09/01).

Most Assists: 8 - Mohammed Sheliah Al-Jehani (Saudi Arabia), Salaheddine Bassir (Morocco), Emmanuel Duah (Ghana), Álvaro Recoba (Uruguay), Roberto Carlos (Brazil).

 

Most Man of the Match Awards: 6 - Haidong Hao (China PR).

Most Yellow Cards: 6 - Carlos Paredes (Paraguay).

Most Red Cards: 2 - Roberto Miguel Acuña (Paraguay), José Antonio Chamot (Argentina).

 

Youngest Player: 17 years, 75 days - Stuart Kelly (Northern Ireland, vs Denmark - UEFA Group 3, 01/09/01).

Oldest Player: 43 years, 355 days - Andrey Pinchukov (Kazakhstan, vs Iran - AFC Round 2 Group 2, 22/09/01).

Youngest Goalscorer: 17 years, 125 days - Elpys José Espinal (Dominican Republic, vs British Virgin Islands - CONCACAF Caribbean Zone Round 1 Leg 2, 18/03/00).

Oldest Goalscorer: 39 years, 339 days - Benjamin Galindo (Mexico, vs Panama - CONCACAF Semi Final Group 3, 15/11/00).

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27 DECEMBER 2001

The last few days have been very jolly for those of us who celebrate Christmas. Presents have now been unwrapped, turkeys have been consumed, and Noddy Holder has retreated to his Wolverhampton bedsit, where he'll remain out of the spotlight until the next winter holidays.

 

However, there's one final treat for us until Christmas officially ends. The draw for the Group Stage of the 2002 World Cup has arrived.

 

Real-life tournament draw ceremonies tend to drag on for a couple of hours, as legendary ex-footballers (like Ruud Gullit, for example) waffle on about past glories before fumbling through plastic bowls to pick out plastic balls. The only real entertainment comes if (and when) everything goes horribly wrong. (WARNING: That video contains scenes which may include Sepp Blatter.)

 

In Championship Manager, the 'ceremony' is mercifully short, and the draw is conducted in seconds, thanks to the power of computing. We don't see RG either, but there is a starring role for RNG - the Random Number Generator. If you ask me, it's the greatest thing to happen to football since the back-pass rule was introduced, or somebody first dreamt up the notion of a Video Assistant Referee.

 

Before the draw was conducted, the 32 teams were allocated to one of four pots. The holders and co-hosts, along with five leading nations, have their own Seeded Pot.

 

The rest of the teams are divided into the other three pots by confederation. Pot 1 consists of the 11 unseeded nations from UEFA, Pot 2 comprises the remaining teams from either AFC or CONMEBOL, and Pot 3 contains the CAF and CONCACAF qualifiers.

 

SEEDED POT: France (holders), South Korea (co-hosts), Japan (co-hosts), Brazil, Italy, Germany, Argentina, Netherlands

POT 1: Belgium, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, Romania, Russia, Scotland, Sweden, Ukraine, Wales

POT 2: China PR, Colombia, Iran, Paraguay, Uruguay

POT 3: Cameroon, Jamaica, Mexico, Morocco, Nigeria, South Africa, Tunisia, United States of America

 

To be honest, I'm not sure exactly how the seeded nations are determined. It surely can't be based on the FIFA World Rankings, because the Czech Republic are 4th in the standings, yet they're not seeded... and 21st-ranked Germany are.

 

It could be down to performances at the 1998 World Cup, where Argentina, Brazil, Germany, Italy and the Netherlands all reached the Quarter Finals or better. Denmark also got to the last eight in France, but they've been left in the European pot.

 

Here's how it all works. Firstly, the teams in the Seeded Pot are each randomly drawn into one of the eight groups. France are automatically allocated to Group A, Japan to Group H, and South Korea to Group C (they were actually in Group D in reality, but whatever).

 

Eight teams from Pot 1 are then drawn into their groups. The three leftovers are subsequently lumped into Pot 2 with the five remaining Asian/South American teams, and they too are allocated to groups. The draw process ends with each team from Pot 3 being assigned a group.

 

In real life, procedures should be in place to prevent more than two UEFA teams ending up in the same group, or another confederation having two members face off in the first round. Such measures are not taken in CM00/01. It's therefore mathematically possible that we could have a group with three European teams, another group with two Asian sides, and another with two South American teams.

 

With that in mind, what have we ended up with? Which teams are in a 'Group of Death', and which sides will be thanking the RNG gods? (There are no actual RNG gods. Computer folk are generally agnostic.)

 

Group Stage

Draw & Fixtures

GROUP A: China PR, France, Mexico, Russia

12 June - Mexico vs China PR (in Tokyo, JP)

12 June - France vs Russia (in Ulsan, SK)

18 June - China PR vs France (in Pohang, SK)

18 June - Russia vs Mexico (in Pusan, SK)

25 June - Mexico vs France (in Seoul, SK)

25 June - China PR vs Russia (in Hiroshima, JP)

 

This is a good group for the defending champions, as France have a couple of meaningful tests to get themselves warmed up for the knockout stages. Of course, it's possible that Mexico's attack could pip them to top spot, but El Tri will probably be battling it out with Russia for 2nd place. The draw hasn't been kind to debutants China, whose dominance of the Asian qualifiers will count for nothing.

 

GROUP B: Czech Republic, Germany, Morocco, Paraguay

13 June - Czech Republic vs Germany (in Pohang, SK)

13 June - Paraguay vs Morocco (in Osaka, JP)

19 June - Morocco vs Czech Republic (in Hiroshima, JP)

19 June - Germany vs Paraguay (in Ulsan, SK)

25 June - Germany vs Morocco (in Tokyo, JP)

25 June - Czech Republic vs Paraguay (in Pusan, SK)

 

Though we lack a genuine 'Group of Death', this is probably the next-best thing to it. Germany are a long way from emulating the game-management experts that won Euro 1996 against the Czech Republic, who also appear to have regressed in recent years. An exciting Morocco team and a resilient outfit from Paraguay could well take advantage and upset the European powers.

 

GROUP C: Jamaica, South Korea, Ukraine, Wales

14 June - South Korea vs Wales (in Kobe, JP)

14 June - Jamaica vs Ukraine (in Seoul, SK)

20 June - Wales vs Jamaica (in Tokyo, JP)

20 June - Ukraine vs South Korea (in Osaka, JP)

26 June - Jamaica vs South Korea (in Seoul, SK)

26 June - Ukraine vs Wales (in Pohang, SK)

 

Here's another very tough group to call, but this is entirely devoid of any big teams. People will surely complain that South Korea have had it very easy, though the Taegeuk Warriors will still need to make the most of home advantage. Ukraine and Wales meet again after clashing in the qualifiers, and while I'd make them the two favourites to go through, Jamaica can't be completely ruled out.

 

GROUP D: Bosnia & Herzegovina, Cameroon, Iran, Italy

14 June - Bosnia & Herzegovina vs Italy (in Ulsan, SK)

15 June - Iran vs Cameroon (in Pusan, SK)

22 June - Italy vs Iran (in Hiroshima, JP)

22 June - Cameroon vs Bosnia & Herzegovina (in Yokohama, JP)

26 June - Italy vs Cameroon (in Kobe, JP)

26 June - Bosnia & Herzegovina vs Iran (in Osaka, JP)

 

Italy will surely continue their winning streak here, though each group game will get progressively harder. Bosnia & Herzegovina's inexperience on the big stage could be their downfall, while Iran's squad probably lacks the depth required to challenge. With that in mind, Cameroon have a fantastic opportunity to get to Round 2, provided that politics don't get in the way yet again.

 

GROUP E: Colombia, Netherlands, Scotland, Tunisia

15 June - Netherlands vs Scotland (in Seoul, SK)

15 June - Tunisia vs Colombia (in Tokyo, JP)

22 June - Colombia vs Netherlands (in Pohang, SK)

22 June - Scotland vs Tunisia (in Seoul, SK)

27 June - Tunisia vs Netherlands (in Yokohama, JP)

27 June - Colombia vs Scotland (in Hiroshima, JP)

 

We didn't see the Netherlands' total football at the real-life 2002 finals, but this is a chance to find out how they would've done if they hadn't effed up the qualifiers. Colombia and Tunisia are paired together again, and both will be desperate to reach the knockout stages after missing out in 1998. Scotland will need to be at their absolute best to avoid exiting at the first round of their ninth World Cup.

 

GROUP F: Argentina, Belgium, South Africa, Sweden

16 June - Sweden vs Argentina (in Hiroshima, JP)

17 June - Belgium vs South Africa (in Ulsan, SK)

23 June - Argentina vs Belgium (in Kobe, JP)

23 June - South Africa vs Sweden (in Seoul, SK)

27 June - Argentina vs South Africa (in Pusan, SK)

27 June - Sweden vs Belgium (in Ulsan, SK)

 

Despite having a few stumbles on the road to qualification, Argentina should have a rather smoother passage to Round 2. La Albiceleste open up against Sweden in a rematch of a Group F fixture from the real World Cup. South Africa have learnt a lot since their 1998 debut and could seriously challenge Sweden for 2nd place, with a mediocre Belgium side likely to bring up the rear.

 

GROUP G: Brazil, Romania, United States of America, Uruguay

17 June - USA vs Uruguay (in Seoul, SK)

17 June - Brazil vs Romania (in Seoul, SK)

24 June - Uruguay vs Brazil (in Ulsan, SK)

24 June - Romania vs USA (in Osaka, JP)

28 June - USA vs Brazil (in Tokyo, JP)

28 June - Uruguay vs Romania (in Kobe, JP)

 

Brazil have not endured a first-round exit at any World Cup since 1966, and that will probably not change. They are blessed with so many exceptional players, and their all-CONMEBOL meeting with Uruguay could be the match of the round. Romania and the USA are clear outsiders, so a strong start from either of them will be critical if they're to survive.

 

GROUP H: Denmark, Finland, Japan, Nigeria

16 June - Denmark vs Japan (in Osaka, JP)

16 June - Finland vs Nigeria (in Kobe, JP)

22 June - Japan vs Finland (in Pusan, SK)

23 June - Nigeria vs Denmark (in Yokohama, JP)

28 June - Japan vs Nigeria (in Seoul, SK)

28 June - Denmark vs Finland (in Pohang, SK)

 

No World Cup host has ever failed to get beyond the first round, but Japan could be about to make unwanted history. The Samurai Blue are by some distance the weakest team on paper in this group. Nigeria's Super Eagles will have their backers, though I reckon top spot will come down to whoever wins the Nordic derby between dark horses Denmark and exciting newcomers Finland.

 

So there's the Group Stage schedule, and to be honest, I have a few gripes. There are only a few, mind - certainly not enough to make my OCD flare up.

 

Why aren't the group venues divided so that some groups only play matches in South Korea, and some only play in Japan? WHY do certain teams have to fly back-and-forth across the Korea Strait to play their matches? WHY is there not an equal divide between the two hosts in terms of group games?

 

In fact, WHY do South Korea have to play two games in Japan, and vice versa? My goodness, I'm getting horrible flashbacks to the Australia/New Zealand situation in the OFC qualifiers at the start of the year!

 

WHY is Seoul hosting not one but TWO Group G matches on 17 June? Yes, they're obviously being played at different venues, but I won't envy the Korean police on that day, that's for sure.

 

Oh, and one other small thing. WHY are there NO MATCHES being played on 21 June, yet there are FIVE MATCHES scheduled for 22 June?! Talk about a logistical nightmare for the humble television viewer!

 

(Deep breath) Okay, I think I need to calm down, before I explode with rage...

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Sweet, Iran are playing in Busan. Let me just get my interdimensional time machine from the other thread and I can watch them live.

A chance to get a first ever World Cup clean sheet and 2nd ever win.

Edited by git2thachoppa

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As the qualifiers are now over, future updates will be rather less frequent but more in-depth. I'll post up the squads next week (prepare yourselves for some major surprises), and all subsequent updates will correspond to the real-life date. Ergo, the first match reports from the finals will be posted on Tuesday 12 June.

27 minutes ago, git2thachoppa said:

Sweet, Iran are playing in Busan. Let me just get my interdimensional time machine from the other thread and I can watch them live.

A chance to get a first ever World Cup clean sheet and 2nd ever win.

Bloomin' heck! What a coincidence! :lol:

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30 MAY 2002

How time flies! It's been five months since we last met, at the World Cup Group Stage draw. Now we're less than a fortnight away from the opening match, and the sense of excitement across the Far East and beyond is growing by the day.

 

Africa's finest teams have already had a major tournament this year, contesting the African Cup of Nations in Egypt between 9 February and 2 March. It was Morocco who took the spoils, with Yassine Abdellaoui's 6th-minute goal earning the Atlas Lions a 1-0 Final win over the Ivory Coast, whom they'd already pipped to World Cup qualification.

 

In England, 2001/2002 was a Double-winning season for Arsen... Manchester United. Sir Alex Ferguson's Red Devils won the FA Cup Final in extra-time against West Ham, and then did battle with Arsenal for the Premiership title in a final-day decider at Old Trafford.

 

My beloved Gunners led the way by one point going into this decisive match, and when the half-time whistle blew at 0-0, I was confident that we could see the job through. However, Roy Keane and Ryan Giggs broke my heart with a couple of second-half goals to earn United a record fourth league championship in a row.

 

[Sigh] Where's Sylvain Wiltord when you need him?

 

The top three was unchanged from last season, with Liverpool finishing 3rd again. 4th place went to Chelsea, who enjoyed a mini-renaissance under their 'new' manager Glenn Hoddle. His former club Southampton were relegated with West Brom and Coventry, while Ipswich and Manchester City returned to the top flight alongside Division 1 play-off winners Bolton.

 

Three days after the agony of Old Trafford, Arsenal suffered yet more pain in the Champions League Final against Milan. Cameroon winger Lauren gave the Gunners a half-time lead, but Zvonimir Boban's equaliser forced extra-time before a 95th-minute golden goal by José Mari earned Milan a famous victory in Istanbul. Oh, the irony...

 

Milan also won the Serie A scudetto, while Barcelona retained La Liga, Paris-SG kept hold of the Ligue 1 title, and PSV stole the Eredivisie from Ajax. The biggest surprise came in the Bundesliga, where Bayern München's three-year stranglehold was ended by VfB Stuttgart. Leverkusen finished runners-up yet again, because they're Neverkusen, obviously.

 

With the European domestic season now at an end, football fans across the globe now await the start of the World Cup finals. Today is the date when the 32 finalists must name their initial 22-man squads. In the event of any serious injuries, teams have the option to call up replacement players until 11 June - the day before the first match. After that, no further changes can be made.

 

I will give you the final squads just before the tournament starts. In the meantime, let's have a look at the 10 venues (five in Japan, five in South Korea) that will stage matches during these finals:

 

Venues

Japan

HIROSHIMA: Hiroshima Big Arch (50,000 capacity)

This ground was originally built for the 1992 Asian Cup, which Japan won on home soil to secure their first continental title. As the name suggests, it gets its name from the arched roof on the main stand. Hiroshima is known worldwide for being the target of a nuclear attack from the USA in August 1945, in what was one of the deadliest and last acts of World War II.

 

KOBE: Kobe Universiade Memorial (60,000 capacity)

Built in 1985, this is a multi-purpose stadium used for athletics meetings as well as by Vissel in J-League football matches. It's not to be confused with the smaller Kobe Wing Stadium, which was constructed for the real-life 2002 World Cup. The city itself is still recovering from a devastating magnitude 6.9 earthquake that killed about 6,000 people and made over 200,000 homeless in 1995.

 

OSAKA: Nagai (50,000 capacity)

Originally opened in 1964 for an Olympic Games football match, Nagai was greatly expanded in 1996, more than doubling its capacity. J-League side Cerezo have played their matches here since the expansion work was completed. Osaka is world-renowned for its culinary (in particular its fine sake) and has been nicknamed "the nation's kitchen" by many Japanese people.

 

TOKYO: National Stadium (62,000 capacity)

Though Japan's capital was overlooked for the real-life World Cup, this stadium will stage the opening ceremony of our tournament as well as the Final. The annual Intercontinental Cup match between the European and South American club champions was played here between 1980 and 2001. The stadium is located in Shinjuku - a major commercial and administrative centre in eastern Tokyo.

 

YOKOHAMA: Yokohama International (70,366 capacity)

Costing 60 billion Yen, Japan's largest sports stadium was opened only four years ago. It has been the home of F Marinos in the J-League since then and is expected to stage the Intercontinental Cup for the first time later this year. Yokohama developed as a port city after Japan ended its isolationist period in the 19th century and is the country's second-largest city, after Tokyo.

 

South Korea

POHANG: Pohang Stadium (42,700 capacity)

The name might sound like a macabre Teletubbies episode, but Pohang is a thriving seaport on the east coast of Korea. The imaginatively-named Pohang Stadium is a modest ground that used to be home to the city's K-League side. In 1990, they moved to a much smaller ground named the Steel Yard, because they're nicknamed the Steelers, of course.

 

PUSAN: Pusan Stadium (62,685 capacity)

This is the newest stadium to be used at this tournament, having been built for the World Cup as well as the Asian Games. K-League side Pusan play here and are well-known for having one of the worst suffixes in football; their full name is Pusan I.cons. The city - now officially named Busan - is an economic and educational hub in south-eastern Korea.

 

SEOUL: Chamsil Olympic Stadium (100,000 capacity)

By far the largest of the 10 venues (the capacity might be a tad exaggerated, to be fair), South Korea's national stadium will host the first Semi Final. As the name suggests, it was constructed for the 1988 Summer Olympics and will forever be remembered for Ben Johnson's tainted 100m victory. More recently, pop stars such as Michael Jackson and Ricky Martin have staged concerts here.

 

SEOUL: Chonan Stadium (63,930 capacity)

Seoul's second venue was constructed last year, but predominantly as an athletics stadium at first. It didn't host any matches at the real World Cup, with the similarly new but rather larger Sangam Stadium being preferred. To give you an idea of what Sports Interactive's South Korean research data was like in 2000, this stadium has a real-life capacity of just 26,000... and it isn't even in Seoul.

 

ULSAN: Ulsan Munsu Football Stadium (42,086 capacity)

Finally, we come to the fourth venue that was used at the actual World Cup and is being used again in the computerised version. This modern ground is built in the shape of a skull crown (because obviously) and cost over 150 billion Won (around $115million). Ulsan houses the world's largest automobile assembly plant, which is run by Hyundai, who also sponsor the local K-League team.

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Woohoo! Look out Champions League, Chelsea are in town!

(Let me guess: CM00/01 doesn't simulate England getting an additional CL Spot for 01/02)

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2 hours ago, Drogba11CFC said:

Woohoo! Look out Champions League, Chelsea are in town!

(Let me guess: CM00/01 doesn't simulate England getting an additional CL Spot for 01/02)

England did get a fourth Champions League place, so Chelsea are in the CL with the rest of what will soon become the 'Big Four'. I hear a Russian billionaire might be interested in buying your club in the near future, kick-starting a 15-year spell of unprecedented success before he has visa problems and (potentially) leaves you in the lurch. :D

For what it's worth, Middlesbrough, Sheff Wed and Tottenham have qualified for the UEFA Cup. Blackburn are in the Inter-Tinpot Cup.

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11 JUNE 2002

The wait is almost over. There's one more sleep to go until the 2002 World Cup finally gets underway. If this was real-life, the Group Stage would be coming to its conclusion by now, but this isn't real-life, so get over it. As the old Guinness advert goes, "Tick followed tock followed tick followed tock."

 

The 32 teams have now arrived in the Far East, basing themselves at various locations across South Korea and Japan. Their 22-man squads have been confirmed, and so we now know which 704 players will be contesting "the biggest prize in world football". (The copyright is still held by FIFA in 2002. The Champions League isn't quite up there for prestige yet.)

 

The abject failures of certain nations mean that top-class talents such as Raúl, Figo, Marcelo Salas and Kieron Dyer will not be present at these finals. However, there are some quality players from the 32 qualified nations who haven't been selected by their teams, for one reason or another.

 

Injury has cruelly deprived Mark van Bommel of his chance to represent the Netherlands in the Far East. The PSV midfielder tore his groin muscle at Barcelona in the second leg of April's Champions League Quarter Final. Barca anchor man Guly's slim chances of making the Argentina side were ended in the first leg, when he broke his leg.

 

Sabri Lamouchi could have featured for holders France, but the Milan winger sadly damaged his cruciate ligaments in a Serie A win over Venezia five months ago. Lamouchi is still another five months away from returning to training.

 

Another three players - South Korea's Dae-Il Jang, South Africa's Aaron Mokoena, and Uruguay's Ever Moas - were named in their teams' initial squads on 30 May before being ruled out by injury. All three were subsequently replaced in time for the finals.

 

Other players didn't make the cut, simply because they didn't stand out in a vast pool of talent. Italy have that First World problem, with several Serie A superstars having to miss out on selection. For example, we won't get to see Juventus icons Antonio Conte, Alessandro Del Piero or Filippo Inzaghi in Asia this summer. We also shan't be seeing Angelo Di Livio, Paolo Maldini or Gabriele Ambrosetti.

 

Argentina's head coach Marcelo Bielsa couldn't fit all his best midfield and attacking assets into one squad, so some big names had to stay at home. Matías Jesus Almeyda, Ariel Ortega and Juan Román Riquelme were probably the unluckiest of the lot.

 

Jardel might have topped the Bundesliga's goal charts with 18 for VfB Stuttgart this season, but he couldn't make a late charge into the Brazil squad. Leverkusen defender Lúcio is another absentee, and so too are solo-goal specialist Vágner and legendary striker Romário. Ronaldo has made the cut, despite being almost constantly injured since France '98.

 

Germany have phased out some more members of their old guard, which means no Oliver Bierhoff or Mehmet Scholl. You might also be very surprised to see neither Michael Ballack nor Bernd Schneider, considering how brilliant they turned out to be in reality. To tell you the truth, the Leverkusen midfield duo weren't very good on CM00/01.

 

There are some omissions that are truly mind-boggling. 52 league goals in three seasons at Milan were seemingly not enough to earn Andriy Shevchenko a place in Ukraine's maiden World Cup selection. I just cannot figure out why Valery Lobanovsky would suddenly axe a marquee player on the eve of the biggest moments in his country's sporting history!

 

France have brought Sylvain Wiltord along with them, but not David Trezeguet - their golden-goal hero from Euro 2000. The Dutch team has Frank De Boer, but not his twin brother Ronald. Chispa Delgado got into the Uruguay squad, but Walter Pandiani - whose goals helped Monaco finish 3rd in Ligue 1 in back-to-back seasons - didn't.

 

There are probably a few more significant players whose non-attendances are perhaps worthy of mention, but I'm a bit low on time, so I'll leave it at that.

 

I'm now going to give you the full details of each squad, group-by-group. The players are all listed in positional order, and I've written up little profiles for three 'Star Players' - in other words, those players who have the little asterisks [*] beside their names on the squad screens. (That feature was not carried over from Championship Manager into the Football Manager franchise after Sports Interactive split from Eidos.)

 

The 32 national managers also get their own mini-profiles. As four teams don't have coaches in-game, I have 'assigned' each of them a coach who isn't in the database but did manage them at some point in the early 2000s in real-life.

 

Let's not delay any further. It's time to find out who's in, who's out, and who's shaking it all about. You do the hokey cokey and you turn around. That's what it's all about! (Sorry, I might've gone off-piste there.)

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FINALS SQUADS: GROUP A

China PR

Previous World Cups: 0. Best Result: debut.

World Ranking (as of May 2002): 39th - 571.13 pts.

 

The opening match of this World Cup will be a seminal moment for China, who make their long-awaited debut on the global football stage. The Dragons will certainly put plenty of effort into their performances and try to keep things tight at the back. With only a few strong players based overseas, though, they perhaps lack the big-game experience required to get out of what is a tough group.

 

Manager

Wusheng Qi (Chinese, age 67)

An internal dispute with Yugoslav globetrotter Bora Milutinovic resulted in Qi being appointed to a second term as China manager last December. He is an excellent motivator who combines his national team role with managing Hongta in the top-level Jia-A League.

 

Squad

    NAME                         POSITION(S)  BORN      AGE  CLUB                    CAPS GLS  VALUE
*   Gao, Jianbin                 GK           05/02/72  30   Quanxing                -    -    £24K      
*   Jiang, Jin                   GK           17/10/68  33   Quanxing                14   -    £55K      
*   Ou, Chuliang                 GK           26/08/68  33   Hongta                  4    -    £190K     
*   Xiao, Zhanbo                 SW/DM RC     27/11/76  25   Fushun                  -    -    £230K     
*   Zhang, Enhua                 SW/D C       28/04/73  29   Shide                   11   -    £40K      
*   Chen, Gang                   D R          09/03/72  30   Xiaxin                  5    -    £180K     
*   Li, Weifeng                  D RC         01/12/78  23   Pingan                  -    -    £35K      
*   Sun, Jihai                   D/M LC       18/07/77  24   Real Sociedad [ESP]     17   -    £1.8M     
*   Wang, Liang                  D/M LC       01/04/79  23   Fushun                  4    -    £375K     
*   Fan, Zhiyi                   D/M/S C      06/11/69  32   Crystal Palace [ENG]    37   1    £900K     
*   Li, Ming                     D C          04/05/75  27   Luneng                  15   -    £110K     
*   Li, Tie                      D/AM C       18/05/77  25   Fushun                  8    -    £425K     
*   Qi, Hong                     DM RC        03/06/76  26   Quanxing                7    2    £100K     
*   Zhu, Qi                      DM RL        01/10/74  27   Quanxing                10   -    £80K      
*   Sun, Jianjun                 M LC         31/03/73  29   Quanxing                10   2    £70K      
*   Zhang, Xiaorui               AM RC        05/08/78  23   Teda                    12   1    £400K     
*   Li, Jinyu                    AM/F LC      06/07/77  24   Fushun                  8    2    £500K     
*   Ma, Mingyu                   AM LC        04/02/70  32   Perugia [ITA]           9    2    £1.8M     
*   Yao, Xia                     AM/F LC      28/01/74  28   Quanxing                11   1    £150K     
*   Su, Maozhen                  F RC         23/10/71  30   Luneng                  5    2    £100K     
*   Hao, Haidong                 S C          09/05/70  32   Shide                   14   13   £140K     
*   Xie, Hui                     S C          14/02/75  27   Aachen [GER]            11   4    £1.7M     

(* Real player, [G] Greyed-out player, [R] Regenerated player)

 

Star Players

Zhiyi Fan

In 1998, Fan became the first Chinese player to feature in England's professional leagues. The versatile workhorse has since established himself as a fan favourite at Crystal Palace, where he is mainly utilised as a midfield playmaker by manager Alan Smith (not that one. Or that one).

 

Haidong Hao

Hao once had an on-pitch fight with Sam Allardyce's son Craig, so I doubt the pacey striker's record of 27 goals and 23 assists with Shide this season will attract interest from Bolton. It's an impressive record all the same, and the Dragons will need him to be on fire if they're to go far.

 

Jihai Sun

Sun is a tireless and resilient left-back who briefly played with Fan at Crystal Palace but is now based in Spain. His club Real Sociedad have just been relegated from La Liga in last place, so he is perhaps a long way from being elected to any 'Halls of Fame'.

 

France

Previous World Cups: 10. Best Result: CHAMPIONS (1998).

World Ranking (as of May 2002): 5th - 752.45 pts.

 

Blessed with some of the most gifted players on the planet, France have been tipped to become the first World Cup holders in 40 years to retain their title. Of course, winning the cup far from home is very different to triumphing on your own patch. Recent friendly results have been mixed, and there are suggestions that Les Bleus' famous team spirit is perhaps starting to crumble.

 

Manager

Roger Lemerre (French, age 61)

Aime Jacquet was always going to be a tough act to follow, but his old number 2 Lemerre proved up to the task by guiding France to victory at Euro 2000. His brand of attacking football should serve Les Bleus well again in the Far East... if he can control their egos, that is.

 

Squad

    NAME                         POSITION(S)  BORN      AGE  CLUB                    CAPS GLS  VALUE
*   Barthez, Fabien              GK           28/06/71  30   Man Utd [ENG]           47   -    £7.75M    
*   Dutruel, Richard             GK           24/12/72  29   Barcelona [ESP]         6    -    £7.75M    
*   Frey, Sebastien              GK           18/03/80  22   Inter [ITA]             -    -    £2.8M     
*   Boghossian, Alain            SW/DM C      27/10/70  31   Juventus [ITA]          25   2    £4.7M     
*   Candela, Vincent             D/DM RL      24/10/73  28   Roma [ITA]              33   1    £16.25M   
*   Thuram, Lilian               D RC         01/01/72  30   Liverpool [ENG]         75   2    £8.75M    
*   Danjou, Frédéric             D C          28/09/74  27   Oviedo [ESP]            7    -    £4.7M     
*   Desailly, Marcel             D/DM C       07/09/68  33   Milan [ITA]             49   2    £3.3M     
*   Djetou, Martin               D/DM C       15/12/74  27   Monaco                  10   -    £3M       
*   Goma, Alain                  D C          05/10/72  29   Newcastle [ENG]         -    -    £3.3M     
*   Ismaël, Valérien             D C          28/09/75  26   Lens                    1    -    £2.3M     
*   Petit, Emmanuel              DM C         22/09/70  31   Barcelona [ESP]         43   6    £10.5M    
*   Vieira, Patrick              DM C         23/06/76  25   Arsenal [ENG]           35   1    £17.75M   
*   Dalmat, Stéphane             M RLC        16/02/79  23   Inter [ITA]             11   1    £7.25M    
*   Guigou, Gianni               M RLC        22/02/75  27   Paris-SG                4    -    £3.2M     
*   Giuly, Ludovic               AM/F RL      10/07/76  25   Monaco                  1    -    £4.9M     
*   Zidane, Zinedine             AM C         23/06/72  29   Bayern München [GER]    55   14   £19.5M    
*   Pires, Robert                F RLC        29/01/73  29   Arsenal [ENG]           51   6    £6.75M    
*   Vairelles, Tony              F RLC        10/04/73  29   Lyon                    7    1    £5.25M    
*   Anelka, Nicolas              S C          14/03/79  23   Paris-SG                27   14   £9.5M     
*   Henry, Thierry               S C          17/08/77  24   Arsenal [ENG]           32   6    £15M      
*   Wiltord, Sylvain             S C          10/05/74  28   Arsenal [ENG]           22   6    £3.4M     

(* Real player, [G] Greyed-out player, [R] Regenerated player)

 

Star Players

Vincent Candela

Despite being right-footed, Candela has been Roma's first-choice left-back for a little over five seasons and has twice been named in Serie A's Team of the Year. Few wide players can cross a ball as well as the 28-year-old, and he's not got a bad long shot in him either.

 

Lilian Thuram

On the right side of the French backline is Liverpool powerhouse Thuram, who moved to Anfield from Parma for £12.5million in January. Les Bleus' captain and most experienced player is a studious defender who likes to get stuck in without overstepping the mark.

 

Zinedine Zidane

Zidane is quite possibly one of the most accomplished midfield playmakers of his and any generation. The balding magician's creativity and elegance sets him apart from his peers, and the £25million fee Bayern München paid Juventus for his services last year seems ridiculously low.

 

Mexico

Previous World Cups: 11. Best Result: Quarter Finals (1970, 1986).

World Ranking (as of May 2002): 6th - 748.62 pts.

 

Mexico have a physically powerful squad, with a wealth of experience to boot. El Tri are perhaps the strongest of the three CONCACAF representatives, though they have never got to the Quarter Finals of any World Cup on foreign soil. If they can get their direct attacking game in full flow and learn how to cope with intense pressure, that fact could well change.

 

Manager

Javier Aguirre (Mexican, age 43) - NOT IN DATABASE

Nicknamed 'El Vasco', Aguirre played for Mexico at the 1986 World Cup and will now manage them at another global finals 16 years on. He took the helm in 2001 and is well-known for his stubbornness and his loyalty to long-serving players.

 

Squad

    NAME                         POSITION(S)  BORN      AGE  CLUB                    CAPS GLS  VALUE
*   Campos, Jorge                GK           15/10/66  35   West Brom [ENG]         127  2    £1.2M     
*   Perez, Oscar                 GK           01/02/73  29   Cruz Azul               8    -    £55K      
[R] Varela, Adrián José          GK           24/06/76  25   Toledo [ESP]            -    -    £200K     
*   Beltran, Joaquin             SW/D RC      29/04/77  25   Pumas                   6    -    £95K      
*   Alfaro, Enrique              D/AM/F R     11/12/74  27   1.FC Köln [GER]         23   1    £3.6M     
*   Arellano, Jesus              D/AM/F R     08/05/73  29   Sporting [POR]          21   3    £4.2M     
*   Carreon, Miguel Angel        D/DM R       06/09/76  25   Heerenveen [NED]        16   -    £4.3M     
*   Marquez, Rafael              D RC         13/02/79  23   Monaco [FRA]            19   -    £1.7M     
*   Sánchez, Joel                D RC         17/08/74  27   Chivas                  23   2    £75K      
*   Cabrera, Salvador            D/DM L       26/08/74  27   Necaxa                  14   -    £120K     
*   Davino, Duilio               D C          21/03/76  26   América                 73   -    £325K     
*   Suarez, Claudio              D C          17/12/68  33   Freiburg [GER]          135  7    £1.6M     
*   Zepeda, Miguel Angel         D/DM C       25/05/76  26   Betis [ESP]             19   -    £3.7M     
*   Torrado, Gerardo             DM RC        30/04/79  23   Tenerife [ESP]          17   -    £3.1M     
*   Villa, Germán                DM RC        02/04/73  29   Wolves [ENG]            44   6    £2.6M     
*   Ramirez, Nicolas             DM LC        01/11/75  26   Schalke 04 [GER]        5    -    £4M       
*   Ramirez, Ramón               AM L         05/12/69  32   América                 110  16   £425K     
*   Blanco, Cuauhtemoc           F RC         17/01/73  29   Lyon                    50   14   £2.7M     
*   Mendoza, Jesus               F RLC        15/08/80  21   Portuguesa [BRA]        9    1    £2M       
*   Paco                         F RC         28/04/73  29   Alavés [ESP]            26   11   £4.3M     
*   Cantero, Idelfonso           F LC         07/04/75  27   Nashville [USA]         6    1    £35K      
*   Hernandez, Luis              F C          22/12/68  33   Monterrey               15   8    £180K     

(* Real player, [G] Greyed-out player, [R] Regenerated player)

 

Star Players

Luis Hernandez

Hernandez is a stupendous striker who returned to Monterrey earlier this year after spending some time in Los Angeles. Don't let El Matador's low caps count fool you, because the veteran's previous Mexico appearances weren't recorded in the CM00/01 database.

 

Gerardo Torrado

Holding midfielder Torrado is a selfless player with excellent passing abilities. Some strong performances at the World Cup would surely attract interest from bigger clubs than his current employers Tenerife, who have just finished 9th in the Spanish Segunda Liga.

 

Germán Villa

Villa has not only been instrumental in taking Wolves to the Premiership, but also keeping them there. Though the fearless midfielder is mainly tasked with winning the ball and keeping it in possession, he has been known to bang in superb shots from distance.

 

Russia

Previous World Cups: 8 (7 as Soviet Union). Best Result: 4th Place (1966).

World Ranking (as of May 2002): 22nd - 661.39 pts.

 

Over a third of Russia's squad is on the wrong side of 30, and only one player is aged under 25. When you take that into consideration, it's not hard to conclude that their grizzly bears could be overwhelmed by fitter, more creative opponents. That said, finding some consistency going forward could go some way to confounding the critics and successfully negotiating their group.

 

Manager

Oleg Romantsev (Russian, age 48)

Romantsev - who looks like a slightly chubbier Vladimir Putin - has managed both Russia and Spartak Moscow for the last four years. His well-drilled teams specialise in short passing and quick thinking, and few mistakes are tolerated by this strict disciplinarian.

 

Squad

    NAME                         POSITION(S)  BORN      AGE  CLUB                    CAPS GLS  VALUE
*   Filimonov, Alexandr          GK           15/10/73  28   Spartak Moscow          13   -    £1.7M     
*   Nigmatullin, Ruslan          GK           07/10/74  27   Nürnberg [GER]          15   -    £4.6M     
*   Ovchinnikov, Sergei          GK           10/11/70  31   Porto [POR]             22   -    £1.4M     
*   Min'ko, Valery               SW/D RC      08/08/71  30   CSKA Moscow             10   -    £625K     
*   Nikiforov, Yuri              SW/D C       16/09/70  31   PSV [NED]               53   7    £900K     
*   Onopko, Viktor               SW/D/DM C    14/10/69  32   Oviedo [ESP]            88   1    £6M       
*   Bokov, Maxim                 D RC         29/08/73  28   CSKA Moscow             4    -    £725K     
*   Khlestov, Dmitry             D RC         21/01/71  31   Besiktas [TUR]          61   1    £1.6M     
*   Kovtun, Yury                 D LC         05/01/70  32   Spartak Moscow          35   2    £975K     
*   Yanovski, Igor               D/DM LC      03/08/74  27   Paris-SG [FRA]          39   1    £2.2M     
*   Demenko, Maxim               D/DM C       21/03/76  26   Frankfurt [GER]         8    -    £3.3M     
*   Drozdov, Yury                D/DM C       16/01/72  30   Lokomotiv Moscow        8    -    £825K     
*   Smertin, Alexey              DM C         01/05/75  27   1860 München [GER]      15   -    £1.9M     
*   Kechinov, Valery             AM/F RC      05/08/74  27   Spartak Moscow          11   3    £1.5M     
*   Radimov, Vladislav           AM RC        26/11/75  26   Zaragoza [ESP]          40   4    £1.9M     
*   Mostovoi, Alexander          AM LC        22/08/68  33   Sporting [POR]          61   6    £900K     
*   Tikhonov, Andrey             AM/F L       16/10/70  31   West Brom [ENG]         31   1    £2.9M     
*   Pimenov, Ruslan              F LC         25/11/81  20   Lokomotiv Moscow        -    -    £1.1M     
*   Semak, Sergey                F LC         27/02/76  26   Leverkusen [GER]        28   -    £7.25M    
*   Bestchastnykh, Vladimir      S C          01/04/74  28   Leicester [ENG]         44   10   £9.5M     
*   Panov, Alexandr              S C          21/09/75  26   St-Etienne [FRA]        23   7    £4.4M     
*   Shirko, Alexandr             S C          24/11/76  25   Spartak Moscow          9    3    £2.5M     

(* Real player, [G] Greyed-out player, [R] Regenerated player)

 

Star Players

Vladimir Bestchastnykh

Bestchastnykh has been regarded as Russia's best strikers for some time now, though Leicester fans aren't so sure after a mixed first season in the East Midlands. He is extremely strong physically and can be particularly imposing in the air, but inconsistency is a major issue.

 

Viktor Onopko

Though born in what is now part of Ukraine, gritty centre-half Onopko has been virtually ever-present for Russia since the Soviet Union collapsed. He is now the national team captain as well as a veteran of over 200 league games at Oviedo.

 

Sergey Semak

Semak has an odd record for an international striker, as he has yet to score in 28 Russia caps. That's partly due to the energetic Leverkusen frontman's selflessness, as he tends to favour finding better-positioned team-mates over going for goal himself.

Edited by CFuller

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I'm loving this! Admittedly I'm way behind (only got to the inevitable Canada's-qualifying-campaign-ends-in-disappointment part), but if you're going to real-time updates throughout the tournament I'll catch up quickly. Great stuff!

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3 hours ago, King Jeff said:

I'm loving this! Admittedly I'm way behind (only got to the inevitable Canada's-qualifying-campaign-ends-in-disappointment part), but if you're going to real-time updates throughout the tournament I'll catch up quickly. Great stuff!

It's always good to read things like that, especially from a CMS/FMS stalwart like you (though you were probably before my time ;)).

Part of me enjoyed Canada's capitulation, to tell you the truth, as that meant North America wouldn't have a monopoly on the qualifiers from CONCACAF. I like diversity.

I will indeed be switching to real-time updates from next week, when the tournament starts. I'll post up the match reports every morning on every matchday (around 8pm-10pm in UK time), as that's roughly when the matches would be played in Asia in reality. It'll also avoid any clashes with the actual World Cup. The only change of plan could be for the Final, which I'm thinking about splitting up across the weekend of 14/15 July instead of posting it all up on the Saturday.

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FINALS SQUADS: GROUP B

Czech Republic

Previous World Cups: 8 (all as Czechoslovakia). Best Result: Runners-Up (1934, 1962).

World Ranking (as of May 2002): 10th - 731.26 pts.

 

The Czech Republic possess a few incredible creative and attacking talents, but they perhaps rely on those individuals a little too much. While most of the players should be in their prime, the team lacks generally lacks depth, and parts of the defence look very suspect. Honestly, it's hard to see them improving much on a mediocre Euro 2000 campaign that ended in Group Stage elimination.

 

Manager

Jozef Chovanec (Czech, age 42)

Chovanec played in Czechoslovakia's final World Cup in 1990 and now leads the Czech Republic into their maiden global tournament. He prefers an attractive attacking style of play, and when you look at the players at his disposal, it's not difficult to understand why.

 

Squad

    NAME                         POSITION(S)  BORN      AGE  CLUB                    CAPS GLS  VALUE
*   Blazek, Jaromir              GK           29/12/72  29   Fluminense [BRA]        6    -    £1M       
*   Kouba, Petr                  GK           28/01/69  33   Salamanca [ESP]         43   -    £200K     
*   Srnicek, Pavel               GK           10/03/68  34   Brescia [ITA]           45   -    £950K     
*   Kozel, Lubos                 SW/D/DM C    16/03/71  31   Slavia Prague           11   1    £550K     
*   Novotny, Jiri                SW/D C       07/04/70  32   Sparta Prague           24   2    £575K     
*   Rada, Karel                  SW/D C       02/03/71  31   Frankfurt [GER]         52   4    £3.1M     
*   Fukal, Milan                 D RC         16/05/75  27   Hamburg [GER]           20   1    £3.1M     
*   Gabriel, Petr                D R          17/05/73  29   Adanaspor [TUR]         13   1    £1.8M     
*   Nikl, Marek                  D/DM RC      20/02/76  26   Nürnberg [GER]          10   -    £3.9M     
*   Kubik, Lubos                 D C          20/01/64  38   New England [USA]       56   13   £50K      
*   Repka, Tomas                 D C          02/01/74  28   Fiorentina [ITA]        54   1    £9.25M    
*   Latal, Radoslav              DM R         06/01/70  32   Schalke 04 [GER]        63   4    £3.4M     
*   Rosicky, Tomas               M RLC        04/10/80  21   Dortmund [GER]          18   1    £4.2M     
*   Jarolim, David               M C          17/05/79  23   Hamburg [GER]           4    -    £5.5M     
*   Baranek, Miroslav            AM RC        01/11/73  28   1.FC Köln [GER]         24   4    £4.3M     
*   Poborsky, Karel              AM R         30/03/72  30   Lazio [ITA]             71   4    £11M      
*   Berger, Patrik               AM LC        10/11/73  28   Liverpool [ENG]         55   25   £5.75M    
*   Nedved, Pavel                AM L         30/08/72  29   Lazio [ITA]             60   12   £20M      
*   Smicer, Vladimir             F RLC        24/05/73  29   Liverpool [ENG]         53   22   £5.75M    
*   Heinz, Marek                 F LC         04/08/77  24   Hamburg [GER]           15   1    £7M       
*   Koller, Jan                  S C          30/03/73  29   Anderlecht [BEL]        26   16   £6.25M    
*   Lokvenc, Vratislav           S C          27/09/73  28   Kaiserslautern [GER]    42   8    £7M       

(* Real player, [G] Greyed-out player, [R] Regenerated player)

 

Star Players

Pavel Nedved

Czech captain Nedved has won both the European Cup Winners' Cup and the Champions League with Lazio and is one of Italian football's pre-eminent attackers. With his pinpoint crossing ability, set-piece prowess and marauding runs, this left-winger is a true all-rounder.

 

Karel Poborsky

Nedved might take most of the headlines, but team-mate Poborsky is arguably even more productive for club and country. The right-winger got 18 assists for Lazio last term, and his outstanding chip over Portugal's goalkeeper at Euro '96 is still remembered by Czech fans.

 

Tomas Repka

Repka didn't move to West Ham in this universe, because he has been rock-solid at the back for Fiorentina in Serie A. The 28-year-old centre-half is an excellent man marker who is tough as nails, as his rather questionable disciplinary record suggests.

 

Germany

Previous World Cups: 14 (10 as West Germany). Best Result: CHAMPIONS (1954, 1974, 1990).

World Ranking (as of May 2002): 30th - 607.77 pts.

 

Despite winning their qualifying group, all is still not well in the Germany team after their abysmal Euro 2000 showing. Obvious deficiencies going forward have not been rectified, and the Mannschaft have not yet earned a meaningful win against strong opposition under Rudi Völler. Of course, the stereotypically efficient Germans always like to prove us wrong when they're being written off.

 

Manager

Rudi Völler (German, age 42)

Völler averaged over a goal every two games in his 90-cap Germany career, so he's arguably the right man to rouse the Mannschaft from their recent slumber. Some say that he has never been able to get all of Frank Rijkaard's spit out of his hair, 12 years after that night in Milan.

 

Squad

    NAME                         POSITION(S)  BORN      AGE  CLUB                    CAPS GLS  VALUE
*   Butt, Hans-Jörg              GK           28/05/74  28   Leverkusen              1    -    £5.25M    
*   Kahn, Oliver                 GK           15/06/69  32   Bayern München          40   -    £11M      
*   Lehmann, Jens                GK           10/11/69  32   Hamburg                 12   -    £3.3M     
*   Schnoor, Stefan              SW/D RLC     24/04/71  31   Wolfsburg               5    -    £2.4M     
*   Nowotny, Jens                SW/D C       11/01/74  28   Leverkusen              28   1    £5.25M    
*   Eigenrauch, Yves             D/DM RC      24/04/71  31   Schalke 04              2    -    £3.1M     
*   Meißner, Silvio              D/DM RC      19/01/73  29   VfB Stuttgart           2    -    £4.1M     
*   Rehmer, Marko                D/DM RC      29/04/72  30   Hertha BSC              24   2    £4.8M     
*   Happe, Markus                D LC         11/02/72  30   Hamburg                 7    -    £3.8M     
*   Ziege, Christian             D/DM L       01/02/72  30   Liverpool [ENG]         52   8    £6.25M    
*   Koch, Harry                  D C          15/11/69  32   Kaiserslautern          -    -    £2.1M     
*   Linke, Thomas                D C          26/12/69  32   Bayern München          25   1    £6M       
*   Tarnat, Michael              DM LC        27/10/69  32   Frankfurt               26   1    £4.4M     
*   Jeremies, Jens               DM C         05/03/74  28   Bayern München          36   2    £12.25M   
*   Deisler, Sebastian           AM RC        05/01/80  22   Hertha BSC              17   1    £7M       
*   Beinlich, Stefan             AM LC        13/01/72  30   Hertha BSC              15   1    £5.25M    
*   Ketelaer, Marcel             AM L         03/11/77  24   Hamburg                 5    1    £6M       
*   Neuville, Oliver             F RLC        01/05/73  29   Leverkusen              29   4    £6.5M     
*   Zickler, Alexander           F RC         28/02/74  28   Bayern München          14   1    £7.25M    
*   Timm, Christian              F LC         27/02/79  23   1.FC Köln               4    -    £8.5M     
*   Dundee, Sean                 S C          07/12/72  29   Hamburg                 4    -    £6.25M    
*   Jancker, Carsten             S C          28/08/74  27   Bayern München          18   5    £17M      

(* Real player, [G] Greyed-out player, [R] Regenerated player)

 

Star Players

Jens Jeremies

All of Germany's so-called star players turn out for Bayern München, and Jeremies is perhaps the most underrated of them. The anchor man is the antithesis of a 'Match of the Day' highlights player, with his heading abilities and tenacity keeping the Mannschaft solid at the back.

 

Oliver Kahn

Captain for both club and country, Kahn is regarded by many as the current best goalkeeper in world football. The flexible and commanding custodian is known by the press as 'Der Titan', supporters as 'Vol-kahn-o', and Sports Interactive as 'Jens Mustermann'.

 

Thomas Linke

The third member of Germany's Bayern spine, Thomas is most certainly not its weakest Linke. The central defender is a hard-nosed tackler who is close to unbeatable in the air, though his lack of pace could potentially be exposed by the quickest strikers.

 

Morocco

Previous World Cups: 4. Best Result: Round 2 (1986).

World Ranking (as of May 2002): 4th - 761.70 pts.

 

If you want to bet on a team from outside Europe and South America winning the title, Morocco offer the most attractive odds. The Atlas Lions have blown their CAF counterparts away with relentless attacking football, though they are untested against sides from other continents. When Pelé said an African team would lift the World Cup by the year 2000, maybe he was only a couple of years off.

 

Manager

Henri Michel (French, age 54)

Michel led his native France to Olympic Games gold in 1984, and then tasted more glory with Morocco earlier this year in the African Cup of Nations. He is widely respected by his players and looks like the man most capable of bringing world football's greatest prize to an African nation.

 

Squad

    NAME                         POSITION(S)  BORN      AGE  CLUB                    CAPS GLS  VALUE
*   Benlahsen, Khalid            GK           22/07/74  27   RBC [NED]               -    -    £275K     
*   El Asmar, Driss              GK           04/12/75  26   DH El Jadida            11   -    £7K       
*   Sinouh, Khalid               GK           05/02/75  27   RKC [NED]               14   -    £1.8M     
*   Neqrouz, Rachid              SW/D RC      10/04/72  30   Bari [ITA]              11   -    £2.7M     
*   Ouaddou, Abdeslam            SW/D C       01/11/78  23   Nancy [FRA]             4    -    £1M       
*   Saber, Abdellah              D R          21/04/74  28   Napoli [ITA]            32   -    £2.7M     
*   Amzine, Gharib               D/M L        03/05/73  29   Strasbourg [FRA]        13   -    £45K      
*   El Hadrioui, Abdelkarim      D L          08/08/72  29   AZ [NED]                74   4    £1.9M     
*   El-Karkouri, Talal           D C          08/07/76  25   Paris-SG [FRA]          25   -    £1.4M     
*   Jrindou, Abdellatif          D/DM C       01/10/74  27   Raja Casablanca         32   1    £50K      
[R] Nader, Jean Bertin           D C          21/12/80  21   FAR Rabat               -    -    £7K       
*   Sellami, Jamal               D C          06/10/70  31   Besiktas [TUR]          8    1    £1.7M     
*   Tahar                        D/DM C       16/06/68  33   Southampton [ENG]       33   1    £975K     
*   Chippo, Youssef              DM C         10/05/73  29   Coventry [ENG]          39   4    £2.1M     
*   Chiba, Saïd                  AM RC        28/09/70  31   Nancy [FRA]             27   5    £1.8M     
*   Hadji, Mustapha              AM/F RC      16/11/71  30   Coventry [ENG]          48   9    £4.7M     
*   Ramzi, Adil                  AM/F RC      14/07/77  24   PSV [NED]               33   5    £7.5M     
*   Abdellaoui, Yassine          AM/F L       21/06/75  26   Willem II [NED]         19   2    £3.2M     
*   Abubakari, Sadiki            F RLC        04/04/82  20   Vicenza [ITA]           1    -    £220K     
*   Bassir, Salaheddine          F RC         05/09/72  29   Atlético Madrid [ESP]   42   22   £9M       
*   Hadda Kamatcho               S C          21/03/72  30   Sporting Gijón [ESP]    21   10   £4.6M     
*   Rokki, Rachid                S C          08/11/74  27   Racing Santander [ESP]  10   12   £5.25M    

(* Real player, [G] Greyed-out player, [R] Regenerated player)

 

Star Players

Salaheddine Bassir

Atlético Madrid's first act after being promoted back to La Liga last summer was to sign Bassir from Deportivo. They got themselves a diminutive but devastating striker who has excellent dribbling skills and technique, not to mention an impressive record with Morocco.

 

Hadda Kamatcho

Abdeljalil Hadda (I'm not quite sure where the 'Kamatcho' nickname comes from) scored 26 goals last season to earn Sporting Gijón promotion to La Liga. The agile poacher also finished as top scorer at the Africa Cup of Nations, so World Cup defences must be wary of him.

 

Adil Ramzi

24-year-old Ramzi has racked up plenty of goals and assists with Eredivisie champions PSV and is also a prime creative force for his country. As well as having the heart of an Atlas Lion, he is ice-cool under pressure and rarely makes a bad decision on the ball.

 

Paraguay

Previous World Cups: 5. Best Result: Round 2 (1986, 1998).

World Ranking (as of May 2002): 21st - 671.11 pts.

 

Paraguay were the last team to book their World Cup place, but I honestly don't expect them to be amongst the first to leave. La Albirroja are tactically very astute at the back, and the presence of a certain goalscoring goalkeeper makes them even more imposing. However, there are obvious doubts over their quality and depth - of lack thereof - in midfield.

 

Manager

Cesare Maldini (Italian, age 70) - NOT IN DATABASE

Maldini was Italy's coach at France '98, but he very nearly missed out on guiding Paraguay to these finals. Paolo's septuagenarian father uses an array of formations, almost all of which take a very Italian 'catenaccio' approach to defending.

 

Squad

    NAME                         POSITION(S)  BORN      AGE  CLUB                    CAPS GLS  VALUE
*   Chilavert, José Luis         GK           27/07/65  36   Strasbourg [FRA]        125  5    £1.1M     
*   Ruiz Díaz, Rubén             GK           11/11/69  32   Talleres [ARG]          30   -    £825K     
*   Tavarelli, Ricardo           GK           01/04/79  23   Olimpia                 2    -    £120K     
*   Ayala, Celso                 SW/D C       20/08/70  31   River [ARG]             62   4    £2.5M     
*   Gamarra, Carlos              SW/D C       17/02/71  31   Flamengo [BRA]          73   5    £4.5M     
*   Arce, Francisco Javier       D/DM R       02/04/71  31   Botafogo [BRA]          61   7    £2.7M     
*   Enciso, Julio César          D/DM RC      05/08/74  27   Internacional [BRA]     68   3    £3.3M     
*   Maldonado, Ruben             D/DM RC      25/04/79  23   Venezia [ITA]           16   -    £1.8M     
*   Sarabia, Pedro               D RLC        05/07/75  26   River [ARG]             37   2    £1.6M     
*   Caballero, Darío             D LC         01/01/77  25   Chacarita [ARG]         6    1    £1.1M     
*   Caniza, Denis                D L          29/08/74  27   Lanús [ARG]             22   1    £1.6M     
*   Morel Rodríguez, Claudio     D L          02/02/78  24   San Lorenzo [ARG]       13   -    £2.4M     
*   Toledo, Delio César          D L          10/02/76  26   Espanyol [ESP]          31   1    £2.1M     
*   Paredes, Carlos              DM C         16/07/76  25   Porto [POR]             46   6    £3.5M     
*   Acuña, Roberto Miguel        M RC         25/03/72  30   Zaragoza [ESP]          98   6    £1.7M     
*   Cuevas, Nelson               AM/F R       10/01/80  22   River [ARG]             1    -    £4.1M     
*   Morales Santos, Carlos       AM C         04/11/68  33   Colón [ARG]             18   1    £625K     
*   Benítez, Miguel Ángel        F C          19/05/70  32   Espanyol [ESP]          51   10   £2.2M     
*   Fábio                        F C          14/06/80  21   Belenenses [POR]        6    1    £1.4M     
*   Guzman, Gaetan Tomas         F C          07/03/82  20   Juventus [ITA]          14   -    £1.6M     
*   Caballero, Fabián            S C          31/01/78  24   Dundee [SCO]            1    -    £575K     
*   Santa Cruz, Roque            S C          16/08/81  20   Bayern München [GER]    34   10   £9M       

(* Real player, [G] Greyed-out player, [R] Regenerated player)

 

Star Players

Celso Ayala

Centre-half Ayala is in his prime at 31 and is arguably just as important to the Paraguayan defence as undisputed number 1 José Luis Chilavert. His positioning is almost always on-point, and he's not afraid to get stuck into strong recovery tackles if required.

 

Carlos Gamarra

Also aged 31, Albirroja captain Gamarra is an iron-willed leader of men and one of South America's pre-eminent central defenders. He won the Brazilian national championship with Flamengo in 2000, despite missing large chunks of that season through injury.

 

Carlos Paredes

Porto's back-to-back Primeira Liga champions wouldn't quite be the same force without having Paredes in an anchoring role. When playing for Paraguay, he is regarded as their midfield master, who can quickly and efficiently move the ball from defence to attack.

Edited by CFuller

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FINALS SQUADS: GROUP C

Jamaica

Previous World Cups: 1. Best Result: Group Stage (1998).

World Ranking (as of May 2002): 41st - 565.23 pts.

 

Jamaica brought vibrancy and entertainment to their World Cup debut, and a kind group draw gives them hope that they can make it to the knockout phase. However, while the Reggae Boyz have a strong starting line-up of mostly English-based players, the rest of their squad badly lacks quality. A few injuries could be all it takes to completely derail the Caribbeans.

 

Manager

Carl Brown (Jamaican, age 51) - NOT IN DATABASE

Despite winning 60 caps for Jamaica and first managing them in the early 1990s, Brown is little-known outside of his tiny Caribbean homeland. He has spent most of the last 12 months picking up training tips from Bolton's manager, so expect plenty of good ol' Allardyce hoof-ball.

 

Squad

    NAME                         POSITION(S)  BORN      AGE  CLUB                    CAPS GLS  VALUE
*   Barrett, Warren              GK           09/07/70  31   Gevir Bodø [NOR]        122  -    £24K      
[G] Dickinson, Che               GK           10/07/81  20                           -    -    Free      
*   Lawrence, Aaron              GK           11/08/70  31   Lousada [POR]           26   -    £5K       
[R] Lawton, Jeffrey              SW/D C       21/04/78  24   Emmen [NED]             -    -    £300K     
*   Lawrence, Jamie              D/AM R       08/03/70  32   Stockport [ENG]         15   2    £120K     
*   Sinclair, Frank              D RC         03/12/71  30   Leicester [ENG]         16   -    £1.5M     
[R] Sinnott, Jeffrey             D R          23/07/77  24   Criciúma [BRA]          5    -    £1.4M     
*   Brevett, Rufus               D L          24/09/69  32   Fulham [ENG]            2    -    £4K       
*   Gardner, Ricardo             D/AM L       25/09/78  23   Bolton [ENG]            28   2    £2.5M     
*   Johnson, Michael             D LC         04/07/73  28   Birmingham [ENG]        15   1    £950K     
*   Maddix, Danny                D C          11/10/67  34   QPR [ENG]               10   -    £350K     
*   Moore, Darren                D C          22/04/74  28   Portsmouth [ENG]        11   -    £375K     
*   Stewart, Donald              D/DM C       03/05/75  27   Real Mona               44   2    £12K      
*   Griffiths, Winston           M LC         12/05/78  24   Hazard County           17   2    £30K      
[R] Crossland, Cameron           M C          25/10/74  27   Cavalier FC             -    -    £16K      
*   Whitmore, Theodore           M C          05/08/72  29   Strasbourg [FRA]        128  29   £1.8M     
[R] Bastow, Rodney               AM RL        17/12/78  23   Seba United             -    -    £24K      
*   Benjamin, Trevor             F RLC        08/02/79  23   Leicester [ENG]         7    -    £1.6M     
*   Harris, Wolde                F RC         26/01/74  28   New England [USA]       24   9    £3.9M     
*   Gayle, Marcus                F LC         27/09/70  31   Wimbledon [ENG]         17   5    £700K     
*   Burton, Deon                 S C          25/10/76  25   Derby [ENG]             26   8    £1.2M     
*   Williams, Andy               S C          23/09/77  24   Miami [USA]             -    -    £1.2M     

(* Real player, [G] Greyed-out player, [R] Regenerated player)

 

Star Players

Wolde Harris

Harris is very much a product of America's soccer system, and he has scored 74 league goals for Colorado and current club New England. The 28-year-old's best assets are undoubtedly his blistering pace (no surprise there) and his finishing ability from close range.

 

Jeffrey Sinnott

Sinnott is the only 'regen' amongst the 32 finalists to be designated as a so-called 'Star Player'. The spirited right-back signed for Brazilian second-tier outfit Criciúma last May and is understood to be coveted by the likes of Dinamo Kiev and Tottenham.

 

Theodore Whitmore

Jamaica's most-capped player, Whitmore made a surprising move from Division 3 side Hull to Strasbourg last summer. While he has not yet settled in France, he remains an elegant creator in the heart of the Reggae Boyz' midfield.

 

South Korea

Previous World Cups: 5. Best Result: Group Stage (5 times).

World Ranking (as of May 2002): 66th - 492.35 pts.

 

South Korea were thrashed 5-1 by France in last summer's Confederations Cup, which could be an indicator of how they'll fare at their first home World Cup. Though the Taegeuk Warriors' squad is unquestionably very fit and agile, there are few technically-capable players at their disposal. Getting out of the group should be achievable, but any further progress would need a lot of luck.

 

Manager

Guus Hiddink (Dutch, age 55)

After leading his native Netherlands to the Semi Finals of France '98, Hiddink is trying to do the same with South Korea. The wily motivator - who briefly managed Real Madrid a few seasons ago - will need to use all his nous to succeed with the Taegeuk Warriors.

 

Squad

    NAME                         POSITION(S)  BORN      AGE  CLUB                    CAPS GLS  VALUE
*   Kim, Byung-Ji                GK           08/04/70  32   Verdy [JPN]             37   -    £775K     
[G] Sebwe, Tomas                 GK           08/08/72  29                           -    -    Free      
*   Seo, Dong-Myung              GK           04/05/74  28   Sangmoo                 1    -    £170K     
*   Pak, Yong-ho                 SW/D/DM RLC  29/05/74  28   Sagan [JPN]             2    -    £70K      
*   Hong, Myung-Bo               SW/D C       12/02/69  33   Reysol [JPN]            98   9    £625K     
[R] Bräck, Emmanuel              D RC         24/07/76  25   Dankook University      3    -    £18K      
*   Kim, Jung-Heok               D RC         30/11/68  33   Chunnam                 17   1    £30K      
* † Lee, Ki-Hyung                D/M R        28/09/74  27   Suwon                   35   4    £450K     
*   Jang, Hyung-Seok             D/DM C       07/07/72  29   Ulsan                   12   -    £110K     
[R] Ketty Camara, Detlef         D C          18/11/74  27   Puchon                  -    -    £30K      
*   Kim, Tae-Young               D/DM C       08/11/70  31   Neftochimik [BUL]       23   3    £325K     
*   Choi, Sung-Yong              M R          25/12/75  26   Vissel [JPN]            18   -    £325K     
*   Ha, Seok-Ju                  M RL         20/02/68  34   Pohang                  81   21   £30K      
*   Yoon, Jong-Hwan              M RC         16/02/73  29   Cerezo [JPN]            18   3    £2M       
*   Seo, Dong-Won                M C          14/08/75  26   Yonsei University       10   1    £85K      
[R] Multescu, Min-Sung           AM L         11/12/77  24   Chunnam                 -    -    £30K      
*   Ahn, Jung-Hwan               F RC         27/01/76  26   Perugia [ITA]           -    -    £3.1M     
*   Noh, Jung-Yoon               F RC         28/03/71  31   Cerezo [JPN]            10   5    £1.8M     
*   Choi, Yong-Soo               S C          10/09/73  28   Ulsan                   22   11   £325K     
*   Gwak, Kyoung-Keun            S C          10/10/72  29   Puchon                  -    -    £160K     
*   Kim, Hyun-Seog               S C          05/05/67  35   Verdy [JPN]             3    1    £110K     
*   Lee, Sang-Yoon               S C          10/04/69  33   Sungnam                 17   5    £55K      

† Injury replacement for: Jang, Dae-Il - D C, 09/03/75, Toledo [ESP]
(* Real player, [G] Greyed-out player, [R] Regenerated player)

 

Star Players

Jung-Hwan Ahn

In the future, Korean television viewers will know Ahn as the presenter of the game show 'Please Take Care Of My Refrigerator'. Right now in this universe, he's an agile and technically-gifted forward who is beloved by Perugia's kindly and sensible owner Luciano Gaucci.

 

Yong-Soo Choi

Choi had a decent scoring record in Japan before returning home to sign for Ulsan last summer. The tireless forward tore his groin muscle in September and has yet to rediscover his best form, but perhaps the home supporters will give him all the motivation he needs.

 

Tae-Young Kim

One of four Taegeuk Warriors with his very common surname, Kim is probably the only South Korean footballer currently playing in Bulgaria. Though the holding midfielder doesn't have much in the way of technical ability, he'll always work his socks off for the team.

 

Ukraine

Previous World Cups: 0 (not including 7 as Soviet Union). Best Result: debut.

World Ranking (as of May 2002): 25th - 650.60 pts.

 

Of this year's debutants, Ukraine look the most likely to make a lasting impression in the Far East. The Zhovto-Blakytni are an imposing, well-drilled team who eliminated Turkey in the qualifiers and will want to repeat their real-life exploits. The bewildering absence of Milan's superstar striker Andriy Shevchenko might well be all that stops them from getting past Round 2.

 

Manager

Valery Lobanovsky (Ukrainian, age 63)

In reality, Lobanovsky sadly died of a stroke in May 2002. In this universe, we will get a chance to see if one of Europe's most intelligent and innovative managers - who coaches both Dinamo Kiev and Ukraine - can make an impact on global football.

 

Squad

    NAME                         POSITION(S)  BORN      AGE  CLUB                    CAPS GLS  VALUE
*   Kutepov, Igor                GK           17/12/65  36   CSKA Moscow [RUS]       3    -    £275K     
*   Savchenko, Vladimir          GK           09/09/73  28   Rostselmash [RUS]       -    -    £24K      
*   Vorobjov, Valery             GK           14/01/70  32   Torpedo Moscow [RUS]    18   -    £230K     
*   Mor, Eduard                  SW/D C       04/10/77  24   Spartak Moscow [RUS]    9    -    £1.3M     
*   Krukovets, Sergey            D RC         01/07/73  28   Torpedo Moscow [RUS]    3    -    £300K     
*   Luzhniy, Oleg                D RC         05/08/68  33   Arsenal [ENG]           40   -    £2.5M     
*   Michalczuk, Andrzej          D/DM RLC     03/11/67  34   Widzew [POL]            9    -    £200K     
*   Parfenov, Dmitry             D R          11/09/74  27   Spartak Moscow [RUS]    22   -    £1.1M     
*   Skripnik, Victor             D LC         18/10/69  32   Colorado [USA]          22   2    £750K     
[R] Virt, Asim                   D LC         08/11/77  24   RWDM [BEL]              6    -    £750K     
*   Holovko, Alexander           D C          06/01/72  30   Drnovice [CZE]          44   1    £250K     
*   Vashchuk, Vladislav          D C          02/01/75  27   Dinamo Kiev             21   1    £750K     
*   Kovalets, Sergei             M L          15/03/69  33   San Jose [USA]          1    -    £650K     
*   Kandaurov, Serguei           M C          02/12/72  29   Benfica [POR]           19   3    £2.3M     
*   Tischenko, Maxim             AM RC        30/08/74  27   Rotor [RUS]             3    -    £400K     
*   Spivak, Alexandr             AM L         06/01/75  27   Zenith [RUS]            11   1    £425K     
*   Kalinichenko, Maxim          AM C         26/01/79  23   Besiktas [TUR]          11   5    £6.25M    
*   Rebrov, Sergei               F RC         03/06/74  28   Tottenham [ENG]         43   12   £10.25M   
*   Husin, Andrei                F C          11/12/72  29   DC United [USA]         19   4    £1.6M     
*   Levchenko, Sergij            S C          03/11/81  20   Gladbach [GER]          2    -    £2.1M     
*   Skatchenko, Sergueï          S C          18/11/72  29   Metz [FRA]              19   3    £2.4M     
*   Tschernijenko, Ruslan        S C          12/12/72  29   Chicago [USA]           3    -    £1.7M     

(* Real player, [G] Greyed-out player, [R] Regenerated player)

 

Star Players

Alexander Holovko

Holovko is one of the leading defenders in the Czech league, having excelled at Drnovice over the past two seasons. He is a magnificent man-marker and a forceful tackler who, at the age of 30, is just beginning to hit his prime.

 

Oleg Luzhniy

Luzhniy only displaced Lee Dixon as Arsenal's first-choice right-back this season, but he has been one of Ukraine's key men for several years now. He is an extremely consistent defender who has the creative ability to play further up the flank if he wanted to.

 

Sergei Rebrov

Tottenham's record £11million signing Rebrov has been a bit hit-and-miss at White Hart Lane so far. The short but pacey striker usually partners Shevchenko up front, though the latter has been dropped by Lobanovsky for goodness knows what reason.

 

Wales

Previous World Cups: 1. Best Result: Quarter Finals (1958).

World Ranking (as of May 2002): 98th - 413.19 pts.

 

After reaching the last eight at Sweden 1958, it has taken Wales a rather long time to return to the World Cup stage. The Red Dragons' burning passion at the back and energy on the wings has got them this far, and who's to say they can't progress much further? Much will depend on the performances of a certain left-footed, Cardiff-born magician whose name isn't Gareth Bale.

 

Manager

Mark Hughes (Welsh, age 38)

The affable Hughes is a true Welsh footballing legend who is now making as big an impact in the dugout as he did up front on the pitch. 'Sparky' used to combine this job with managing Blackburn, but he now works part-time for Nuneaton as a scout... obviously.

 

Squad

    NAME                         POSITION(S)  BORN      AGE  CLUB                    CAPS GLS  VALUE
*   Coyne, Danny                 GK           27/08/73  28   Grimsby [ENG]           1    -    £475K     
*   Crossley, Mark               GK           16/06/69  32   Middlesbrough [ENG]     11   -    £1M       
*   Jones, Paul                  GK           18/04/67  35   Southampton [ENG]       22   -    £775K     
*   Coleman, Chris               SW/D LC      10/06/70  32   Fulham [ENG]            38   4    £475K     
*   Delaney, Mark                D R          13/05/76  26   Aston Villa [ENG]       12   -    £1M       
*   Savage, Robbie               D/M RC       18/10/74  27   Leicester [ENG]         27   1    £1.7M     
*   Barnard, Darren              D/AM L       30/11/71  30   Bradford [ENG]          20   -    £775K     
*   Jones, Matthew               D/DM LC      01/09/80  21   Leicester [ENG]         21   1    £3.1M     
*   Partridge, David             D LC         26/11/78  23   Sheff Wed [ENG]         3    -    £1.8M     
*   Mardon, Paul                 D C          14/09/69  32   West Brom [ENG]         6    -    £500K     
*   Page, Robert                 D C          03/09/74  27   Watford [ENG]           19   -    £1.1M     
*   Williams, Adrian             D C          16/08/71  30   Derby [ENG]             13   -    £1.1M     
*   Davies, Simon                M RC         23/10/79  22   Tottenham [ENG]         12   -    £2.9M     
*   Pembridge, Mark              M LC         29/11/70  31   Everton [ENG]           49   7    £2.5M     
*   Speed, Gary                  M LC         08/09/69  32   Newcastle [ENG]         54   6    £70K      
*   Oster, John                  AM/F RC      08/12/78  23   Sunderland [ENG]        11   1    £95K      
*   Giggs, Ryan                  AM L         29/11/73  28   Man Utd [ENG]           40   10   £15.25M   
*   Bellamy, Craig               AM/F C       13/07/79  22   Coventry [ENG]          22   6    £3.8M     
*   Blake, Nathan                F RC         27/01/72  30   Blackburn [ENG]         17   2    £950K     
*   Earnshaw, Robert             F LC         06/04/81  21   AEK [GRE]               4    -    £1.3M     
*   Hartson, John                S C          05/04/75  27   Bradford [ENG]          24   6    £3.1M     
*   Haworth, Simon               S C          30/03/77  25   Wigan [ENG]             5    -    £2M       

(* Real player, [G] Greyed-out player, [R] Regenerated player)

 

Star Players

Ryan Giggs

Born in Cardiff but bred in Salford, Giggs has made over 400 appearances for Premiership champions Manchester United since his debut a decade ago. The left-wing wizard will now show off his dribbling abilities - and his chest hair - at the World Cup after a superb qualifying campaign.

 

Matthew Jones

Central midfielder Jones is already so experienced in a Wales jersey for such a young man. He was a regular starter at Leicester in 2000/2001 but has fallen out of favour with the Foxes more recently, so that perhaps doesn't bode well for the Red Dragons.

 

Gary Speed

Speed doesn't have a lot of pace, but what he does have is plenty of stamina and true leadership qualities. Though he's been horribly neglected by Newcastle boss David O'Leary this term, the Red Dragons' loyalty to their most passionate player is far stronger.

Edited by CFuller

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FINALS SQUADS: GROUP D

Bosnia & Herzegovina

Previous World Cups: 0 (not including 9 as Yugoslavia). Best Result: debut.

World Ranking (as of May 2002): 71st - 480.67 pts.

 

12 years ahead of schedule, Bosnia & Herzegovina emerged from a difficult period in their history to qualify for a maiden World Cup. When you consider that the Zmajevi got a surprising array of excellent players in La Liga, they look to have dark horse potential. While it's unlikely that they'll bring the trophy to Sarajevo, their style of football should enthral many spectators.

 

Manager

Miso Smajlovic (Bosnian, age 48)

Smajlovic began coaching Bosnia & Herzegovina's Under-21s in 1998 and was promoted to the top job barely a year later. He demands that his players are at peak physical fitness at all times and will lay down the law if anyone fails to meet his standards.

 

Squad

    NAME                         POSITION(S)  BORN      AGE  CLUB                    CAPS GLS  VALUE
*   Becirevic, Kenan             GK           06/10/74  27   Harelbeke [BEL]         3    -    £180K     
*   Hasagic, Kenan               GK           01/02/80  22   Altay [TUR]             -    -    £60K      
*   Ramovic, Sead                GK           14/03/79  23   Stuttgarter [GER]       6    -    £525K     
*   Simic, Predrag               SW/D RC      28/06/79  22   Zagreb [CRO]            -    -    £160K     
*   Hibic, Misrad                SW/D C       11/10/73  28   Atlético Madrid [ESP]   12   1    £2.9M     
*   Katana, Suad                 SW/D C       06/04/69  33   Lokeren [BEL]           9    -    £550K     
*   Vidakovic, Hristo            SW/D C       05/01/69  33   Osasuna [ESP]           25   -    £1.3M     
*   Bajramovic, Zlatan           D/DM R       12/08/79  22   St Pauli [GER]          3    -    £1.9M     
*   Kapetanovic, Sead            D/M RL       21/01/72  30   Bochum [GER]            25   1    £2.4M     
*   Music, Vedin                 D/AM/F R     11/05/73  29   Antalyaspor [TUR]       11   -    £1.2M     
*   Salihamidzic, Hasan          D/DM R       01/01/77  25   Bayern München [GER]    28   5    £4M       
*   Hujdurovic, Faruk            D C          14/05/70  32   Cottbus [GER]           12   1    £300K     
*   Konjic, Muhamed              D C          14/05/70  32   Coventry [ENG]          42   1    £975K     
*   Kuc, Kemal                   M C          30/05/79  23   Cukaricki [YUG]         -    -    £30K      
*   Baljic, Elvir                AM L         08/07/74  27   Sevilla [ESP]           21   7    £4.6M     
*   Jusic, Zyad                  AM/F L       01/03/80  22   PSV [NED]               5    -    £1.3M     
*   Barbarez, Sergej             AM/F C       17/09/71  30   RW Essen [GER]          19   2    £1.8M     
*   Kevric, Adnan                AM C         02/05/70  32   Ulm [GER]               14   -    £925K     
*   Mesic, Mirza                 F RC         28/06/80  21   Nantes [FRA]            6    1    £2.1M     
*   Muslimovic, Zlatan           F RC         06/03/81  21   Udinese [ITA]           13   9    £3.4M     
*   Turkovic, Almir              F LC         03/11/70  31   Osijek [CRO]            7    -    £1M       
*   Bolic, Elvir                 F C          10/10/71  30   Rayo [ESP]              35   17   £3.9M     

(* Real player, [G] Greyed-out player, [R] Regenerated player)

 

Star Players

Elvir Baljic

Baljic is a flamboyant and intelligent (but injury-prone) left-winger whose playing style is very easy on the eye when he is in full flow. He moved from Real Madrid to Sevilla earlier this year, as he sought to get more first-team action before the finals.

 

Elvir Bolic

Not to be confused with his namesake, Bolic is a strong centre-forward who has fine finishing ability from any reasonable range. Like many Bosnians, he fled the country during the Yugoslavian conflict, and he's since excelled in Turkey and latterly Spain.

 

Misrad Hibic

Hibic - whose first name Mirsad is misspelt in the CM00/01 database - has now spent the last six seasons playing in Spain. At international level, he is often partnered in the centre of the Bosnian defence by another La Liga stalwart in national captain Hristo Vidakovic.

 

Cameroon

Previous World Cups: 4. Best Result: Quarter Finals (1990).

World Ranking (as of May 2002): 23rd - 652.68 pts.

 

Roger Milla might be long gone, but Cameroon are blessed with some talented strikers eager to fill his dancing boots. Mind you, this World Cup might have come too soon for the new generation of Indomitable Lions to stake a claim for the pride of global football. A change of manager might even have ended up stifling their flair and creativity in favour of dull pragmatism.

 

Manager

Gabriel Pacheco (Brazilian, age 37)

Defensive-minded Pacheco is the youngest coach at this World Cup, but he's so obscure that he doesn't have a Wikipedia page in real-life! He guided Cameroon to 3rd in the African Cup of Nations after the controversial sacking of predecessor Jean Manga Onguene.

 

Squad

    NAME                         POSITION(S)  BORN      AGE  CLUB                    CAPS GLS  VALUE
*   Boukar, Alioum               GK           03/01/72  30   Samsunspor [TUR]        36   -    £2.3M     
*   Songo'o, Jacques             GK           17/03/64  38   GBA [BRA]               58   -    £130K     
*   William                      GK           14/06/68  33   Boavista [POR]          63   -    £875K     
*   Kalla, Raymond               SW/D C       22/04/75  27   Extremadura [ESP]       43   -    £1.7M     
*   Kome                         D/DM RC      19/05/80  22   Numancia [ESP]          15   -    £1.2M     
*   Song, Rigobert               D RC         01/07/76  25   West Ham [ENG]          90   6    £3.3M     
*   Noudou, Simforien            D/DM L       01/11/77  24   Iraklis [GRE]           11   -    £975K     
*   Olembé, Salomon              D/DM LC      08/12/80  21   Nantes [FRA]            25   3    £3.3M     
*   Wome, Pierre                 D/DM LC      26/03/79  23   Bologna [ITA]           23   1    £5M       
*   Bouele, Gay                  D C          16/02/79  23   Kalamarias [GRE]        1    -    £350K     
*   Dika, Jean                   D C          04/06/79  23   Atlético Madrid [ESP]   -    -    £2.3M     
*   Mettomo, Lucien              D C          19/04/77  25   St-Etienne [FRA]        28   -    £3.2M     
*   Mimboe, Tobie                D C          30/06/70  31   La Louvière [FRA]       5    -    £350K     
*   Lauren                       DM R         19/01/77  25   Arsenal [ENG]           22   -    £3.2M     
*   Geremi                       M C          20/12/78  23   Real Madrid [ESP]       24   1    £4.1M     
*   Branco, Serge                AM R         11/10/80  21   Frankfurt [GER]         15   4    £2.2M     
*   Epale, Zoel                  AM C         20/02/78  24   Frankfurt [GER]         29   2    £3.8M     
*   Eto'o, Samuel                AM/F C       10/03/81  21   Deportivo [ESP]         18   10   £8M       
*   Job, Joseph-Désiré           F RC         01/12/77  24   Middlesbrough [ENG]     26   4    £3.4M     
*   Meyong                       F RC         19/10/80  21   Vitória Setúbal [POR]   5    1    £4.8M     
*   Mboma, Patrick               F C          15/11/70  31   Parma [ITA]             21   10   £2M       
*   Douala, Rudolph              S C          25/09/78  23   Braga [POR]             19   10   £3.5M     

(* Real player, [G] Greyed-out player, [R] Regenerated player)

 

Star Players

Samuel Eto'o

Though Spanish football has yet to see the best of him, Eto'o already has an incredible scoring record with Cameroon. The pacey youngster loves to dribble past defenders and before applying well-placed finishes, as long as his mind is on the game rather than his wage slip.

 

Geremi

Real Madrid semi-regular Geremi is a multi-talented midfielder who can make his mark in both defence and attack. The 2000 Olympic Games gold medallist is certainly not afraid to get stuck into tackles if he has to - indeed, he seems to relish that.

 

Patrick Mboma

Mboma is another member of Cameroon's Olympic champions from Sydney. The burly and explosive target man has barely played for Parma since joining them from Cagliari in 2000, but his aerial ability makes him a great support striker for Eto'o.

 

Iran

Previous World Cups: 2. Best Result: Round 1 (1978, 1998).

World Ranking (as of May 2002): 13th - 704.80 pts.

 

Iran's world ranking might appear a little flattering, but don't rule out the possibility of them successfully negotiating the Group Stage. Team Melli's attack is full of talented playmakers and strikers who are very quick either physically or mentally. They also possess an experienced defence, though it remains to be seen if they can cope with world football's most astute forwards.

 

Manager

Ademar Braga (Brazilian, age 57) - NOT IN DATABASE

After briefly flirting with Miroslav Blazevic, Iran turned back to the Bosnian's predecessor Braga last July. Rather impressively, the former head coach of Chinese club Haishi has yet to lose a match during two spells in charge of Team Melli.

 

Squad

    NAME                         POSITION(S)  BORN      AGE  CLUB                    CAPS GLS  VALUE
*   Abedzadeh, Ahmad Reza        GK           26/05/66  36   Pirouzi                 88   -    £20K      
*   Broumand, Parvis             GK           10/11/74  27   Esteghlal               -    -    £20K      
*   Nakisa, Nima                 GK           01/05/75  27   Pirouzi                 7    -    £20K      
*   Bakhtiarizadeh, Sohrab       SW/D C       11/09/72  29   Erzurumspor [TUR]       23   1    £26K      
*   Peyrovani, Afsin             SW/D C       06/02/70  32   Pirouzi                 45   -    £20K      
*   Emamifar, Ali Reza           D/DM RL      16/09/74  27   Charleroi [BEL]         34   -    £575K     
[R] Rozalez, Juan                D RL         18/11/77  24   Teraktor Sazi           -    -    £14K      
*   Minavand, Mehrdad            D/M L        30/11/75  26   Salzburg [AUT]          62   4    £1.3M     
[R] Rivera, Christian            D LC         25/01/75  27   Teraktor Sazi           -    -    £18K      
*   Falahatzadeh, Farshad        D C          07/06/69  33   Bahman                  22   -    £16K      
*   Mahdavi, Mohammed Reza       D C          17/12/72  29   Charleroi [BEL]         20   -    £300K     
[R] Palacios, Jose               D C          05/07/75  26   Bahman                  5    -    £40K      
*   Teymourian, Sergik           M L          29/05/74  28   Athinaikos [GRE]        9    -    £95K      
*   Bagheri, Karim               M C          20/02/74  28   Charlton [ENG]          54   15   £650K     
*   Mahdavikia, Mehdi            AM/F R       24/07/77  24   Hamburg [GER]           58   10   £140K     
*   Yazdani, Darioush            AM LC        06/06/77  25   Stoke [ENG]             36   4    £675K     
*   Dinmohammadi, Sirous         AM C         07/10/70  31   Esteghlal               39   -    £90K      
*   Khatibi, Rasoul              AM/F C       22/09/78  23   Pirouzi                 14   3    £95K      
*   Hashemian, Vahid             F RLC        21/07/76  25   Nürnberg [GER]          22   11   £4.8M     
*   Azizi, Khodadad              S C          22/06/71  30   Gladbach [GER]          42   14   £2.6M     
*   Daei, Ali                    S C          21/03/69  33   Hertha BSC [GER]        84   56   £60K      
*   Musawi, Seyedali             S C          22/04/74  28   Esteghlal               19   13   £350K     

(* Real player, [G] Greyed-out player, [R] Regenerated player)

 

Star Players

Vahid Hashemian

Hashemian averages a goal every two games for Iran but is still quite some way from challenging Ali Daei's national record. With his pace and technical ability, don't be surprised to see the Nürnberg hotshot find the target again in the Far East.

 

Mehdi Mahdavikia

Mahdavikia is another of Iran's German-based players, and probably the most well-rounded. The right-winger's crossing ability and prowess from set-pieces could drum up plenty of transfer interest when his Hamburg contract expires this summer.

 

Seyedali Musawi

Musawi was the top scorer in the Iranian league this season, netting 19 goals (and 15 assists) for Tehran club Esteghlal. He can be especially potent from distance, though his selfishness can occasionally be a major hindrance to the team.

 

Italy

Previous World Cups: 14. Best Result: CHAMPIONS (1934, 1938, 1982).

World Ranking (as of May 2002): 9th - 731.80 pts.

 

Conte, Del Piero, Maldini, Sam Dalla Bona - they're just some of the big names who AREN'T playing for Italy at this World Cup. That just goes to show how many exceptional Serie A players the Azzurri have at their disposal. If their rock-solid defenders, mercurial midfielders and ruthless strikers can cast aside club rivalries, we could be looking at the new world champions.

 

Manager

Giovanni Trapattoni (Italian, age 63)

Trapattoni comes across as a maverick in front of the press, but behind the scenes, he's an expert and very organised tactician. His Azzurri team usually play in a 5-3-2 and often implement a 'zona mista' defensive style of play, though they can also be effective on the attack.

 

Squad

    NAME                         POSITION(S)  BORN      AGE  CLUB                    CAPS GLS  VALUE
*   Buffon, Gianluigi            GK           28/01/78  24   Parma                   19   -    £5.5M     
*   Toldo, Francesco             GK           02/12/71  30   Fiorentina              16   -    £5M       
*   Turci, Luigi                 GK           27/01/70  32   Udinese                 -    -    £3.4M     
*   Cannavaro, Fabio             SW/D C       13/09/73  28   Parma                   54   -    £17.5M    
*   De Rosa, Gaetano             SW/D C       10/05/73  29   Bari                    3    -    £3.8M     
*   Iuliano, Mark                SW/D C       12/08/73  28   Juventus                23   1    £6.75M    
*   Panucci, Christian           D RC         12/04/73  29   Inter                   24   2    £5M       
*   Vanoli, Paolo                D/M L        12/08/72  29   Fiorentina              5    1    £5.5M     
*   Adani, Daniele               D C          10/07/74  27   Fiorentina              -    -    £3.7M     
*   Nesta, Alessandro            D C          19/03/76  26   Lazio                   43   1    £16.5M    
*   Sottil, Andrea               D C          04/01/74  28   Udinese                 -    -    £4M       
*   Gattuso, Gennaro Ivan        DM RC        09/01/78  24   Milan                   9    2    £16.25M   
*   Zambrotta, Gianluca          DM/F RL      19/02/77  25   Juventus                19   3    £23.5M    
*   Bachini, Jonathan            M RL         05/06/75  27   Parma                   2    -    £5.25M    
*   Albertini, Demetrio          M C          23/08/71  30   Milan                   84   6    £7.5M     
*   Binotto, Jonatan             AM RL        22/01/75  27   Bologna                 2    -    £5.5M     
*   Totti, Francesco             AM/F RLC     27/09/76  25   Roma                    30   6    £20M      
*   Delvecchio, Marco            F LC         07/04/73  29   Roma                    10   1    £13.25M   
*   Cassano, Antonio             F C          12/07/82  19   Bari                    1    -    £8.75M    
*   Inzaghi, Simone              S C          05/04/76  26   Lazio                   4    -    £17M      
*   Montella, Vincenzo           S C          18/06/74  27   Roma                    8    1    £12M      
*   Vieri, Christian             S C          12/07/73  28   Inter                   32   17   £20.5M    

(* Real player, [G] Greyed-out player, [R] Regenerated player)

 

Star Players

Fabio Cannavaro

There's rarely any drama in the Parma defence when Cannavaro is present, and there's even less when he's turning out for Italy. Despite only standing at 5ft 9in, the Neapolitan marvel makes up for his lack of height with excellent aerial ability and positional awareness.

 

Francesco Totti

Totti is one of the most versatile centre-forwards around, combining physical power with excellent creativity and ball control. If he does leave his boyhood club Roma at some point in the future, don't expect him to depart for much less than a world-record fee.

 

Christian Vieri

Vieri spent much of his childhood in Australia, and you can be sure that the Socceroos would have loved to have fielded Inter's goal machine at the World Cup. 'Il Toro' decided on playing for the Azzurri in 1997 and has been an integral part of their attack since.

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Is Ali Karimi injured? Him, Daei, Bagheri and Mahdavikia were Iran's golden generation and one of their two greatest attacking foursomes (along with the current side). The Iranian Messi is one of the first names picked in the squad.

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11 hours ago, git2thachoppa said:

Is Ali Karimi injured? Him, Daei, Bagheri and Mahdavikia were Iran's golden generation and one of their two greatest attacking foursomes (along with the current side). The Iranian Messi is one of the first names picked in the squad.

Ali Karimi is not in the CM00/01 database, unfortunately. He was playing for Persepolis in 2000, and I can't even find that club in the database.

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FINALS SQUADS: GROUP E

Colombia

Previous World Cups: 4. Best Result: Round 2 (1990).

World Ranking (as of May 2002): 14th - 703.98 pts.

 

I'm pleased that Colombia's barmy army have made it through, though I'm sad that 40-year-old Carlos Valderrama chose to retire instead of sticking around for one last World Cup. Regardless, Los Cafeteros still have plenty of flare and technical brilliance in midfield. They could even make it through to a maiden Quarter Final, but only if they can find some consistency up front.

 

Manager

Hernán Darío Gómez (Colombian, age 55)

Gómez is a literally larger-than-life character who is leading Los Cafeteros to a second straight World Cup, though he'll want to better 1998's Group Stage exit. He likes his teams to be very aggressive, in more than one sense, and the manager himself is known to have quite a temper.

 

Squad

    NAME                         POSITION(S)  BORN      AGE  CLUB                    CAPS GLS  VALUE
*   Córdoba, Oscar               GK           03/02/70  32   Boca [ARG]              81   -    £2.1M     
*   Julio, Augustin              GK           25/10/74  27   América de Cali         -    -    £300K     
*   Mondragón, Faryd             GK           21/06/71  30   Metz [FRA]              1    -    £2M       
*   Bermúdez, Jorge              SW/D C       18/06/71  30   Boca [ARG]              72   4    £2.3M     
*   Marulanda, Víctor Hugo       SW/D C       03/02/71  31   Atlético Nacional       1    -    £475K     
*   Martínez, Robinson Erley     D R          10/01/70  32   Estudiantes LP [ARG]    -    -    £300K     
*   Rivas, Edwin Gabriel         D RC         16/10/78  23   Atlético Nacional       -    -    £575K     
*   Mosquera, Álvaro Andrés      D LC         09/07/78  23   Atlético Nacional       3    -    £800K     
*   Sinisterra, Brahaman         D/DM L       09/12/75  26   Göztepe [TUR]           8    -    £325K     
*   Fernández, Alexander         D C          22/05/70  32   América de Cali         -    -    £190K     
*   Vargas, Fabián Andrés        D/DM C       11/04/80  22   Atlético Nacional       5    -    £1.1M     
*   Víctoria, Gustavo Andrés     DM RC        14/05/80  22   América de Cali         -    -    £450K     
*   Rincón, Freddy Euzébio       M RLC        14/08/66  35   Santos [BRA]            103  20   £575K     
*   Viveros, Alexander           M LC         08/10/77  24   Paranaense [BRA]        16   1    £2.6M     
*   Moreno, Tresor               AM/F RLC     11/01/79  23   Atlético Nacional       10   2    £1.4M     
*   Chitiva, Andrés              AM/F LC      13/08/79  22   América de Cali         8    -    £825K     
*   Candelo, Mayer               AM C         20/02/77  25   Vélez [ARG]             -    -    £1.5M     
*   Aristizábal, Víctor Hugo     F RC         09/12/71  30   São Paulo [BRA]         47   6    £3.8M     
*   Montaño, Johnnier            F C          14/01/83  19   Parma [ITA]             15   2    £120K     
*   Angel, Juan Pablo            S C          24/10/75  26   Aston Villa [ENG]       33   8    £7.5M     
*   Preciado, Leyder             S C          26/02/77  25   Racing Santander [ESP]  35   11   £6.75M    
*   Ricard, Hamilton             S C          12/01/74  28   Middlesbrough [ENG]     23   7    £4.9M     

(* Real player, [G] Greyed-out player, [R] Regenerated player)

 

Star Players

Juan Pablo Angel

Angel is apparently such an accomplished striker that Aston Villa's thrifty chairman Doug Ellis paid a club-record £9.5million for him in 2000. The marksman has since provided plenty of goals for Deadly Doug, though he hasn't quite been so prolific in a Colombian jersey.

 

Tresor Moreno

Despite only making his international debut a little over a year ago, Moreno has already become a regular starter for Colombia. The attacking midfielder's off-the-ball awareness and passing skills help him to open up space for himself as well as his team-mates.

 

Leyder Preciado

Preciado was Los Cafeteros' top scorer in the qualifiers, and most of his goals were secured with plenty of panache. He can be a viable threat on the ground and in the air, though he has only been a peripheral figure at Racing Santander in La Liga this season.

 

Netherlands

Previous World Cups: 7. Best Result: Runners-Up (1974, 1978).

World Ranking (as of May 2002): 7th - 747.69 pts.

 

Every man, woman and pet knows that the Netherlands can light up a World Cup before suddenly imploding when the glittering prize looms. Their vintage of 2002 would make many opponents turn orange in envy, as they can boast a seemingly unstoppable hitman and quality across the midfield line. If this Barcelona-heavy dream team can stick together for once, they'll be contenders.

 

Manager

Louis van Gaal (Dutch, age 50)

After enjoying plenty of success with Ajax and Barcelona, van Gaal has taken his refined brand of 'Total Football' to the Dutch national team. Many of the current Oranje squad honed their skills under King Louis in Amsterdam during the early- to mid-1990s.

 

Squad

    NAME                         POSITION(S)  BORN      AGE  CLUB                    CAPS GLS  VALUE
*   van Duijnhoven, Rein         GK           05/09/67  34   Bochum [GER]            -    -    £1.8M     
*   van der Sar, Edwin           GK           29/10/70  31   Arsenal [ENG]           54   -    £8M       
*   Westerveld, Sander           GK           23/10/74  27   Liverpool [ENG]         17   -    £5.25M    
*   De Boer, Frank               SW/D C       15/05/70  32   Barcelona [ESP]         72   10   £7.75M    
*   Reiziger, Michael            D RC         03/05/73  29   Barcelona [ESP]         41   1    £5.5M     
*   Bogarde, Winston             D LC         22/10/70  31   Chelsea [ENG]           27   -    £4M       
*   Hofland, Kevin               D LC         07/06/79  23   PSV                     4    -    £4M       
*   Dirkx, Jurgen                D C          15/08/75  26   PSV                     4    -    £5.25M    
*   de Haan, Ferry               D C          12/09/72  29   Feyenoord               -    -    £2.5M     
*   Vrede, Regillio              D C          18/01/73  29   Ajax                    3    1    £3.2M     
*   Wolters, Jannes              D/DM C       22/06/79  22   AZ                      1    -    £2.9M     
*   Cocu, Phillip                DM LC        29/10/70  31   Barcelona [ESP]         33   6    £8.5M     
*   Davids, Edgar                DM C         13/03/73  29   Juventus [ITA]          44   8    £22.5M    
*   Seedorf, Clarence            AM RC        01/04/76  26   Inter [ITA]             63   11   £20.5M    
*   van der Meyde, Andy          AM/F R       30/09/79  22   Ajax                    6    1    £6.5M     
*   Overmars, Marc               AM/F L       29/03/73  29   Barcelona [ESP]         65   12   £13M      
*   Zenden, Boudewijn            AM/F L       15/08/76  25   Barcelona [ESP]         25   3    £3.9M     
*   Bruggink, Arnold             AM/F C       24/07/77  24   PSV                     4    -    £8.75M    
*   Makaay, Roy                  F RC         09/03/75  27   Deportivo [ESP]         14   1    £9M       
*   Hasselbaink, Jimmy Floyd     S C          27/03/72  30   Chelsea [ENG]           8    2    £7.75M    
*   Kluivert, Patrick            S C          01/07/76  25   Barcelona [ESP]         58   25   £20M      
*   van Nistelrooy, Ruud         S C          01/07/76  25   PSV                     13   2    £9M       

(* Real player, [G] Greyed-out player, [R] Regenerated player)

 

Star Players

Edgar Davids

Juventus midfielder Davids is nicknamed 'The Pitbull' for his aggression and man-marking abilities, but he is more than just a destroyer. He of the dreadlocks and spectacles is also gifted with immense power, pace and passion - all great attributes for a future Barnet manager.

 

Patrick Kluivert

Quite simply, Kluivert is THE most lethal striker in the world. The majestic frontman has scored 92 goals over the past two seasons with Barcelona (despite his infamous rows with coach Lorenzo Serra Ferrer) and is an early World Cup Golden Boot favourite.

 

Clarence Seedorf

Like Davids and a few other Oranje stars, Seedorf was born in Surinam before soaring to the top echelons of world football. The versatile playmaker has won the Champions League with both Ajax and Real Madrid, but now his eyes are on another major honour.

 

Scotland

Previous World Cups: 8. Best Result: Round 1 (8 times).

World Ranking (as of May 2002): 31st - 604.34 pts.

 

I take back everything I've said in the past about Scotland, who've proven themselves to be the pride of Britain. The Tartan Army are tough and physical, and they'll be full of beans (not to mention deep-fried Mars bars) after qualifying undefeated. Their target will be to get out of the group, or even to produce one magic moment, such as Archie Gemmill's unforgettable goal from 1978.

 

Manager

Craig Brown (Scottish, age 61)

Brown is the most experienced manager in Scotland's history, though the CM database surprisingly has him down as a sprightly 43-year-old (he must've had a tough paper round if that was true). This will be the Glaswegian's third tournament since taking the helm in 1993.

 

Squad

    NAME                         POSITION(S)  BORN      AGE  CLUB                    CAPS GLS  VALUE
*   Gould, Jonathan              GK           18/07/68  33   Aberdeen                1    -    £1.1M     
*   Main, Alan                   GK           05/12/67  34   St Johnstone            1    -    £1.1M     
*   Sullivan, Neil               GK           24/02/70  32   Tottenham [ENG]         29   -    £2.6M     
*   Hendry, Colin                SW/D C       07/12/65  36   Coventry [ENG]          59   2    £425K     
*   Wilkie, Lee                  SW/D C       20/04/80  22   Kilmarnock              -    -    £925K     
*   Stockdale, Robbie            D R          30/11/79  22   Middlesbrough [ENG]     1    -    £4.1M     
*   Weir, David                  D RC         10/05/70  32   Blackburn [ENG]         34   -    £2.2M     
*   Baltacha, Sergei             D/DM LC      15/09/80  21   Marseille [FRA]         1    -    £1.6M     
*   Naysmith, Gary               D L          16/11/78  23   Everton [ENG]           15   -    £2.6M     
*   Paterson, Jim                D/AM L       25/09/79  22   Dundee Utd              -    -    £1M       
*   Dailly, Christian            D/DM C       23/10/73  28   West Ham [ENG]          28   1    £2.9M     
*   Elliott, Matt                D C          01/11/68  33   Leicester [ENG]         16   -    £1.9M     
*   Telfer, Paul                 DM RC        21/10/71  30   Coventry [ENG]          5    -    £1.7M     
*   Gemmill, Scot                M C          02/01/71  31   Everton [ENG]           16   -    £1.9M     
*   Cameron, Colin               AM RC        23/10/72  29   Hearts                  6    1    £2.3M     
*   Hopkin, David                AM RC        21/08/70  31   Everton [ENG]           21   2    £2.7M     
*   Glass, Stephen               AM LC        25/05/76  26   Newcastle [ENG]         15   2    £2.3M     
*   McCann, Neil                 F LC         11/08/74  27   Rangers                 10   1    £3.1M     
*   Burchill, Mark               S C          18/08/80  21   Celtic                  13   2    £5.5M     
*   McConalogue, Stephen         S C          16/06/81  20   Dundee Utd              3    -    £3M       
*   McManus, Thomas              S C          28/02/81  21   Hibs                    -    -    £1.8M     
*   McSwegan, Gary               S C          24/09/70  31   Hearts                  4    2    £1.5M     

(* Real player, [G] Greyed-out player, [R] Regenerated player)

 

Star Players

David Hopkin

A right-sided midfielder, Hopkin helped establish Bradford in the Premiership before moving on to Everton. Though not the quickest of widemen, he has great balance and ball control, and his crosses can spell trouble for opposition defenders if on target.

 

Neil Sullivan

Though born and raised in London, Sullivan took the Tartan Army gloves when the iconic Jim Leighton eventually cashed in his pension. The Tottenham number 1's agility and handling ability make a mockery of the saying that Scots keepers are useless.

 

David Weir

Obviously not to be confused with a future Paralympic champion of the same name, Weir is a tough, no-nonsense centre-half who can occasionally play at right-back. He signed for Blackburn last summer but has been a Scotland first-teamer for half a decade now.

 

Tunisia

Previous World Cups: 2. Best Result: Round 1 (1978, 1998).

World Ranking (as of May 2002): 20th - 671.96.

 

Tunisia have a rigid but disciplined team, in which every player knows their role. They will need to demonstrate their teamwork more than ever, after a dismal African Cup of Nations raised serious doubts about their attitude in major matches. A talented front two will also need plenty of service, else the Eagles of Carthage could be flying out of the Far East very early.

 

Manager

Franco Scoglio (Italian, age 61)

Scoglio - who once discovered a certain Salvatore 'Toto' Schillaci - is a typically pragmatic Italian coach who's managed Tunisia since 1998. In real life, he passed away in 2005 after suffering a heart attack during a heated televised debate with Genoa's president.

 

Squad

    NAME                         POSITION(S)  BORN      AGE  CLUB                    CAPS GLS  VALUE
*   Boumnijel, Ali               GK           13/04/66  36   Bastia [FRA]            35   -    £2K       
[R] Mehallal, Abdullah Sulaiman  GK           25/05/76  26   Club Africain           -    -    £35K      
*   Zitouni, Boubaker            GK           28/01/65  37   Club Africain           28   -    £65K      
*   Badra, Mohammed              SW/D C       08/04/73  29   Denizlispor [TUR]       47   -    £1.5M     
*   Jemmali, David               D RL         13/12/74  27   Montpellier [FRA]       6    -    £1.2M     
*   Clayton, José                D/DM L       21/03/74  28   Bastia [FRA]            19   2    £475K     
*   Chouhcane, Ferid             D C          19/04/73  29   Maia [POR]              26   -    £150K     
*   Hichri, Taoufik              D C          08/01/65  37   Espérance               63   1    £12K      
*   Sahbani, Bechir              D C          22/10/72  29   Espérance               27   -    £28K      
*   Thabet, Tarek                D C          16/08/71  30   Atlético River [URU]    56   2    £65K      
*   Trabelsi, Sami               D C          04/02/68  34   Oriente Petrolero [BOL] 56   4    £35K      
*   Chedli, Adel                 M RL         16/09/76  25   Le Havre [FRA]          7    -    £900K     
*   Chihi, Sirajeddine           M RC         16/04/70  32   Espérance               62   4    £35K      
*   Fekhi, Sofiane               M C          09/08/69  32   CS Sfaxien              46   3    £14K      
*   Sdirir, Karim                AM/F R       05/06/80  22   Tromsø [NOR]            16   3    £825K     
*   Benamar, Mehdee              AM LC        17/10/78  23   Kalamarias [GRE]        8    1    £950K     
*   Baya, Zoubaier               AM C         15/05/71  31   Freiburg [GER]          54   9    £3.4M     
*   Gabsi, Hassen                AM C         23/02/74  28   Sint-Truiden [BEL]      21   6    £1.3M     
*   Ben Slimane, Mehdi           F RC         01/01/74  28   Al Nassr [KSA]          52   18   £725K     
*   Rouissi, Faouzi              F C          20/03/71  31   Ejido [ESP]             66   15   £150K     
[R] Jam'an, Taoufik              S C          23/03/75  27   Club Africain           5    2    £170K     
*   Sellimi, Adel                S C          16/11/72  29   Freiburg [GER]          73   25   £110K     

(* Real player, [G] Greyed-out player, [R] Regenerated player)

 

Star Players

Zoubaier Baya

Baya has enjoyed five productive seasons in attacking midfield for Freiburg and is now embarking on a sixth major tournament with Tunisia. This 31-year-old workhorse has excellent passing technique and very rarely squanders possession.

 

Mehdi Ben Slimane

Ben Slimane is a short but skilful striker who has such great aerial ability for someone of his stature. A veteran of over 50 international matches since 1994, he also played alongside Baya at Freiburg for a while before relocating to Saudi Arabia.

 

Adel Sellimi

Sellimi completes our trio of Tunisian stars with connections to Freiburg, though he spent much of this season in the Bundesliga club's reserve team. He's a modest but hard-working striker who has more caps than any of his national team-mates.

Edited by CFuller

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FINALS SQUADS: GROUP F

Argentina

Previous World Cups: 12. Best Result: CHAMPIONS (1978, 1986).

World Ranking (as of May 2002): 2nd - 840.44 pts.

 

Argentina recovered from early wobbles to finish 2nd in the CONMEBOL qualifiers and reach a similarly lofty world ranking. Victory at last year's Copa America also bodes well for a fearless Albiceleste team that is still somewhat prone to meltdowns. The performances of the star Lazio triumvirate who won the 2001 Champions League could make the difference between global success and total failure.

 

Manager

Marcelo Bielsa (Argentinean, age 46)

Bielsa is one of the more controversial and outspoken managers at this World Cup, hence his nickname of 'El Loco'. He replaced Daniel Passarella as Albiceleste coach after France '98 and ironically outwitted his predecessor's Uruguay team in the 2001 Copa America Final.

 

Squad

    NAME                         POSITION(S)  BORN      AGE  CLUB                    CAPS GLS  VALUE
*   Cavallero, Pablo Óscar       GK           13/04/74  28   Celta [ESP]             30   -    £4.5M     
*   Franco, Leo                  GK           20/05/78  24   Mallorca [ESP]          -    -    £900K     
*   Roa, Carlos Ángel            GK           15/08/69  32   Mallorca [ESP]          13   -    £6.5M     
*   Ayala, Roberto Fabián        SW/D C       12/04/73  29   Valencia [ESP]          83   3    £11.75M   
*   Pellegrino, Mauricio         SW/D C       05/10/71  30   Valencia [ESP]          12   -    £4M       
*   Traverso, Cristian           SW/D C       17/02/72  30   Boca                    -    -    £2.2M     
*   Ibarra, Hugo                 D R          01/04/74  28   Boca                    15   -    £2.6M     
*   Zanetti, Javier              D/DM R       10/08/73  28   Inter [ITA]             66   4    £20M      
*   Sorín, Juan Pablo            D/M L        05/05/76  26   Valencia [ESP]          43   7    £7.5M     
*   Milito, Gabriel              D C          07/09/80  21   Zaragoza [ESP]          2    -    £3.1M     
*   Samuel, Walter               D C          22/03/78  24   Roma [ITA]              34   2    £12.5M    
*   Siviero, Gustavo Lionel      D C          13/09/69  32   Mallorca [ESP]          10   1    £2M       
*   Simeone, Diego Pablo         DM C         28/04/70  32   Real Madrid [ESP]       115  13   £8.25M    
*   Verón, Juan Sebastián        AM RLC       09/03/75  27   Lazio [ITA]             59   16   £22M      
*   González, Kily               AM L         04/08/74  27   Valencia [ESP]          24   2    £13.5M    
*   Posse, Martín                F RC         02/08/75  26   Espanyol [ESP]          17   1    £7.5M     
*   Gaitán, Walter               F LC         13/03/77  25   Villarreal [ESP]        14   6    £9.75M    
*   López, Claudio               F LC         17/07/74  27   Lazio [ITA]             52   9    £18.75M   
*   Batistuta, Gabriel           S C          01/02/69  33   Roma [ITA]              91   60   £3.9M     
*   Crespo, Hernan Jorge         S C          05/07/75  26   Lazio [ITA]             38   12   £20M      
*   Palermo, Martín              S C          07/11/73  28   Villarreal [ESP]        24   17   £13.25M   
*   Sosa, Roberto                S C          24/01/75  27   Udinese [ITA]           2    -    £8.25M    

(* Real player, [G] Greyed-out player, [R] Regenerated player)

 

Star Players

Hernan Jorge Crespo

A lightning-fast and tenacious striker, Crespo only scored once in the qualifiers but is perhaps saving his best for when it really matters. A haul of 10 Champions League goals for Lazio this season shows just how much he relishes big matches.

 

Claudio López

Regularly seen on Lazio's left wing or in midfield for Argentina, López is amongst football's most well-rounded attacking players. Though his nickname 'El Piojo' (The Louse) seems rather impertinent, he is a constant irritant for head-scratching opponents.

 

Juan Sebastián Verón

Someone who doesn't have to worry about headlice is Verón, who was voted FIFA World Player of the Year just a few days ago. It's not hard to see why, as 'La Brujita' (The Little Witch) is a midfield magician for both Lazio and Argentina.

 

Belgium

Previous World Cups: 10. Best Result: 4th Place (1986).

World Ranking (as of May 2002): 40th - 565.56 pts.

 

This team from Belgium is... well, typically Belgian, in that they have a few famous players but are generally middle-of-the-road. Only a spectacular late Playoff comeback against Yugoslavia saw the Red Devils through, and very few onlookers are expecting them to make much progress in the Far East. Defensive fortitude might not make up for one of the tournament's weakest frontlines.

 

Manager

Robert Waseige (Belgian, age 62)

Waseige managed in the Belgian leagues for nearly three decades before being given his country's top job in 1999. He's a stubborn character (some might even call him grouchy), but he also deserves credit for bringing some exciting young talents through.

 

Squad

    NAME                         POSITION(S)  BORN      AGE  CLUB                    CAPS GLS  VALUE
*   De Vlieger, Geert            GK           16/10/71  30   Willem II [NED]         8    -    £1.5M     
*   Gillet, Jean-François        GK           05/05/78  24   Bari [ITA]              11   -    £3.4M     
*   Renard, Olivier              GK           24/05/79  23   Udinese [ITA]           -    -    £1.8M     
*   Crasson, Bertrand            SW/D RC      05/10/71  30   Anderlecht              36   1    £2.8M     
*   Temmerman, Kris              SW/D/DM RC   02/02/73  29   Eendracht Aalst         1    -    £1.1M     
*   Genaux, Régis                D RC         30/08/73  28   Udinese [ITA]           34   1    £1.2M     
*   Peiremans, Frédéric          D/DM RC      03/09/73  28   Real Sociedad [ESP]     3    -    £1.3M     
*   Delbroek, Wilfried           D LC         25/08/72  29   Istanbulspor [TUR]      11   -    £1.6M     
*   Janssens, Chris              D/DM LC      12/06/69  33   Lokeren [BEL]           7    -    £1.1M     
*   Léonard, Philippe            D L          14/02/74  28   Monaco [FRA]            22   -    £2M       
*   Van Kerckhoven, Nico         D/DM LC      14/12/70  31   Schalke 04 [GER]        37   3    £65K      
*   Goor, Bart                   DM L         09/04/73  29   Anderlecht              33   5    £5.5M     
*   Van Dessel, Kevin            M L          09/04/79  23   Roda [NED]              -    -    £1.8M     
*   Walem, Johan                 M C          01/02/72  30   Udinese [ITA]           34   2    £3.9M     
*   Van De Weyer, Robby          AM/F RC      30/06/75  26   GBA                     7    1    £2.1M     
*   van Houdt, Peter             AM/F C       04/11/76  25   Gladbach [GER]          7    2    £5.75M    
*   Van De Paar, Kurt            AM C         10/01/78  24   Twente [NED]            1    -    £5.5M     
*   Brogno, Toni                 F RC         19/07/73  28   Sedan [FRA]             4    1    £2.5M     
*   Verheyen, Gert               F RC         20/09/70  31   Club Brugge             35   6    £2.4M     
*   Mpenza, Emile                S C          04/07/78  23   VfB Stuttgart [GER]     37   13   £7M       
*   Roussel, Cédric              S C          06/01/78  24   Coventry [ENG]          5    -    £1.9M     
*   Strupar, Branko              S C          09/02/70  32   Derby [ENG]             21   9    £1.9M     

(* Real player, [G] Greyed-out player, [R] Regenerated player)

 

Star Players

Bertrand Crasson

Regularly seen at centre-half for both Anderlecht and Belgium, the experienced Crasson is a tough defender for opposition strikers to get past. His aggression, strength and work rate go to show that he is far from being a 'Plastic Bertrand'.

 

Bart Goor

Bart's explosive pace and creative abilities on the left wing can Goor his opponents to death. Questions have been raised about the Anderlecht man's consistency at international level, but you can be sure that he'll want to prove the critics wrong.

 

Emile Mpenza

Before there was Romelu Lukaku, there was Mpenza - another outstanding Belgian striker of Congolese heritage. Unlike his latter-day equivalent, the VfB Stuttgart and future Manchester City frontman relies a bit more on his technical elegance and pace than his physicality.

 

South Africa

Previous World Cups: 1. Best Result: Round 1 (1998).

World Ranking (as of May 2002): 11th - 729.88 pts.

 

In all honesty, South Africa aren't the 11th-best team in the world, otherwise they wouldn't have exited the African Cup of Nations before the knockout rounds. Bafana Bafana's World Cup adventure could be similarly brief, as they aren't particularly great in midfield, and their defence tends to fall apart against tougher teams. Their attack does have plenty of promise, though.

 

Manager

Jomo Sono (South African, age 46)

When South Africa surprisingly sacked Prof Carlos Queiroz last summer, former New York Cosmos forward Sono was the obvious candidate to take over. This advocate of patient technical football combines his national duties with running his very own club - Jomo Cosmos.

 

Squad

    NAME                         POSITION(S)  BORN      AGE  CLUB                    CAPS GLS  VALUE
*   Gopane, Simon                GK           26/12/70  31   Jomo Cosmos             3    -    £300K     
*   Vonk, Hans                   GK           30/01/70  32   Heerenveen [NED]        29   -    £1.9M     
*   Wuest, Ryan                  GK           16/12/82  19   Manning Rangers         -    -    £30K      
*   Seli, Themba                 SW/D/DM C    13/03/76  26   Kaizer Chiefs           11   -    £425K     
*   Mofokeng, Gabriel            D RL         15/08/81  20   Ajax [NED]              17   2    £350K     
*   Carnell, Bradley             D/DM L       22/01/77  25   Ulm [GER]               15   -    £2.4M     
* † Booth, Matthew               D C          14/03/77  25   Mamelodi Sundowns       5    -    £850K     
*   Fish, Mark                   D C          14/03/74  28   Charlton [ENG]          49   5    £1.3M     
*   Issa, Pierre                 D C          11/09/75  26   Marseille [FRA]         22   -    £1.3M     
*   N'Gobe, Vincent              D/M/S C      05/03/73  29   Ankaragücü [TUR]        39   3    £2.2M     
*   Radebe, Lucas                D C          12/04/69  33   Leeds [ENG]             63   1    £1.2M     
*   Silent, Brendan              DM R         22/01/73  29   Orlando Pirates         4    -    £750K     
*   Lekoelea, Steve              AM RL        05/02/79  23   Orlando Pirates         13   1    £1M       
*   Armstrong, Stephen           AM L         01/01/77  25   Derby [ENG]             5    1    £3.4M     
*   Fortune, Quinton             AM LC        21/05/77  25   Middlesbrough [ENG]     21   1    £3.2M     
*   Pule, Jabu                   AM LC        11/07/80  21   Kaizer Chiefs           10   1    £600K     
*   Arnold, Marc                 AM C         19/09/70  31   Ahlen [GER]             5    1    £1.3M     
*   Pienaar, Steven              AM C         21/09/81  20   Ajax [NED]              15   -    Free      
*   Masinga, Phil                F C          21/06/69  32                           48   16   Free      
*   McCarthy, Bennedict          F C          12/11/77  24   Celta [ESP]             28   17   £10.25M   
*   Marumo, Hareaipha            S C          10/02/80  22   Colorado [USA]          6    -    £3.8M     
*   Nomvete, Siyabonga           S C          02/12/77  24   Kaizer Chiefs           26   9    £1.8M     

† Injury replacement for: Mokoena, Aaron - D C, 02/07/80, Ajax [NED]
(* Real player, [G] Greyed-out player, [R] Regenerated player)

 

Star Players

Pierre Issa

Marseille defender Issa scored an own goal against France (and another that was later reattributed to Thierry Henry) in South Africa's first World Cup finals match in 1998. The 6ft 5in giant probably wants you to remember him more for his aggressive man-marking capabilities.

 

Bennedict McCarthy

McCarthy was the joint-top scorer in the CAF qualifiers, netting 10 times for Bafana Bafana. Though not the most professional of strikers, there's no doubting that the 24-year-old Celta hotshot can wreak havoc with his acceleration and dribbling when fully focussing.

 

Lucas Radebe

Radebe is considered a hero by Leeds fans, an upcoming indie rock band, and a certain Nelson Mandela. The fearless central defensive stopper first represented his country in 1992, and he received FIFA's Fair Play award in 2000 for his charity work.

 

Sweden

Previous World Cups: 9. Best Result: Runners-Up (1958).

World Ranking (as of May 2002): 24th - 650.89 pts.

 

If you ignore the shock defeat in Moldova, Sweden actually had a fine qualifying campaign and will be hotly fancied to reach Round 2 at least. With bundles of energy on the wings, they should hold their own against most opponents. However, the Blågult seem to be overly reliant on raw youngsters, especially with Celtic marksman Henrik Larsson on the sidelines due to a hamstring injury.

 

Manager

Tommy Söderberg (Swedish, age 54)

Sweden uniquely have TWO men in charge of their World Cup team, with manager Söderberg working alongside head coach Lars Lagerbäck. The pair prefer to play direct and defensively-solid football, which has got them some impressive results so far.

 

Squad

    NAME                         POSITION(S)  BORN      AGE  CLUB                    CAPS GLS  VALUE
*   Asper, Mattias               GK           20/03/74  28   Wimbledon [ENG]         8    -    £1.7M     
*   Hedman, Magnus               GK           19/03/73  29   Coventry [ENG]          30   -    £2.8M     
*   Jankulovski, Dime            GK           18/06/77  24   Västra Frölunda         1    -    £775K     
*   Mellberg, Olof               SW/D RC      03/09/77  24   Racing Santander [ESP]  20   -    £1.8M     
*   Karlsson, Christian          SW/D C       20/09/69  32   Gaziantepspor [TUR]     8    -    £875K     
*   Andersson, Christoffer       D/DM/F RL    22/10/78  23   Helsingborg             8    -    £4M       
*   Antonsson, Mikael            D RC         31/05/81  21   IFK Göteborg            1    -    £2.2M     
*   Sündgren, Gary               D LC         25/10/67  34   Valencia [ESP]          52   1    £550K     
*   Andersson, Patrik            D C          18/08/71  30   Bayern München [GER]    92   2    £2.6M     
*   Björklund, Joachim           D C          15/02/71  31   Real Madrid [ESP]       55   -    £4.9M     
*   Mjällby, Johan               D/DM C       09/02/71  31   Celtic [SCO]            12   1    £45K      
*   Andersson, Daniel            DM C         28/08/77  24   Bari [ITA]              33   3    £7.75M    
*   Schwarz, Stefan              DM C         18/04/69  33   Sunderland [ENG]        68   6    £850K     
*   Alexandersson, Niclas        M R          29/12/71  30   Sunderland [ENG]        37   2    £4.7M     
*   Ljungberg, Fredrik           AM RLC       16/04/77  25   Arsenal [ENG]           23   4    £7.5M     
*   Blomqvist, Jesper            AM L         05/02/74  28   Tottenham [ENG]         38   1    £4.7M     
*   Touma, Sharbel               AM/F L       25/03/79  23   AIK                     2    1    £3.9M     
*   Bakircioglü, Kennedy         F RC         02/11/80  21   Dortmund [GER]          5    2    £6.25M    
*   Allbäck, Marcus              S C          01/01/73  29   Heerenveen [NED]        6    1    £4.3M     
*   Andersson, Kennet            S C          06/10/67  34   Fenerbahçe [TUR]        66   31   £850K     
*   Pettersson, Jörgen           S C          29/09/75  26   Kaiserslautern [GER]    38   12   £5.75M    
*   Wilhelmsson, Christian       S C          08/12/79  22   Gladbach [GER]          -    -    £3.9M     

(* Real player, [G] Greyed-out player, [R] Regenerated player)

 

Star Players

Patrik Andersson

The most experienced of the four Anderssons in this squad, Patrik made his major tournament debut at UEFA Euro 1992. The tactically-astute centre-half has since spent nearly a decade in the Bundesliga, playing for Gladbach and latterly Bayern München.

 

Joachim Björklund

Rangers fans might find it quite amusing that their former hero Björklund now marshals Real Madrid's defence. The ball-playing centre-half's regular international partnership with Patrik Andersson will need to be rock-solid in the Far East if the Swedes are to go far.

 

Fredrik Ljungberg

Ljungberg is one of those supermodel footballers who many women (and quite a few men) would love to be seen with. The Arsenal winger's sporting abilities match his good looks, and many a full-back has had horrible flashbacks of his pace and creativity.

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FINALS SQUADS: GROUP G

Brazil

Previous World Cups: 16. Best Result: CHAMPIONS (1958, 1962, 1970, 1994).

World Ranking (as of May 2002): 1st - 845.07 pts.

 

If Brazil can win the real-life 2002 World Cup, why can't the virtual Seleção match their performance? For one thing, the in-game Ronaldo is incredibly short of match fitness, thus making it more important that the attacking midfield magicians are up to scratch. I reckon they will be, and also that it'll take a bloomin' marvellous team to derail the four-time champions.

 

Manager

Émerson Leão (Brazilian, age 52)

The real-life Leão - who was part of four World Cup squads as a goalkeeper - screwed up in charge of the Seleção, leaving Felipão to fix his mess. The virtual version won the CONMEBOL qualifying group at the expense of just eight goals and will leave no stone unturned in pursuit of glory.

 

Squad

    NAME                         POSITION(S)  BORN      AGE  CLUB                    CAPS GLS  VALUE
*   Bosco                        GK           14/11/74  27   Santos                  -    -    £2.1M     
*   Carlos Germano               GK           14/08/70  31   Paranaense              9    -    £2.2M     
*   Dida                         GK           07/10/73  28   Milan [ITA]             44   -    £4.2M     
*   Pinheiro, Rogério            SW/D C       21/04/72  30   Grêmio                  -    -    £2.4M     
*   Cafú                         D/DM R       19/06/70  31   Real Madrid [ESP]       83   2    £7.5M     
*   Roberto Carlos               D L          10/04/73  29   Real Madrid [ESP]       65   3    £15M      
*   Serginho                     D/DM L       27/06/71  30   Milan [ITA]             26   2    £10.25M   
*   Cris                         D C          03/06/77  25   Cruzeiro                1    -    £2.4M     
*   Luciano, Fábio               D C          29/04/75  27   Corinthians             6    -    £2.9M     
*   Marinho                      D C          01/04/76  26   Oviedo [ESP]            12   -    £3.6M     
*   Zago                         D C          18/05/69  33   Roma [ITA]              24   1    £2.8M     
*   Emerson                      DM C         04/04/76  26   Roma [ITA]              29   3    £11.25M   
*   Beto                         M C          07/01/75  27   Dortmund [GER]          11   2    £5.5M     
*   Juninho                      AM R         30/01/75  27   Vasco                   2    -    £6M       
*   Rivaldo                      AM LC        19/04/72  30   Barcelona [ESP]         54   17   £14.75M   
*   Ronaldinho                   AM/F LC      21/03/80  22   Grêmio                  31   14   £7.75M    
*   Giovanni                     F RC         04/02/72  30   Leverkusen [GER]        29   9    £11.25M   
*   Alves, Magno                 F RLC        13/01/76  26   Schalke 04 [GER]        4    -    £7.75M    
*   Amoroso                      F LC         05/07/74  27   Parma [ITA]             24   8    £23M      
*   Edmundo                      F LC         02/04/71  31   Deportivo [ESP]         42   15   £9.75M    
*   Pinto, Fábio                 F LC         09/10/80  21   Udinese [ITA]           -    -    £7.75M    
*   Ronaldo                      F C          22/09/76  25   Inter [ITA]             47   27   £23M      

(* Real player, [G] Greyed-out player, [R] Regenerated player)

 

Star Players

Rivaldo

Barcelona's left-footed attacking midfield marvel is one of the most creative and unique players out there. Not only does he have outstanding ball control when dribbling, but he also has the bizarre ability to feel pain in his face whenever his thigh gets struck.

 

Roberto Carlos

Roberto Carlos is not only a truly elite left-back, but as France will attest, he has a penchant for taking (and scoring) rapid bending free-kicks. He is one of Real Madrid's so-called 'Galacticos', having delighted fans at the Santiago Bernabéu since signing from Inter in 1996.

 

Ronaldo

The nickname 'O Fenômeno' alone is enough to describe just how highly-regarded Ronaldo is as a striker. Unfortunately, the Inter megastar has a terrible fitness record and has missed more than two years' worth of action due to knee and groin injuries.

 

Romania

Previous World Cups: 7. Best Result: Quarter Finals (1994).

World Ranking (as of May 2002): 8th - 740.56 pts.

 

Romania's footballers use more blond hair dye than Britney Spears fans, but I don't think they'll be singing, "Oops, I did it again." A repeat of their knockout exploits from the past three World Cups is unlikely without the legendary Gheorghe Hagi. The Tricolorii have some fine midfielders ready to take Hagi's place, but the defence is a little bit slow and on the old side.

 

Manager

Victor Piturca (Romanian, age 44)

Piturca guided Romania to the Quarter Finals of Euro 2000 but might struggle to replicate that finish at the World Cup. The former Steaua striker and manager is a very divisive figure back home and is nicknamed 'Satan' by many in the press.

 

Squad

    NAME                         POSITION(S)  BORN      AGE  CLUB                    CAPS GLS  VALUE
*   Lobont, Bogdan               GK           18/01/78  24   Ajax [ESP]              9    -    £2.5M     
*   Stelea, Bogdan               GK           05/12/67  34   Salamanca [ESP]         67   -    £1.9M     
*   Tudor, Radu                  GK           15/10/80  21   Lierse [BEL]            -    -    £900K     
*   Filipescu, Iulian            SW/D/DM C    29/03/74  28   Betis [ESP]             28   -    £3.5M     
*   Rachita, Valeriu             SW/D C       21/04/69  33   Steaua                  1    -    £70K      
*   Contra, Cosmin               D/M R        15/12/75  26   Alavés [ESP]            26   1    £7M       
*   Nanu, Stefan                 D RL         08/09/68  33   Vitesse [NED]           21   -    £925K     
*   Petrescu, Dan                D/DM R       22/12/67  34   Southampton [ENG]       74   10   £600K     
*   Ciobotariu, Liviu            D C          26/03/71  31   Standard Liège [BEL]    16   -    £1M       
*   Codrea, Paul                 D/DM C       04/04/81  21   Genoa [ITA]             4    -    £600K     
*   Prodan, Daniel               D C          23/03/72  30   Rangers [SCO]           45   1    £30K      
*   Selymes, Tibor               DM L         14/05/70  32   Standard Liège [BEL]    49   1    £1M       
*   Lincar, Eric                 DM C         12/12/78  23   Nürnberg [GER]          10   1    £3.6M     
*   Munteanu, Catalin            AM RC        26/01/79  23   Oviedo [ESP]            4    -    £5.75M    
*   Petre, Florentin             AM R         15/01/76  26   Lyon [FRA]              22   4    £4.2M     
*   Marinescu, Lucian Christian  AM C         24/06/72  29   Alavés [ESP]            16   3    £7M       
*   Ilie, Adrian                 F RC         20/02/74  28   Valencia [ESP]          38   4    £21.5M    
*   Stoica, Alin                 F RLC        10/12/79  22   Anderlecht [BEL]        8    -    £4M       
*   Barbu, Constantin            S C          16/05/71  31   Numancia [ESP]          15   6    £5.75M    
*   Ganea, Ioan Viorel           S C          19/08/73  28   VfB Stuttgart [GER]     22   9    £140K     
*   Mihalcea, Adrian             S C          05/09/78  23   Dortmund [GER]          17   3    £12M      
*   Moldovan, Viorel             S C          08/07/72  29   Nantes [FRA]            55   22   £4.7M     

(* Real player, [G] Greyed-out player, [R] Regenerated player)

 

Star Players

Constantin Barbu

Sadly not nicknamed 'The Barber', Barbu is a strong centre-forward who can cut defences to pieces. Despite being 31, he has only recently established himself as a national regular after scoring 30 goals in his last two La Liga seasons at Numancia.

 

Adrian Ilie

Ilie has the venomous nickname of 'The Cobra', and his lethal finishing ability for Valencia has made him a favourite amongst fans of Los Ches. He's only found the net four times in 38 Romania caps but has still impressed by-and-large on international duty.

 

Viorel Moldovan

Romania's third striking star, Moldovan is the most experienced and arguably the best player from that triumvirate (though Coventry fans might argue about the latter). He may not be a regular Tricolorii starter these days, but he can certainly make an impact from the bench.

 

United States of America

Previous World Cups: 6. Best Result: 3rd Place (1950).

World Ranking (as of May 2002): 17th - 692.50 pts.

 

With three centurions in the line-up, and an average age of a smidge over 30, the USA are the grand old men of this World Cup. What Team USA lack in physicality, they make up for in tactical awareness, which makes them a difficult side to break down. However, with just five players based in Europe, I doubt they are ready for the huge challenges that await them.

 

Manager

Bruce Arena (American, age 50)

New York native Arena's international career lasted just one match, way back in 1973. He became Team USA's head coach a quarter of a century later, following the unmitigated disaster of France '98, and has since transformed the Yanks into a half-decent team.

 

Squad

    NAME                         POSITION(S)  BORN      AGE  CLUB                    CAPS GLS  VALUE
*   Brown, Adin                  GK           27/05/78  24   Colorado                -    -    £1.2M     
*   Keller, Kasey                GK           27/11/69  32   Los Angeles             59   -    £1.3M     
*   Meola, Tony                  GK           21/02/69  33   Kansas City             89   -    £1.6M     
*   Balboa, Marcelo              SW/D C       08/08/67  34   DC United               143  15   £500K     
*   Salcedo, Jorge               SW/DM C      27/12/72  29   Los Angeles             3    -    £1.1M     
*   Cullen, Leo                  D RC         26/02/76  26   Miami                   6    -    £1.4M     
*   Lapper, Mike                 D RC         28/09/70  31   Columbus                55   1    £825K     
*   Pope, Eddie                  D RC         24/12/73  28   DC United               58   3    £2.4M     
*   Agoos, Jeff                  D LC         02/05/68  34   Kansas City             122  3    £450K     
*   Brown, CJ                    D C          15/06/75  26   Chicago                 36   4    £2M       
*   Doyle, John                  D C          16/04/66  36   Kansas City             70   5    £210K     
*   O'Brien, John                DM LC        29/08/77  24   Ajax [NED]              18   3    £5.25M    
*   Paule, Ross                  M C          04/04/76  26   Colorado                19   6    £2.6M     
*   Chung, Mark                  AM RLC       18/06/70  31   Metrostars              28   4    £1.5M     
*   Hejduk, Frankie              AM/F R       05/08/74  27   Leverkusen [GER]        44   9    £1.8M     
*   Sanneh, Anthony              AM RL        01/06/71  31   Hertha BSC [GER]        15   2    £55K      
*   Stewart, Earnest             AM/F RC      28/03/69  33   NAC [NED]               73   7    £300K     
*   Henderson, Chris             AM LC        11/12/70  31   Miami                   83   3    £1.4M     
*   Maisonneuve, Brian           AM C         28/06/73  28   Columbus                11   1    £2.2M     
*   Moore, Joe Max               F RC         23/02/71  31   Everton [ENG]           87   20   £60K      
*   Wynalda, Eric                F RC         09/06/69  33   New England             119  46   £1.5M     
*   Lassiter, Roy                F LC         09/03/69  33   Kansas City             45   11   £1.4M     

(* Real player, [G] Greyed-out player, [R] Regenerated player)

 

Star Players

Kasey Keller

The USA have more than their fair share of quality goalkeepers, and Keller has arguably the safest hands of the lot. The 32-year-old helped Los Angeles to MLS Cup glory in 2001, having previously gone from Millwall to Rayo via Leicester (as you do).

 

Eddie Pope

Pope is a steady Eddie in the American defence, having done well to recover from several serious injuries earlier in his career. The pacey and determined right-back is understood to be seeking a transfer from DC United, so he could be crossing the Atlantic sooner or later.

 

Eric Wynalda

Three-time World Cup veteran Wynalda was one of the USA's first soccer exports, but he returned home for the start of Major League Soccer in 1996. He is a shifty and dynamic striker who will sadly miss his team's first group game with a neck injury.

 

Uruguay

Previous World Cups: 9. Best Result: CHAMPIONS (1930, 1950).

World Ranking (as of May 2002): 18th - 680.29 pts.

 

Having missed the last World Cup, Uruguay will be extremely determined to go far in the Far East. La Celeste are a strong physical team with plenty of endurance, even if they are a little lacking in the technical department. While a repeat of the long-gone glory days is unlikely, the presence of a talented front two could make this a tournament to remember.

 

Manager

Daniel Passarella (Argentinean, age 49)

1978 World Cup-winning captain Passarella infamously banned his players from having long hair while managing Argentina at France '98. That perhaps explains why Diego Forlán hasn't got a look-in since 'El Gran Capitán' took his regimental but effective coaching style to Uruguay.

 

Squad

    NAME                         POSITION(S)  BORN      AGE  CLUB                    CAPS GLS  VALUE
*   Carini, Fabián               GK           26/12/79  22   Juventus [ITA]          16   -    £3.9M     
*   Núñez, Álvaro                GK           11/05/73  29   Numancia [ESP]          21   -    £3.3M     
*   Romay, Leonardo              GK/AM        23/09/80  21   Nacional                -    -    £150K     
*   Alzugaray, Martín            SW/D LC      25/02/80  22   Racing Santander [ESP]  13   -    £4M       
*   Montero, Paolo               SW/D C       03/09/71  30   Parma [ITA]             39   3    £8.75M    
* † Pumar, Fabián                D/DM RC      14/02/79  23   Bella Vista             -    -    £80K      
*   Tais, Washington             D R          21/12/72  29   Racing Santander [ESP]  56   -    £3.8M     
*   Bergara, Federico            D LC         29/12/71  30   Estudiantes LP [ARG]    16   -    £1.1M     
*   Lembo, Alejandro             D C          15/02/78  24   Nantes [FRA]            11   -    £2.8M     
*   López, Diego                 D C          22/08/74  27   Cagliari [ITA]          19   -    £3M       
*   Rivas, Martín                D C          12/02/77  25   Schalke 04 [GER]        19   1    £4.3M     
*   Anchén, Jorge                DM RC        17/08/80  21   Schalke 04 [GER]        11   2    £6.75M    
*   Fleurquin, Andrés            DM RC        08/02/75  27   Oviedo [ESP]            26   2    £6.25M    
*   Cohelo, Walter               M C          20/01/77  25   Oviedo [ESP]            3    1    £7.5M     
*   O'Neill, Fabián              AM LC        14/10/73  28   Juventus [ITA]          20   4    £4.5M     
*   Olivera, Andrés Nicolás      AM/F LC      30/05/78  24   Sevilla [ESP]           16   9    £16M      
*   Poyet, Gustavo               AM C         15/11/67  34   Aston Villa [ENG]       25   1    £1.8M     
*   González, Juan               F RC         27/05/72  30   Oviedo [ESP]            9    -    £5.75M    
*   Recoba, Álvaro               F LC         17/03/76  26   Inter [ITA]             29   9    £23.5M    
*   Silva, Darío                 F C          02/11/72  29   Mallorca [ESP]          14   1    £8M       
*   Alonso, Diego                S C          16/04/75  27   Valencia [ESP]          23   9    £17.25M   
*   Delgado, Chispa              S C          30/09/75  26   Numancia [ESP]          3    1    £170K     

† Injury replacement for: Moas, Ever - SW/D C, 21/03/69, Vélez [ARG]
* Real player, [G] Greyed-out player, [R] Regenerated player

 

Star Players

Diego Alonso

Alonso's haul of 34 La Liga goals in two years at Valencia couldn't be any more different from his disastrous real-life spell at the Mestalla. He's as quick on his feet as namesake Fernando is on the race track, and he's just as brave and iron-willed too.

 

Paolo Montero

Montero is one of the most expensive defenders in history, having cost Parma £22million to prise him from Juventus' clutches last year. Though he's not particularly tall at 5ft 11in, he's a fearsome character who excels both as a sweeper and a stopper.

 

Álvaro Recoba

Recoba can be devastating at centre-forward or on the left wing, as his 25 goals in 45 games for Inter this season suggest. Though renowned for his dribbling and long passing, his work rate is badly lacking for a player at the highest level.

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As I've said before Chris the detail you put into your work is brilliant. If any newbies want to know how to do a detailed story they need look no further than your work. Looking forward to seeing the tournament progress. 

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3 hours ago, mark wilson27 said:

As I've said before Chris the detail you put into your work is brilliant. If any newbies want to know how to do a detailed story they need look no further than your work. Looking forward to seeing the tournament progress. 

It does help that I have far too much spare time, but thanks. My stories really are labours of love, and I'd like to think that'll show when we get into the finals. All the fun begins on Tuesday, don't forget!

Apropos of nothing, it's time for a confession. I'd always wanted to do something special for this summer by simulating a previous World Cup, though not necessarily in Championship Manager. I had planned to dabble into YouTube by simulating the whole 1998 tournament on World Cup 98, but I felt this was a better and more enjoyable idea. Besides, I'm far more confident as a writer than as a video creator. Maybe I will one day give YouTube a try, but right now, I feel like I've made the right choice to stick with writing. :)

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FINALS SQUADS: GROUP H

Denmark

Previous World Cups: 2. Best Result: Quarter Finals (1998).

World Ranking (as of May 2002): 15th - 702.04 pts.

 

The last of Denmark's Euro 1992 champions have gone, but a new generation is now coming through. The Danish Dynamite secured qualification with a last-minute Playoff winner against Portugal, which spoke volumes of their fierce determination and team ethic. There's an aggressive midfield and a potent frontline in the squad, but Peter Schmeichel will be badly-missed in goal.

 

Manager

Morten Olsen (Danish, age 52)

Olsen only became Denmark manager in 2000 but has made such an impact that he could well shape the national team for many years to come. His Danish Dynamite like to play explosive direct football and heavily press their opponents.

 

Squad

    NAME                         POSITION(S)  BORN      AGE  CLUB                    CAPS GLS  VALUE
*   Hoffmann, Jan                GK           04/05/71  31   AB                      -    -    £1M       
*   Nielsen, Jimmy               GK           06/08/77  24   Aalborg                 1    -    £1.8M     
*   Sørensen, Thomas             GK           12/06/76  26   Sunderland [ENG]        5    -    £3.4M     
*   Bælum, Thomas                SW/D C       05/06/78  24   Aalborg                 -    -    £1.4M     
*   Henriksen, René              SW/D C       27/08/69  32   Panathinaikos [GRE]     27   -    £1.8M     
*   Bisgaard, Morten             D/DM RC      25/06/74  27   Udinese [ITA]           8    -    £1.6M     
*   Bjerre, Anders               D/DM RC      27/05/69  33   AGF                     -    -    £1M       
*   Helveg, Thomas               D/DM R       24/06/71  30   Milan [ITA]             68   2    £4.5M     
*   Laursen, Ulrik               D L          22/09/80  21   Hibs [SCO]              3    -    £1.4M     
*   Bidstrup, Stefan             D/DM C       24/02/75  27   Leicester [ENG]         5    -    £3.7M     
*   Sand, Peter                  D/DM C       19/07/72  29   FC Midtjylland          4    -    £1.8M     
*   Zivkovic, Bora               D C          04/09/74  27   Silkeborg IF            1    1    £1.8M     
*   Tøfting, Stig                DM RC        14/08/69  32   Hamburg [GER]           34   4    £70K      
*   Wieghorst, Morten            DM RLC       25/02/71  31   Sevilla [ESP]           25   4    £2.1M     
*   Gravesen, Thomas             DM C         11/03/76  26   Everton [ENG]           18   1    £4.9M     
*   Grønkjær, Jesper             AM/F RL      08/12/77  24   Chelsea [ENG]           28   1    £6.5M     
*   Rommedahl, Dennis            AM/F R       22/07/78  23   PSV [NED]               8    1    £170K     
*   Bagger, Ruben                F LC         16/01/72  30   Brøndby                 2    -    £2.9M     
*   Sand, Ebbe                   F C          19/07/72  29   Schalke 04 [GER]        42   10   £4.7M     
*   Møller, Peter                S C          23/03/72  30   Oviedo [ESP]            11   3    £120K     
*   Molnar, Miklos               S C          10/04/70  32   Santos [BRA]            10   5    £1.8M     
*   Pedersen, Henrik             S C          10/06/75  27   Silkeborg IF            4    4    £3.6M     

(* Real player, [G] Greyed-out player, [R] Regenerated player)

 

Star Players

René Henriksen

Henriksen is a composed central-defender with excellent man-marking abilities and tactical awareness. His consistency for both Denmark and Panathinaikos has earned him a move to Hertha BSC, whom he'll join on a free transfer after the World Cup.

 

Miklos Molnar

Only the triathlon-running Molnar himself knows why he signed for Brazilian giants Santos last year, but that unlikely career move hasn't derailed his Denmark career. His 18 caps and two goals from before the World Cup qualifiers weren't in the CM00/01 database.

 

Henrik Pedersen

Since his international breakthrough last September, late-bloomer Pedersen has scored four goals in as many Danish caps. He is by far the most accomplished striker in the Danish league, where he currently plays for Silkeborg IF, and will surely move abroad sooner or later.

 

Finland

Previous World Cups: 0. Best Result: debut.

World Ranking (as of May 2002): 35th - 584.63 pts.

 

Unless you knew every nook and cranny of CM00/01, you probably wouldn't have predicted that Finland would've qualified. The Huuhkajat have a largely underrated team of gifted top-division players, all of whom are peaking at roughly the same time. They also like to bloody the big boys' noses, so don't be too surprised if they come through the first two rounds.

 

Manager

Antti Muurinen (Finnish, age 48)

Muurinen looks like everybody's happy-go-lucky favourite uncle, and he is certainly a popular figure in Finland. Despite never playing professionally, his thrilling brand of attacking football has sent the Finns flying into their first ever major tournament.

 

Squad

    NAME                         POSITION(S)  BORN      AGE  CLUB                    CAPS GLS  VALUE
*   Enckelman, Peter             GK           10/03/77  25   Aston Villa [ENG]       1    -    £975K     
*   Jääskeläinen, Jussi          GK           19/04/75  27   Bolton [ENG]            20   -    £1M       
*   Niemi, Antti                 GK           31/05/72  30   Hearts [SCO]            39   -    £1.2M     
*   Nylund, Ville                SW/D RLC     14/02/72  30   FC Haka                 15   -    £600K     
*   Tuomela, Marko               SW/D C       03/03/72  30   Tromsø [NOR]            20   2    £200K     
*   Mattila, Lasse               D/M RL       22/11/76  25   Örebro [SWE]            1    -    £300K     
*   Salli, Janne                 D/DM RC      14/12/77  24   Tampa Bay [USA]         13   1    £2.3M     
*   Tihinen, Hannu               D/DM RC      01/07/76  25   Mamelodi Sundowns [RSA] 24   4    £2.1M     
*   Ylönen, Harri                D RLC        21/12/72  29   Start [NOR]             41   1    £650K     
*   Saarinen, Janne              D/DM L       28/02/77  25   Rosenborg [NOR]         16   -    £1.2M     
*   Hyypiä, Sami                 D C          10/07/73  28   Liverpool [ENG]         44   1    £10M      
*   Pasanen, Petri               D C          24/09/80  21   Ajax [NED]              10   1    £2.9M     
*   Grönlund, Tommi              DM C         09/12/69  32   Frankfurt [GER]         39   2    £2.9M     
*   Nordback, Fredrick           M RC         20/03/79  23   Djurgården [SWE]        6    1    £1.1M     
*   Wiss, Jarkko                 AM RLC       17/04/72  30   Montpellier [FRA]       33   3    £875K     
*   Kolkka, Joonas               AM/F L       28/09/74  27   PSV [NED]               40   6    £7.25M    
*   Litmanen, Jari               AM/F C       20/02/71  31   Liverpool [ENG]         75   16   £8.75M    
*   Tainio, Teemu                AM C         27/11/79  22   Auxerre [FRA]           11   1    £2.3M     
*   Valakari, Simo               AM C         28/04/73  29   Derby [ENG]             29   3    £1.8M     
*   Johansson, Jonatan           F LC         16/08/75  26   Charlton [ENG]          34   17   £825K     
*   Sjölund, Daniel              F C          22/04/83  19   Liverpool [ENG]         7    2    £1.7M     
*   Kottila, Mika                S C          22/09/74  27   Trelleborg [SWE]        19   3    £2.5M     

(* Real player, [G] Greyed-out player, [R] Regenerated player)

 

Star Players

Sami Hyypiä

Liverpool and Finland captain Hyypiä is as cool and composed a central defender as you will find at the highest level. Standing at 6ft 4in tall, very few opponents can beat him in the air, and even fewer can expect him to make any mistakes from his interceptions or clearances.

 

Joonas Kolkka

Left-wing maestro (and future Crystal Palace flop) Kolkka has lifted the Eredivisie title with PSV twice in the past three seasons. His acceleration and dribbling skills are already well-known, but his off-the-ball intelligence doesn't go unnoticed either.

 

Jari Litmanen

Litmanen is a big name in Finland, and he's arguably an even bigger centre-forward! Though he hasn't quite hit the same heights at Liverpool as he did for Ajax, he's been virtually undroppable for the Huuhkajat since his debut in 1989 - the year before Yours Truly was born.

 

Japan

Previous World Cups: 1. Best Result: Round 1 (1998).

World Ranking (as of May 2002): 103rd - 404.27 pts.

 

Japan's squad isn't quite a glorified kindergarten, but it's fair to say that they have moved away from the old guard who lost three games at France '98. The Samurai Blue will be hopeful of drawing some blood from their opponents this time, especially with home support on their side. Sadly, I fear their inexperience and defensive flimsiness might prove telling.

 

Manager

Philippe Troussier (French, age 47)

Despite resembling an accountant more than a football manager, Troussier has made a name for himself at various jobs around the world. The Parisian has developed a promising young Japanese team who pride themselves on playing patient, measured football.

 

Squad

    NAME                         POSITION(S)  BORN      AGE  CLUB                    CAPS GLS  VALUE
*   Kawaguchi, Yoshikatsu        GK           15/08/75  26   F Marinos               38   -    £1.8M     
*   Minami, Yuta                 GK           30/09/79  22   Reysol                  1    -    £1.3M     
*   Sogahata, Hitoshi            GK           02/08/79  22   Urawa Reds              -    -    £1.1M     
*   Tanaka, Makoto               SW/D RC      08/08/75  26   F Marinos               8    -    £2.2M     
*   Matsuda, Naoki               SW/D C       14/03/77  25   F Marinos               12   -    £2.2M     
*   Saito, Toshihide             SW/D C       20/04/73  29   Grampus                 19   -    £1.2M     
*   Suzuki, Hideto               SW/D C       07/10/74  27   Sanfreece               2    -    £1.8M     
*   Akita, Yutaka                D RC         06/08/70  31   Grampus                 38   3    £1M       
*   Tsujimoto, Shigeki           D RC         23/06/79  22   Purple Sanga            -    -    £1.4M     
*   Nakata, Koji                 D/DM L       09/07/79  22   Antlers                 7    -    £2.3M     
*   Nakazawa, Yuji               D C          25/02/78  24   Purple Sanga            7    2    £2.3M     
*   Endo, Yasuhito               DM RLC       28/01/80  22   Gamba                   1    -    £4.5M     
*   Mochizuki, Shigeyoshi        M RC         09/07/73  28   Purple Sanga            14   -    £2.1M     
*   Oku, Daisuke                 M RC         07/02/76  26   Jubilo                  20   2    £2.9M     
*   Motoyama, Masashi            AM RC        20/06/79  22   Antlers                 2    -    £3.5M     
*   Nakata, Hidetoshi            AM RC        22/01/77  25   Roma [ITA]              34   6    £25.5M    
*   Sato, Yukihiko               AM/F RC      11/05/76  26   Gamba                   2    -    £2.3M     
*   Hirano, Takashi              AM LC        15/07/74  27   Purple Sanga            21   5    £2.3M     
*   Ono, Shinji                  AM C         27/09/79  22   Urawa Reds              8    -    £3.4M     
*   Kubo, Tatsuhiko              F C          18/06/76  25   Sanfreece               6    -    £3.7M     
*   Hirase, Tomoyuki             S C          23/05/77  25   Antlers                 3    -    £3.1M     
*   Jo, Shoji                    S C          17/06/75  26   F Marinos               40   9    £3M       

(* Real player, [G] Greyed-out player, [R] Regenerated player)

 

Star Players

Shoji Jo

Tireless striker Jo topped the J-League scoring charts in 2001, bagging 25 goals for F Marinos. The 26-year-old has surprisingly strong aerial presence for someone who's less than 6ft tall, and he will be at the heart of Japan's attack throughout these finals.

 

Hidetoshi Nakata

Football fans of a certain age might still remember Yasuhiko Okudera, but Nakata perhaps has a stronger case for being named Japan's greatest ever player. Fans of Perugia and Roma have grown to admire the attacking midfielder's outstanding technical abilities and his eye for goal.

 

Makoto Tanaka

Though he only received his first cap a couple of years ago, Tanaka is almost nailed on to start at right-back for the Samurai Blue. The F Marinos defender is fairly well-rounded, but it's his work ethic that really makes him stand out from his peers.

 

Nigeria

Previous World Cups: 2. Best Result: Round 2 (1994, 1998).

World Ranking (as of May 2002): 42nd - 560.96 pts.

 

It's incredibly difficult to predict what will become of Nigeria in one of the tournament's toughest groups. The Super Eagles are blessed - or perhaps burdened - with a bevy of midfielders and forwards who could either be awesome or awful on any given day. Their defence can also be easily discouraged when the chips are down, so a strong start in every match will be vital.

 

Manager

Luka Peruzovic (Croatian, age 50)

As it's tradition for African teams to sack managers after successful qualifying campaigns, Peruzovic ended up replacing Nigeria's short-reigning German coach Dirk Kurth. The former Yugoslavia defender likes his side to play a conservative 5-3-2 system.

 

Squad

    NAME                         POSITION(S)  BORN      AGE  CLUB                    CAPS GLS  VALUE
*   Bankole, Ademola             GK           09/09/69  32   Pasto [COL]             6    -    £26K      
*   Baruwa, Abiodun              GK           16/11/74  27   Sion [SUI]              6    -    £140K     
*   Shorunmu, Ike                GK           16/10/67  34   Tampa Bay [USA]         16   -    £1.1M     
*   Sudy, Ikem                   SW/D/DM C    24/12/81  20   Orlen [POL]             3    -    £75K      
*   Uche                         SW/D C       27/09/67  34   Fenerbahçe [TUR]        55   1    £1M       
*   Kanu, Christopher            D/DM RC      04/12/79  22   Ajax [NED]              9    -    £45K      
*   Babayaro, Celestine          D/DM L       29/08/78  23   Coventry [ENG]          22   1    £3.7M     
*   Shakpoke, Jero               D LC         05/12/79  22   Rennes [FRA]            5    -    £1.7M     
*   West, Taribo                 D LC         26/03/74  28   Marseille [FRA]         41   -    £3M       
*   Monye, Onyeabour Precious    D/DM C       22/12/74  27   Schalke 04 [GER]        5    -    £3.2M     
*   Okafor, Uche                 D/DM C       08/08/67  34   Kansas City [USA]       43   3    £775K     
*   Okpara, Godwin               D C          20/09/72  29   Los Angeles [USA]       25   -    £1.7M     
*   Oliseh, Sunday               D/DM C       14/09/74  27   Dortmund [GER]          46   5    £7.75M    
*   Okocha, Jay Jay              DM C         14/08/73  28   Paris-SG [FRA]          47   8    £120K     
*   Finidi                       AM/F R       15/04/71  31   Mallorca [ESP]          54   9    £8.75M    
*   Lawal, Garba                 AM L         22/04/74  28   Roda [NED]              31   4    £4M       
*   Taiwo, Wasiu                 AM/F L       10/01/76  26   NEC [NED]               6    2    £3M       
*   Aliyu                        F RC         14/03/82  20   Milan [ITA]             2    1    £2.3M     
*   Epitié                       F RC         12/10/76  25   Alavés [ESP]            1    -    £4.3M     
*   Ikpeba, Victor               F RLC        12/06/73  29   Gladbach [GER]          28   4    £4.1M     
*   Kanu, Nwankwo                F C          01/08/76  25   Arsenal [ENG]           30   7    £10M      
*   Agali, Victor                S C          29/12/78  23   Frankfurt [GER]         11   8    £7.5M     

(* Real player, [G] Greyed-out player, [R] Regenerated player)

 

Star Players

Finidi

I'm still not quite sure if Finidi is his first name or his surname, but there's no doubting George has the skills to take Nigeria far. The tall right-winger has explosive pace and excels at crossing, as many defenders in La Liga have discovered over the years.

 

Nwankwo Kanu

Nearly six years after undergoing life-saving heart surgery, Kanu is playing at his second World Cup with the Super Eagles. He is simultaneously a cult icon and a regular source of frustration amongst Arsenal fans, such is his enigmatic goalscoring talent.

 

Sunday Oliseh

Dortmund supporters will tell you that Oliseh is an accomplished midfielder on any day of the week. Though mainly utilised as a stopper or a deep-lying playmaker, he can also light up games with his crossing abilities and his powerful long-range shooting.

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12 JUNE 2002

The atmosphere in South Korea and Japan has reached fever pitch ahead of the first World Cup finals to be played on Asian soil. For the past few weeks, there's been non-stop talk about predictions, squads, and breaking news from the England training camp (which is very quiet, of course, because they didn't qualify. Try telling that to Gabby Logan, though). Today, the talk stops, and the action begins in earnest.

 

32 teams have arrived from all corners of the globe (except Oceania... and Antarctica, of course) to battle it out over the next 33 days. In just five Sundays' time, one of those teams will have the privilege of lifting the World Cup trophy aloft in front of around 62,000 people in Tokyo - and many more television viewers worldwide.

 

As is tradition, the defending champions are in action on the first night of the tournament. That means we have an early opportunity to examine France's credentials against a dogged Russia team who could be Group A's dark horses. (Note: As of the real-life 2006 World Cup, the hosts have traditionally been chosen to play on opening nights, as the holders no longer qualify automatically.)

 

The odds will be firmly stacked against Russia taking even one point against Les Bleus in the South Korean city of Ulsan, let alone three. Mind you, whispers of discontent in the French camp could manifest themselves into poor performances on the pitch.

 

Zinedine Zidane is said to be disgruntled that Lilian Thuram was given the France captaincy ahead of him. There are also serious misgivings about the presence of Arsenal striker Sylvain Wiltord, who has hardly played for the Gunners this season. Meanwhile, Nicolas Anelka has been complaining that one of the bed pillows in his hotel room is not plump enough... and that the other is too plump.

 

It might be the tie of the night, but France vs Russia is not the official curtain-raiser to this World Cup. In their infinite wisdom, the tournament organisers have chosen to kick off proceedings with Mexico vs China PR at Tokyo's National Stadium.

 

The honour of scoring the first goal will almost certainly fall to a Mexican player. El Tri love to reach the knockout stage of a World Cup and then switch off as soon as their mission has been completed. I don't call them second-round specialists for nothing.

 

This is China's debut appearance at the men's football World Cup, and they'll want to make an impression on a potential fanbase of over 1 billion. The Dragons are in a very tricky group, but if the Dragons' qualifying results suggest anything, it's that they can't be written off as mere cannon fodder.

 

Group Stage

Group A Results

Mexico vs China PR - at National Stadium, Tokyo

After a spectacular opening ceremony in the Japanese capital, we all sat down to watch what we hoped would be a thrilling curtain-raiser of a match. It turned out to be anything but, as China immediately went on the defensive, desperate to stop Mexico's long balls from pulverising them.

 

The Dragons initially held firm, with goalkeeper Chuliang Ou holding onto a fantastic long-range drive from Germán Villa in the 18th minute. Six minutes later, though, Mexico did make the breakthrough. Paco picked up a direct pass from Gerardo Torrado and drilled it across the penalty box to his strike partner Luis Hernandez. With a simple finish, the 33-year-old Monterrey forward opened the scoring at this World Cup.

 

China did thankfully show a bit more fight later in the first period. Midfielder Jianjun Sun was booked in the 40th minute for tripping Torrado, who put the subsequent free-kick wide. The debutants then got their first shot on target on the stroke of half-time, with right-winger Xiaorui Zhang forcing Mexican keeper Jorge Campos into a difficult parry.

 

The second half turned out to be more of a let-down. Now it was Mexico who were going all Helenio Herrera on proceedings, sitting incredibly deep to protect their 1-0 lead. Only very rarely did El Tri threaten to build on their lead, with defender Miguel Angel Zepeda and Villa each having shots saved by Ou in the 63rd and 87th minutes respectively.

 

China captain Haidong Hao and his colleagues lacked the know-Hao to break down a tough Mexican backline. The closest Hao came to a breakthrough was in the 83rd minute, when he got his head to a cross from substitute wideman Qi Zhu. The header went wide, and the Dragons' first ever match at a World Cup ended in a brave but still disappointing defeat.

 

Mexico - 1 (L Hernandez 24)

China PR - 0

MEXICO LINE-UP (5-3-2): J Campos; J Arellano (D Davino 71), R Marquez, C Suarez ©, MA Zepeda, MA Carreon; G Villa, I Cantero (N Ramirez 57), G Torrado; Paco, L Hernandez.

CHINA PR LINE-UP (4-4-2): C Ou; G Chen, M Li, E Zhang, Jihai Sun (W Li 85); X Zhang (T Li 57), J Li (Q Zhu 57), Jianjun Sun, M Ma; H Hao ©, Z Fan. BOOKED: Jianjun Sun 40.

MAN OF THE MATCH: Miguel Angel Carreon (Mexico).

 

France vs Russia - at Ulsan Munsu Football Stadium, Ulsan

Unlike in the match that had come before it, both France and Russia came out fighting from the outset. It was Russia who surprisingly broke the deadlock after four minutes, with Alexander Mostovoi controlling a cross from Sergey Semak before smacking it into the back of Fabien Barthez's net.

 

Barely three minutes later, however, the tide turned again. When the tricky French winger Stéphane Dalmat was floored in the Russian box by Igor Yanovski, the referee almost instantly pointed to the spot.

 

As Yanovski was handed his yellow card, France talisman Zinedine Zidane grabbed the ball and approached the spot... only for enfant terrible Nicolas Anelka to demand that he took the penalty. Fearing an outbreak of World War III if Anelka didn't get his way, Zidane reluctantly handed the ball to the Paris-SG striker, who duly thumped it beyond Ruslan Nigmatullin's reach for 1-1.

 

Anelka and Thierry Henry each missed chances to put Les Bleus ahead later in the first period. Robert Pires came closest to scoring in the 36th minute, when the Arsenal winger's low shot was parried by Nigmatullin. In truth, Russia had done well to stay level at the break, especially as a thigh injury to Semak eight minutes beforehand had noticeably weakened them.

 

The Russians would have Nigmatullin to thank for keeping the scoreline at 1-1 in the 53rd minute, when he caught a spectacular volley from Zidane. Alas, the second-most-famous jogpants-wearing goalkeeper in world football (after Gabor Kiràly) would be beaten for a second time just 10 minutes later. A wicked banana shot from Anelka proved too difficult for Nigmatullin to keep out, and France were 2-1 up.

 

With Dalmat weaving his magic on the right flank, Les Bleus could've ended up with even more goals to their name. He laid on excellent late crosses for Henry, Anelka and finally Zidane in the closing stages. All of them were thwarted by Nigmatullin, without whom Russia would surely have been thrashed.

 

Despite failing to add to their tally, France had still done enough to earn a win, which was more than they'd mustered at the real-life World Cup. Roger Lemerre's team was not yet showing any cracks, while Dalmat had demonstrated the flair and creativity that will soon see him thrive at Tottenham.

 

France - 2 (N Anelka pen8,63)

Russia - 1 (A Mostovoi 4)

FRANCE LINE-UP (4-4-2): F Barthez; L Thuram ©, M Desailly, F Danjou, V Candela; S Dalmat, Z Zidane, E Petit (G Guigou 70), R Pires (A Boghossian 70); N Anelka, T Henry.

RUSSIA LINE-UP (4-4-2): R Nigmatullin; D Khlestov, V Onopko ©, M Demenko (A Smertin 70), I Yanovski; V Kechinov, V Radimov, A Mostovoi, S Semak (A Tikhonov 28); A Panov, V Bestchastnykh. BOOKED: Yanovski 7.

MAN OF THE MATCH: Stéphane Dalmat (France).

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13 JUNE 2002

After last night's steady start to the 2002 World Cup, today could be when the tournament really gets going. We've got the opening two fixtures in what looks likely to be a very competitive Group B.

 

First up in Pohang, we have Czech Republic facing Germany in an intriguing rematch of the UEFA Euro 1996 Final. Six years on, only one member of the Mannschaft team who started their 2-1 extra-time victory - wing-back Christian Ziege - has been retained for this World Cup. Golden goal hero Oliver Bierhoff was surprisingly left out of the squad that travelled to the Far East, despite his fine form in the qualifiers.

 

Football in Germany is undergoing major reconstructive surgery after the embarrassment that was Euro 2000, with a lot of emphasis being placed on youth development. It might take a decade before we see the fruits of the Deutscher Fußball-Bund's labours. In the meantime, German fans will just have to put up with their defenders hoofing the ball to Carsten Jancker at any given opportunity.

 

The Czech Republic have kept several players from the team that went to Wembley three tournaments ago. Amongst them is New England defender Lubos Kubik, who - aged 38 - is the oldest player at this World Cup. In fact, according to real-life, Kubik should have retired last year!

 

Once that match is over, we'll cross the Korean Strait to watch Paraguay take on Morocco in Osaka. Like the game above, I find it difficult to predict a winner.

 

We now know everything about Paraguay's goalkeeping captain except his blood type, so let's focus on another player for the time being. Roque Santa Cruz scored three goals at the 1999 Copa America, when he was just 17. Now three years older (and hopefully wiser), Santa Cruz will want to announce his arrival on the global stage and take his career to the next level... or maybe Blackburn.

 

Morocco had the best qualifying record in CAF and will carry most of Africa's hopes at these finals. The Atlas Lions have their own striking star in Salaheddine Bassir, but how their defence holds up against strong opposition will probably determine their fate.

 

So there you have it. Two exciting matches lie ahead, and I expect goals. Lots of goals.

 

Group Stage

Group B Results

Czech Republic vs Germany - at Pohang Stadium, Pohang

Germany understandably started off the brighter of the two teams, but they missed quite a few chances. The best of them came in the 15th minute for winger Christian Timm (no relation to the Danish former Manchester United misfit Mads Timm). His diving header from a Jens Jeremies was parried by Czech Republic keeper Pavel Srnicek.

 

It turned out to be quite a strange first period for Jeremies. He had been booked in the 13th minute for tripping Patrik Berger, and his team-mate (both at club and international level) Thomas Linke also saw yellow nine minutes later. Jeremies' day didn't get any better when he bruised his shin on 40 minutes, forcing him to come off.

 

The Czechs started to show their attacking qualities shortly before the break. Berger dribbled past a couple of Germans before his low drive was clawed away from goal by Teutonic goal-stopping machine Oliver Kahn. Sebastian Deisler then removed the danger as the ref blew for half-time.

 

For reasons only Jozef Chovanec knows, the Czech Republic coach decided to make all his three substitutions in one fell swoop five minutes into the second half. One of them wouldn't even see out the match.

 

Hamburg midfielder David Jarolim had quite the three-minute cameo for the Czechs. After forcing Kahn into an awkward save in the 52nd minute, Jarolim tried to control the follow-up, only to knock it out of bounds. Jarolim's frustration then boiled over, and a unprovoked shove on Mannschaft defender Markus Happe earned him the swiftest of sendings-off!

 

Chovanec's charges somehow managed to hold on with just 10 men. Germany's substitute wideman Silvio Meißner messed up a long-range drive in the 78th minute. Srnicek then made a late double save from the other two German subs - Stefan Beinlich and Alexander Zickler - before the full-time whistle blew on a goalless draw. There was no golden goal rule to aid the Krauts this time.

 

Czech Republic - 0

Germany - 0

CZECH REPUBLIC LINE-UP (4-4-2): P Srnicek; M Fukal, M Nikl, K Rada, T Repka; K Poborsky (V Smicer 50), T Rosciky, P Berger (J Koller 50), P Nedved ©; V Lokvenc, M Heinz (D Jarolim 50). SENT OFF: Jarolim 53.

GERMANY LINE-UP (4-4-2): O Kahn ©; M Rehmer, T Linke, M Happe, S Schnoor; S Deisler (S Meißner 66), J Jeremies (A Zickler 40), M Tarnat, C Timm (S Beinlich 48); C Jancker, O Neuville. BOOKED: Jeremies 13, Linke 22.

MAN OF THE MATCH: Tomas Repka (Czech Republic).

 

Paraguay vs Morocco - at Nagai, Osaka

Morocco went for goal almost immediately, only to run into a Paraguayan brick wall. When winger Yassine Abdellaoui was wiped out by Julio César Enciso in the very first minute, Paraguay's defensive midfield enforcer was lucky to escape with just a booking.

 

That rash early tackle on Abdellaoui certainly seemed to have an effect on Morocco. They would only have one shot at goal in the first half - an off-target bender from Adil Ramzi in the 41st minute. In fact, the Atlas Lions were so toothless that Paraguay skipper José Luis Chilavert wouldn't have to face any further shots in the entire match!

 

There wasn't much action to talk about at the other end either. Roque Santa Cruz didn't test Moroccan keeper Khalid Sinouh in the 25th minute, though he did test the ref's patience with a foul in the 37th. The Bayern München youngster received the second of what would be three yellow cards for the aggressive South Americans.

 

Things were scrappier still in the second period. Paraguay's defence was weakened when Pedro Sarabia twisted his ankle in the 65th minute, though Francisco Javier Arce slotted into his place nicely. There was not much chance of either Salaheddine Bassir or Rachid Rokki breaking through in Osaka.

 

La Albirroja did find the net on 73 minutes, thanks to a moment of magic from their other defensive midfielder Carlos Paredes. He dribbled past Morocco captain Mustapha Hadji and smashed in what he thought was the winning goal. That was until the linesman raised an offside flag against... erm, Santa Cruz? The bewildered Paraguayan fans, players and coaches didn't know whether to laugh or cry.

 

Morocco then lost a defender to injury on 81 minutes, and it was a devastating blow for left-back Abdelkarim El Hadrioui, who would miss the rest of the tournament with a torn groin muscle. His replacement Abdellatif Jrindou almost gifted Paraguay a goal six minutes later with an awful clearance, but Miguel Ángel Benítez struck the post. Another 0-0 draw meant that we will have to wait at least another six days for Group B's first goal.

 

Paraguay - 0

Morocco - 0

PARAGUAY LINE-UP (5-3-2): JL Chilavert ©; C Ayala, C Gamarra, P Sarabia (FJ Arce 65); JC Enciso, C Paredes; N Cuevas, MA Acuña, C Morel Rodríguez; R Santa Cruz, MÁ Benítez. BOOKED: Enciso 1, Santa Cruz 37, C Paredes 66.

MOROCCO LINE-UP (4-4-2): K Sinouh; A Saber, T El-Karkouri, R Neqrouz, A El Hadrioui (A Jrindou 81); A Ramzi, M Hadji ©, Y Chippo (S Chiba 67), Y Abdellaoui; S Bassir, R Rokki.

MAN OF THE MATCH: Pedro Sarabia (Paraguay).

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14 JUNE 2002

Okay, so yesterday was a massive disappointment. Believe me, though, when I quote D:Ream and say that things can only get better. (Disclaimer: That paragraph was brought to you by the Labour Party.)

 

The match I'm most looking forward to watching today is in Group C, where a host nation takes on a Home Nation. Wales can expect to face a fiercely patriotic home crowd when they do battle with South Korea in... erm, Kobe. In Japan.

 

This is Wales' first World Cup since 1958, when Juventus centre-back John Charles was in his pomp. 44 years on, the Red Dragons have a new continental star in centre-forward Robert Earnshaw, who plays in Athens for AEK. That might sound impressive... until you realise that Earnshaw spent much of this season on loan at Greek third-division side Ethnikos. Unsurprisingly, Welsh coach Mark Hughes prefers to field Craig Bellamy and John Hartson up front instead.

 

South Korea have only a few players in the European leagues, the most high-profile being Perugia forward Jung-Hwan Ahn. Few are expecting the Taegeuk Warriors to do well, even on home soil, so a strong start will be vital for them.

 

Also in Group C, we have Jamaica's entertainers, many of whom play in England (I might've mentioned that once or twice before). Their first match is in Seoul - the South Korean capital, no less - against a Ukraine outfit who seem to have forgotten to bring Andriy Shevchenko with them. I fear they might come to regret that in time.

 

As if that wasn't enough, we will also get to see Italy's Serie A dream team formally begin their quest for global supremacy tonight. Giovanni Trapattoni's men only made it to Round 2 in the actual World Cup, but if I was a gambler, I could justify betting on them going all the way here.

 

The Azzurri have a seemingly simple opener in Ulsan versus Bosnia & Herzegovina. Then again, Spain thought they would have it easy against the Zmajevi, and they ended up with tomatoes on their faces.

 

Group Stage

Group C Results

South Korea vs Wales - at Kobe Universiade Memorial, Kobe

The first of the World Cup co-hosts entered the tournament, and there was controversy after just 14 minutes. South Korea striker Jung-Yoon Noh was apparently clipped in the Wales area by goalkeeper Mark Crossley, prompting loud cries from the Korean fans. The referee refused to give a penalty, suggesting that he hadn't been paid enough money to award one.

 

Crossley stayed on the pitch, and he would stop South Korea again - by more legitimate means - in the 18th minute. Jong-Hwan Yoon's half-volley was tipped behind for a corner, which Gary Speed easily intercepted.

 

Wales had their first real scoring opportunity eight minutes later, with John Hartson heading over a cross from namesake John Oster. Centre-back Adrian Williams swore in frustration after that miss and was swiftly booked by the referee.

 

After surviving a couple more Korean attacks, the Red Dragons roared into life in the 42nd minute. Craig Bellamy intercepted a long ball from 'home' goalkeeper Byung-Ji Kim and nodded it on to Oster, who dribbled through and drove in a superb opening goal! The Welsh players went wild, but star man Ryan Giggs appeared to strain his thigh during the celebration and would be substituted shortly afterwards.

 

Wales' delight would grow five minutes into the second half. Captain Speed celebrated the arrival of the much-loved Robbie Savage as a midfield substitute by hammering a second goal beyond Kim.

 

Then came another talking point in the 62nd minute. As Savage delivered a cross from out wide, Hartson was allegedly pulled to the ground by Dong-Won Seo. The ref pointed to the spot, prompting more uproar amongst the South Korean supporters. When Hartson despatched the penalty to Kim's right-hand side, the co-hosts found themselves 3-0 behind!

 

The Taegeuk Warriors' woes continued in the 85th minute, with Noh wasting another opportunity to get on the scoresheet. Three minutes later, their captain Myung-Bo Hong was beaten to a Speed cross by Hartson, whose second goal compounded the Koreans' misery. Wales began their World Cup adventure with a stunning 4-0 win, and the referee was given a police escort out of Kobe afterwards.

 

South Korea - 0

Wales - 4 (J Oster 42, G Speed 50, J Hartson pen62,88)

SOUTH KOREA LINE-UP (5-2-1-2): BJ Kim; KI Lee, TY Kim, MB Hong ©, HS Jang, YH Pak (SY Choi 62); DW Seo (JH Kim 62), JH Yoon; JH Ahn; JY Noh, YS Choi.

WALES LINE-UP (4-4-2): M Crossley; M Delaney, A Williams (P Mardon 71), M Jones, D Barnard; J Oster, M Pembridge, G Speed ©, R Giggs (S Davies 44); J Hartson, C Bellamy (R Savage 50). BOOKED: Williams 26.

MAN OF THE MATCH: John Hartson (Wales).

 

Jamaica vs Ukraine - at Chamsil Olympic Stadium, Seoul

Ukraine took the game to their opponents early on, but a couple of midfielders had mixed fortunes in front of goal. Alexandr Spivak fired a low cross from Maxim Kalinichenko wide in the second minute. Three minutes later, Serguei Kandaurov fared rather better by dribbling past a Jamaican player and slotting home the first goal in the South Korean capital.

 

The Jamaican player that Kandaurov beat on his way to goal was midfielder Winston Griffiths. He would get a chance to make amends in the 12th minute, when Kalinichenko's push on Wolde Harris led to the Reggae Boyz being awarded a penalty. Griffiths took it, and Valery Vorobjov was easily beaten.

 

The rest of the first period would be rather frustrating for Ukraine. Striker Sergueï Skatchenko (who is sadly not nicknamed 'The Skatman') flicked a header goalwards on 14 minutes, only to see Jamaican skipper Warren Barrett push it over. Kandaurov was then booked in the 35th minute, for reasons that weren't apparent.

 

Vorobjov came to the fore for Ukraine in the second half. A fingertip save denied Griffiths in the 50th minute. Shortly afterwards, Trevor Benjamin - somehow still at Leicester after warming their bench for two seasons - saw his attempted flick-on to strike partner Harris blocked by Vorobjov. Eduard Mor was also defending very well for the Ukrainians, evoking memories of a certain English defender with a similar surname.

 

The Eastern Europeans then got a bit too aggressive. Substitute winger Sergei Kovalets was booked in the 63rd minute for a push on Harris. A minute after that, Griffiths received similar treatment from Kandaurov, who'd momentarily forgotten that he was already on a yellow card. Ukraine's hero became their villain, and Jamaica had a man advantage for the final 26 minutes!

 

It was right at the end of those 26 minutes that Frank Sinclair decided the match by getting his name on the scoresheet. Surprisingly, though, the Jamaica and Leicester centre-half had scored at the right end for once! Sinclair smashed Danny Maddix's square ball past Vorobjov to send the Reggae Boyz into ecstasy and leave the Zhovto-Blakytni feeling very yellow-and-blue!

 

Jamaica - 2 (W Griffiths pen12, F Sinclair 90)

Ukraine - 1 (S Kandaurov 5)

JAMAICA LINE-UP (4-4-2 Attacking): W Barrett ©; J Sinnott, F Sinclair, D Maddix, M Johnson; T Whitmore (C Crossland 66), W Griffiths; R Bastow (J Lawrence 56), R Gardner; T Benjamin, W Harris.

UKRAINE LINE-UP (4-4-2): V Vorobjov; O Luzhniy ©, A Holovko (V Vaschuk 12), E Mor, V Skripnik; A Michalzuk (M Tischenko 61), M Kalinichenko, S Kandaurov, A Spivak (S Kovalets 56); S Skatchenko, S Rebrov. BOOKED: Kandaurov 35, Kovalets 63, Skatchenko 76. SENT OFF: Kandaurov 64.

MAN OF THE MATCH: Eduard Mor (Ukraine).

 

Group D Result

Bosnia & Herzegovina vs Italy - at Ulsan Munsu Football Stadium, Ulsan

Italy's squad of Serie A superstars quickly set their stall out to attack, but they had little luck in the opening minutes. Demetrio Albertini scuffed a half-volley wide in the second minute, while Gennaro Ivan Gattuso's diving header from Gianluca Zambrotta's flick-on eight minutes later also missed.

 

Bosnia & Herzegovina keeper Sead Ramovic produced his first saves after 17 and 18 minutes, keeping Christian Vieri and then Alessandro Nesta off the scoresheet. Gattuso then had three attempts to beat Ramovic between the 27th and 29th minutes. The Milan midfielder first hit the crossbar, then forced the goalie into an awkward parry, and finally slipped a low drive into the net!

 

Bosnia's resistance had been broken, but a couple of late saves from Ramovic stopped them falling further behind before the break. The Stuttgarter Kickers keeper saw rather more of the ball than strikers Elvir Bolic and Zlatan Muslimovic, who were virtual spectators in the first half of this virtual match.

 

It would take Italy just four second-half minutes to score again. Zambrotta intercepted a clearance from Zmajevi captain Hristo Vidakovic and hoisted it into the area for Vieri, whose header soundly beat Ramovic for 2-0.

 

That was as good as Vieri's night would get. A thigh strain in the 67th minute forced the Inter hotshot out of the game, and he could only watch on as substitute Vincenzo Montella went on to upstage him. The 27-year-old from Roma had only been on the pitch for two minutes when his one-two with Gattuso ended with a spectacular volley finding the top corner.

 

Montella would then wrap up his brace - and a 4-0 Italy win - with seven minutes to go. He forcefully climbed above a disgruntled Ramovic to meet a right-wing delivery from full-back Christian Panucci and compound Bosnia's misery.

 

This had been a real baptism of fire for the Zmajevi at the World Cup. They would only muster a single shot at goal all match, and that was in the 87th minute, when Sergej Barbarez's volley missed the target by miles. Barbarez and co need to do a lot better in later matches, otherwise they will surely return to Sarajevo with little more than the clothes on their backs.

 

Bosnia & Herzegovina - 0

Italy - 4 (GI Gattuso 29, C Vieri 49, V Montella 69,83)

BOSNIA & HERZEGOVINA LINE-UP (4-4-2): S Ramovic; H Salihamidzic, H Vidakovic ©, M Hibic, S Kapetanovic; V Music (Z Jusic 63), A Kevric (Z Bajramovic 57), S Barbarez (A Turkovic 90), E Baljic; E Bolic, Z Muslimovic. BOOKED: Kevric 40.

ITALY LINE-UP (3-5-1-1): G Buffon; A Nesta ©, M Iuliano, F Cannavaro; C Panucci, GI Gattuso, P Vanoli; D Albertini (A Cassano 67), G Zambrotta; F Totti; C Vieri (V Montella 67).

MAN OF THE MATCH: Vincenzo Montella (Italy).

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15 JUNE 2002

There are three more matches today, and we start with the second fixture in Group D. Italy have already got off to a flier, but can Iran or Cameroon join them at the top of the table?

 

Iran can expect plenty of support in Pusan. Amongst the crowd is the local K-League team's manager - an Anglo-Iranian who recently moved to South Korea after his old club was the victim of a major match-fixing scandal in France. Rest assured, if there is any corruption at this World Cup, it will only be in matches involving either of the host nations.

 

Cameroon coach Gabriel Pacheco had a major selection headache going into these finals. Fitting three exceptional attackers - Samuel Eto'o, Patrick Mboma and (ahem) Joseph-Désiré Job - into the same starting line-up has been a challenge. Pacheco has at last found a solution, as Mboma and Job will head the attack, with Eto'o sitting behind them as an attacking midfielder. Let's see how that pans out...

 

Meanwhile, Group E gets going today. Colombia's Crazy Gang kick things off in Tokyo against a Tunisia side who need a strong start to have any realistic chance of qualification for Round 2.

 

Before that, the Netherlands do battle with Scotland in Seoul. This fixture will make Dutch and Scottish football fans in 2018 wistful for the days when their countries would qualify for tournaments.

 

Having faltered against the Republic of Ireland in the real-life qualifiers, this is a sort of reprieve for the Netherlands. Louis van Gaal's Oranje entertainers will be out to prove a point in this universe.

 

As is tradition, Scotland have released an official World Cup single, and this year's belter could easily rival 1998's "Don't Come Home Too Soon". It's called "We're Oan Th' Ba" and is performed by the much-loved entertainment duo... erm, The Krankies. There's also a guest appearance from another Scottish institution in singer Ronnie Browne.

 

So, come on! Sing with me! "It's Robbie tae Davie, Davie tae Hendry, Hendry tae Dailly, Dailly Gemmill. Gemmill tae Hopkin, Hopkin tae Swegsie, Swegsie tae Burchill, tae heid! COME ON!"

 

Group Stage

Group D Result

Iran vs Cameroon - at Pusan Stadium, Pusan

There were no highlights of note in the first quarter of this match, with Iran looking especially cautious early on. They didn't look like threatening Cameroon until the 28th minute, when central defender Farshad Falahatzadeh flicked a header against the crossbar. He then got to the rebound and tried to cross it to a team-mate, but Alioum Boukar made a strong catch.

 

Cameroon's first chance was a wayward header by Lucien Mettomo in the 30th minute. Six minutes later, though, the Indomitable Lions did bear their teeth. Geremi was the driving force of an excellent Cameroonian move that resulted in the Real Madrid midfielder's through-ball being driven home by a volley from Parma's Patrick Mboma.

 

Iran pursued an equaliser just before half-time, with Ali Daei seeking his 57th international goal. Unfortunately for him, Boukar came up with another great save in the West Africans' goal, and the scoreline remained 1-0.

 

Samuel Eto'o had surprisingly done some defensive duties for Cameroon in the first period, but it was in the second half when he truly demonstrated his attacking qualities. Deportivo's 21-year-old forward struck the bar in the 64th minute, having hoovered up the loose ball after compatriot Mboma's cross had been poorly cleared by Mohammed Reza Mahdavi.

 

Eto'o would have a couple more opportunities over the next five minutes. He narrowly cleared the crossbar on 68 minutes after a fine set-up from substitute Zoel Epale, and then hit the woodwork for a second time soon afterwards.

 

Despite still being a single goal down, Iran couldn't fight back. Team Melli's attack was seriously dented when substitute striker Khodadad Azizi twisted his ankle in the 78th minute. Defenders Mehrdad Minavand and Falahatzadeh were then booked for fouls on Cameroon frontman Joseph-Désiré Job, who roared with delight when the full-time whistle confirmed victory for the Lions.

 

Iran - 0

Cameroon - 1 (P Mboma 36)

IRAN LINE-UP (5-3-2): AR Abedzadeh ©; AR Emamifar (K Azizi 58 (S Musawi 78)), MR Mahdavi, F Falahatzadeh, C Rivera, M Minavand; K Bagheri, M Mahdavikia, D Yazdani; A Daei (R Khatibi 58), V Hashemian. BOOKED: Minavand 85, Falahatzadeh 86.

CAMEROON LINE-UP (4-4-2 Diamond): A Boukar; R Song ©, L Mettomo, J Dika, S Olembé; P Wome; Geremi, S Branco (Z Epale 60); S Eto'o; P Mboma, JD Job.

MAN OF THE MATCH: Geremi (Cameroon).

 

Group E Results

Netherlands vs Scotland - at Chonan Stadium, Seoul

The Netherlands went all-out in the opening stages, though they frequently let Scotland goalkeeper Neil Sullivan off the hook with a series of wayward shots. That said, Andy van der Meyde was causing all sorts of problems on the right wing, and an 11th-minute trip from Gary Naysmith led to an early booking for the Tartan Army's left-back.

 

Sullivan made his first save in the 14th minute, parrying Jannes Wolters' header from an Edgar Davids cross. He also got his fingers to a speculative 23rd-minute shot from Patrick Kluivert, shortly after Scots captain Colin Hendry had gone into the book.

 

The Oranje eventually made their breakthrough on 33 minutes, thanks again to van der Meyde. The Ajax winger's free-kick was nodded on by PSV defender Jurgen Dirkx to expert marksman Kluivert, who did the rest.

 

Further wasted opportunities saw the Netherlands go into the break with a fragile 1-0 lead. That advantage looked a little more vulnerable in the 54th minute, as captain Frank De Boer stubbed his toe and needed to be substituted. Mind you, the fact that Mark Burchill and Stephen McConalogue were up front for Scotland summed up how close the Tartan Army would get to equalising.

 

On 61 minutes, an awful goal kick from Sullivan effectively condemned the Scots to defeat. Clarence Seedorf intercepted Sullivan's scuffed long ball and nodded it on to midfield colleague Davids. The man with the cool glasses then drove the ball into the net with laser precision. The Netherlands were now bang on course for a 2-0 victory.

 

It was only in the closing stages that Scotland started to make a proper match of it. Dutch keeper Sander Westerveld made difficult work of a 72nd-minute strike from substitute forward Gary McSwegan, who was one of the better players in a mediocre Scottish clan. Craig Brown's team would finish with as many yellow cards as shots (four apiece), which perhaps doesn't bode well for upcoming fixtures.

 

Netherlands - 2 (P Kluivert 33, E Davids 61)

Scotland - 0

NETHERLANDS LINE-UP (4-1-4-1): S Westerveld; M Reiziger, J Dirkx, F De Boer © (R Vrede 54), W Bogarde; J Wolters; A van der Meyde, C Seedorf, E Davids, M Overmars (A Bruggink 90); P Kluivert. BOOKED: De Boer 40, Seedorf 89.

SCOTLAND LINE-UP (4-4-2): N Sullivan; R Stockdale, C Hendry ©, D Weir, G Naysmith; D Hopkin, S Gemmill (C Cameron 53), P Telfer, S Glass; S McConalogue, M Burchill (G McSwegan 69). BOOKED: Naysmith 11, Hendry 20, Stockdale 57, Weir 86.

MAN OF THE MATCH: Edgar Davids (Netherlands).

 

Tunisia vs Colombia - at National Stadium, Tokyo

Tunisia were first to go for goal in the fourth minute, when Mehdi Ben Slimane's header was parried by opposing keeper Oscar Córdoba. Less than a minute later, though, the Eagles of Carthage were made to follow the Leyder. Colombia striker Juan Pablo Angel latched onto an excellent long kick from Córdoba and squared it to Leyder Preciado, who drove in an impressive shot off the underside of the bar.

 

Tunisia's wingers didn't react well to falling behind. Right-sided Karim Sdirir wasn't on his best behaviour when he was booked for tripping Colombian midfielder Alexander Viveros in the 10th minute, but he was like a choir boy compared to Mehdee Benamar. The Cypriot-based left-winger took leave of his senses when he headbutted Tresor Moreno, prompting the referee to draw his red card after just 18 minutes!

 

Benamar's dismissal gave Los Cafeteros licence to control the match. Captain Freddy Euzébio Rincón was unfortunate to hit the bar in the 25th minute, though he did provide the assist for Colombia's second goal in the 36th. Angel outjumped Tunisia defender David Jemmali to head in a delightful Rincón cross... but he wasn't finished there.

 

Barely a minute after improving Colombia's lead to 2-0, Angel made it 3-0. Moreno provided the cross on this occasion for the Aston Villa striker, who outwitted Eagles captain Sami Trabelsi and put in another headed goal. That was Angel's 10th Cafeteros goal, putting him one ahead of his real-life international record. Go figure.

 

19-year-old starlet Johnnier Montaño came on in Viveros' place for the second half, and his first World Cup outing would be one to remember. After 57 minutes, Montaño found space to reach another superb cross from Moreno and put Colombia 4-0 ahead!

 

It looked like being the perfect night for the South Americans, but their long-term hopes of global glory suffered a devastating blow just six minutes from full-time. Moreno gashed his leg late on, meaning that Colombia's two-assist hero would miss the rest of the Group Stage and would also be a serious doubt for any future knockout matches.

 

As for Tunisia, goodness knows how the Eagles will recover after being on the wrong end of this World Cup's latest 4-0 thrashing. A lack of experience of playing major teams before the finals has come back to bite them, and it's hard to see them getting out of the group now.

 

Tunisia - 0

Colombia - 4 (L Preciado 5, JP Angel 36,37, J Montaño 57)

TUNISIA LINE-UP (4-4-1-1): A Boumnijel; D Jemmali, S Trabelsi ©, T Hichri (F Chouhcane 53), J Clayton; K Sdirir (S Chihi 53), S Fekhi, Z Baya, M Benamar; F Rouissi (A Chedli 84); M Ben Slimane. BOOKED: Sdirir 10, Z Baya 40. SENT OFF: Benamar 18.

COLOMBIA LINE-UP (4-4-2): O Córdoba; RE Martínez, J Bermúdez, FA Vargas, B Sinisterra; T Moreno (M Candelo 84), FE Rincón ©, A Viveros (J Montaño HT), A Chitiva (H Ricard 90); L Preciado, JP Angel.

MAN OF THE MATCH: Juan Pablo Angel (Colombia).

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16 JUNE 2002

Four days ago in actual 2002, Sweden played against Argentina on Japanese soil in Group F. That was the teams' final match of the Group Stage, and a 1-1 draw in Miyagi was enough to put the Swedes through to Round 2 at their opponents' expense. Notably, Albiceleste substitute Claudio Caniggia was sent off from the bench at half-time for swearing at the referee, and a certain Zlatan Ibrahimovic made his World Cup debut in the closing stages.

 

Things are a tad different this time. Caniggia is currently on holiday, still bemoaning Dundee's relegation from the Scottish Premier League. The only swearing he'll do will be at the TV, which will broadcast Sweden vs Argentina live from Hiroshima. That match will also represent the teams' first outings in this competition.

 

As for Ibrahimovic, Sweden's most high-profile wonderkid is struggling to score on a regular basis for current club ÖIS and has yet to win an international cap. In Zlatan's absence, the Blågult will be putting faith in an even more exciting starlet in Dortmund's Kennedy Bakircioglü. The part-Turkish forward was a must-have Championship Manager signing before anyone had even heard of Tonton Zola Moukoko.

 

In Osaka, Japan will try to kick off Group H with a winning start against Denmark. Expectations are moderately high across the country, with Hidetoshi Nakata tipped to be amongst the tournament's breakout stars. Bolton manager Sam Allardyce has spent his off-season badgering Real Madrid to give him a job, but it Nakata does impress, he might take a detour to the Far East and have a closer look at the Roma winger.

 

Big Sam might also have his beady Dudley eye on events in Kobe, where Jay Jay Okocha will captain Nigeria in a World Cup finals match for the first time. Neutrals will be interested to see what eccentric hairstyle their centre-half Taribo West has in store for us this time, after sporting green dreadlocks at France '98. Whatever it is, expect David Beckham to copy it within a few weeks.

 

The Super Eagles are up against Finland, who complete a Nordic triple-header and simultaneously fulfil their dream of participating at a World Cup. If the Finns play like they do in real football, they'll fly straight back home with three defeats. If they play like they do in Championship Manager football, they could go very far indeed.

 

Group Stage

Group F Result

Sweden vs Argentina - at Hiroshima Big Arch, Hiroshima

Argentina suffered a huge setback just before this match, when captain Diego Pablo Simeone sustained a calf strain that threatened his involvement in the tournament. The armband was passed on to Gabriel Batistuta, whose strike partner set up the opening goal a mere three minutes after kick-off. Hernan Jorge Crespo floated a cross from the right to Inter midfielder Javier Zanetti, who headed in just his fifth goal in 67 caps.

 

Sweden remained under the cosh throughout the opening stages. Goalkeeper Magnus Hedman kept out a couple of headers from Crespo and Batistuta, but he would be no match for Argentina's next shot in the 14th minute. Albiceleste talisman Juan Sebastián Verón laid on a superb pass for midfield colleague Walter Gaitán, who deftly controlled the ball before drilling it low past Hedman.

 

Argentina were unfortunate not to go further in front before the break. Claudio López's 18th-minute header hit the bar, while the post denied Crespo from 20 yards out after half an hour. Hedman then stopped further attempts by Verón and Crespo to keep the scoreline down.

 

After a mundane start to the second half, Sweden began to settle down and attack their more storied opponents. Fredrik Ljungberg's attempt on goal in the 63rd minute was awkwardly parried by Pablo Óscar Cavallero, but the Albiceleste held firm.

 

At the other end, Crespo continued to create several scoring opportunities, both for himself and for his team-mates. The Lazio striker almost got the goal his outstanding performance deserved in the 78th minute, but Hedman somehow managed to turn his half-volley away.

 

Four minutes later, Sweden had what proved to be their last chance to save face. Niclas Alexandersson's low cross found Jesper Blomqvist, but the Tottenham winger's shot flew straight into Cavallero's grasp. The Blågult would come away from their World Cup opener with nothing, while Argentina were off the mark immediately.

 

Sweden - 0

Argentina - 2 (J Zanetti 3, W Gaitán 14)

SWEDEN LINE-UP (4-4-2): M Hedman; C Andersson (O Mellberg 61), P Andersson ©, J Björklund, G Sündgren; F Ljungberg (N Alexandersson 74), D Andersson, S Schwarz, J Blomqvist; J Pettersson (C Wilhelmsson 61), K Bakircioglü.

ARGENTINA LINE-UP (4-1-3-2): PÓ Cavallero; H Ibarra, RF Ayala, W Samuel, JP Sorín; J Zanetti; JS Verón, C López (M Posse 66), W Gaitán; HJ Crespo, G Batistuta ©.

MAN OF THE MATCH: Hernan Jorge Crespo (Argentina).

 

Group H Results

Denmark vs Japan - at Nagai, Osaka

If the home fans thought Japan would start with a flourish, they would be sorely mistaken. In fact, it was Denmark who clicked into gear after only seven minutes. After striker Henrik Pedersen was tackled off the ball by Japanese defender Naoki Matsuda, Danish nutter Stig Tøfting retook possession and drove in an unstoppable low shot.

 

Japan would be firmly on the back foot throughout this match. F Marinos goalkeeper Yoshikatsu Kawaguchi - who never joined Portsmouth in this universe - stopped attempts from Miklos Molnar and Jesper Grønkjær, but his brave efforts would prove to be for nought.

 

When Molnar was felled in the Japanese area by Daisuke Oku in the 22nd minute, the referee immediately pointed to the spot. It was now up to Kawaguchi to deny Leicester defender Stefan Bidstrup his first international goal from 12 yards out. He couldn't, and Denmark were now 2-0 ahead.

 

There was more woe for Japan when captain Hidetoshi Nakata was booked in the 34th minute for tripping Grønkjær. Two minutes later, that same Danish winger was upended by right-back Makoto Tanaka. Molnar took the resulting free-kick, hammering it straight into the goal for a 3-0 lead!

 

The Samurai Blue had been cut open in the first period, but they were determined to fight back in the second. Tatsuhiko Kubo began their push to add some respectability to the scoreline in the 53rd minute, when his attempt was beaten away by Denmark goalkeeper Thomas Sørensen. Sunderland's number 1 would deny Kubo again three minutes later.

 

Japan did get what they wanted in the 60th minute. Kubo's strike partner Yukihiko Sato found an excellent run from young midfield star Yasuhito Endo, whose volley ended Sørensen's hopes of a clean sheet. That would only be a consolation goal for Japan, but most of the boisterous crowd in Osaka greeted it like they would a match-winner.

 

A hitherto comfortable victory for Denmark ended with more pain on 74 minutes. Having scored 30 goals in all competitions for Silkeborg IF this season, this was expected to be Pedersen's breakthrough tournament at international level. Sadly, an untimely tear to Pedersen's groin muscle brought his World Cup to a premature end.

 

Denmark - 3 (S Tøfting 7, S Bidstrup pen22, M Molnar 36)

Japan - 1 (Y Endo 60)

DENMARK LINE-UP (4-4-2): T Sørensen; T Helveg ©, R Henriksen, S Bidstrup (P Sand 66), U Laursen; D Rommedahl, T Gravesen (M Wieghorst 60), S Tøfting, J Grønkjær; M Molnar, H Pedersen (M Bisgaard 74).

JAPAN LINE-UP (4-4-2): Y Kawaguchi; M Tanaka (Y Akita 53), N Matsuda, Y Nakazawa, K Nakata; H Nakata ©; D Oku (S Mochizuki 74), Y Endo, T Hirano; Y Sato, T Kubo. BOOKED: H Nakata 34.

MAN OF THE MATCH: Miklos Molnar (Denmark).

 

Finland vs Nigeria - at Kobe Universiade Memorial, Kobe

Aged 19, Finland striker Daniel Sjölund is the youngest player at this World Cup. That said, he showed maturity far beyond his years to score his country's first goal at a major tournament. It came four minutes into the Finns' meeting with Nigeria, as Sjölund smashed in a rebound shot after Teemu Tainio's free-kick had come back off the Super Eagles' wall.

 

Finland's right-back Hannu Tihinen made history of a less positive kind in the 14th minute. A holding foul on Nigeria striker Nwankwo Kanu saw Tihinen end up with the Huuhkajat's first yellow card. That was also the last they would receive in a match that was played in a very positive spirit by both teams.

 

Onyeabour Precious Monye was not in high spirits in the 32nd minute. A bruised thigh accounted for the Nigeria midfielder, who was unlikely to play again in the Group Stage as a result. More disappointment for the Africans came eight minutes later, when Kanu messed up a volley from Sunday Oliseh's cross. In fairness, Finnish defender Petri Pasanen had done a great job of putting Kanu off.

 

Kanu would spurn another opportunity in the 56th minute. Nigeria's first attack of the second period saw substitute Epitié pump the ball into the Finnish box, where Arsenal's inconsistent frontman fired it against the crossbar.

 

The Super Eagles did equalise a quarter of an hour later, and their hero on this Sunday evening was appropriately named. Oliseh climbed above Finnish left-back Janne Saarinen to nod Jero Shakpoke's cross beyond the reach of goalkeeper Jussi Jääskeläinen.

 

After 78 minutes, though, Nigeria's dreams of taking any points were dashed by a stupid shove on Saarinen from Finidi. The Mallorca wing-back was booked, and he then watched on as Finland captain Sami Hyypiä showed ice-cool composure to nestle the resulting penalty into the net. The Nordic newcomers had started their World Cup odyssey with a memorable 2-1 win!

 

Finland - 2 (D Sjölund 4, S Hyypiä pen78)

Nigeria - 1 (S Oliseh 71)

FINLAND LINE-UP (4-3-2-1 Narrow): J Jääskeläinen; H Tihinen (J Kolkka 53), S Hyypiä ©, P Pasanen, J Saarinen; T Grönlund, J Salli, T Tainio (V Nylund 53); J Litmanen, S Valakari (J Wiss 53); D Sjölund. BOOKED: Tihinen 14.

NIGERIA LINE-UP (5-3-2 Sweeper): I Shorunmu; Uche; G Okpara, T West; Finidi, J Shakpoke; OP Monye (Epitié 32), S Oliseh, JJ Okocha ©; V Ikpeba, N Kanu (V Agali 71). BOOKED: Finidi 78.

MAN OF THE MATCH: Sami Hyypiä (Finland).

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Just read through all this, loved Barbados run and was devastated by Venezuela's collapse.  Great read.  Also Frank Sinclair last minute winner, absolute scenes for the Reggae Boyz.  

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12 hours ago, argento said:

Just read through all this, loved Barbados run and was devastated by Venezuela's collapse.  Great read.  Also Frank Sinclair last minute winner, absolute scenes for the Reggae Boyz.  

Thank you for reading. It was nice to see a few nations go much further than expected, though Barbados were sadly out of their depth in CONCACAF's Final Round.

Frank Sinclair's late winner against Ukraine has got to be one of the highlights of the finals so far. I'm surprised he knew he was aiming at the right goal for once. :D

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17 JUNE 2002

I don't envy Seoul's police and security services today. All hands will be on deck when the South Korean capital apparently hosts not one but TWO matches in Group G.

 

Firstly, the Chamsil Olympic Stadium will stage the group opener between the United States of America and Uruguay. The South Americans will be favourites to get off to a winning start, but the North Americans will perhaps be happy with a draw. You know all too well about just how poor the USA were four years ago in France.

 

When that's done, focus will turn to the Chonan Stadium, where four-time champions Brazil begin their latest World Cup odyssey against Romania. I'm expecting Brazilian coach Emerson Leão to go on the offensive right from the start. Ronaldo will lead the way as captain, even though his legs are now held together by Sellotape and sticky-back plastic.

 

The Romanians go into this match without one of their star strikers, as Adrian Ilie is recovering from a twisted knee that he sustained in training last week. Adrian Mihalcea and Constantin Barbu will head their attack instead, though I suspect that goalkeeper Bogdan Stelea will be busier than those two.

 

Oh, and by the way... if you were wondering where you could find the Chonan Stadium in Seoul, then you'd best look elsewhere. It turns out that the stadium is actually in a completely different city called (surprise, surprise) Chonan, which is located 50 miles south of Seoul. SORT IT OUT, SI!

 

Thankfully, one can easily locate the venue for today's other match. Belgium and South Africa are in the Yokohama International stadium to open their Group F campaigns. I fancy South Africa to cause a minor surprise here, as the Belgians have been very unconvincing over recent years.

 

Group Stage

Group F Result

Belgium vs South Africa - at Yokohama International, Yokohama

South Africa mustered the first attempt on goal after five minutes, but Phil Masinga's header was pushed away by Belgium keeper Jean-François Gillet. Masinga at least came closer to scoring than Branko Strupar did when the Belgian striker put a shot inches wide on 18 minutes.

 

Masinga had another headed chance in the 30th minute, though his connection to Bennedict McCarthy's cross couldn't keep the ball on target. Three minutes after that, Bafana Bafana goalie Hans Vonk kept out Belgium's first shot on target - a header from captain Gert Verheyen.

 

With the deadlock still intact, South Africa changed things up for the second half. Manager Jomo Sono made all three substitutions at the same time, with Kaizer Chiefs striker Siyabonga Nomvete amongst those who came on. He looked set to open the scoring in the 59th minute after dribbling into space, but Gillet heroically turned his shot away.

 

Nomvete would only need to wait another three minutes to find the net. South Africa right-back Gabriel Mofokeng skipped past a sliding challenge from Belgian midfielder Johan Walem and crossed to Nomvete, whose volley sent the African fans into ecstasy.

 

The Red Devils' first equalising attempts were unsuccessful, with Peter van Houdt and Emile Mpenza each missing the target. They had slightly better luck on 85 minutes, when Verheyen's header was pushed behind by Vonk for a corner. Frédéric Peiremans sent a hanging ball over to fellow substitute van Houdt, who levelled the match with a cool finish.

 

Alas, for the Red Devils, van Houdt's leveller would not be enough. Within two minutes, South Africa had got themselves back ahead. Nomvete's direct ball into the box was slammed home by McCarthy, and the Celta man celebrated giving Bafana Bafana their first ever victory in a World Cup match!

 

Belgium - 1 (P van Houdt 85)

South Africa - 2 (S Nomvete 62, B McCarthy 87)

BELGIUM LINE-UP (4-4-2): JF Gillet; R Genaux, B Crasson, W Delbroek, N Van Kerckhoven (P Léonard 71); G Verheyen ©, K Van De Paar, J Walem (F Peiremans 77), B Goor; E Mpenza, B Strupar (P van Houdt 51). BOOKED: Crasson 38, Léonard 75.

SOUTH AFRICA LINE-UP (4-4-2): H Vonk; G Mofokeng, L Radebe ©, P Issa, B Carnell; S Lekoeleka, Q Fortune, V N'Gobe (S Nomvete 51), S Armstrong (J Pule 51); B McCarthy, P Masinga (S Pienaar 51).

MAN OF THE MATCH: Lucas Radebe (South Africa).

 

Group G Results

United States of America vs Uruguay - at Chamsil Olympic Stadium, Seoul

The USA were almost immediately put on the defensive by their ambitious Uruguayan opponents. Veteran midfielder Gustavo Poyet missed the target with a 4th-minute header, though a similar attempt from right-back Washington Tais seven minutes later did draw a save out of Kasey Keller.

 

American centre-half CJ Brown was booked on 25 minutes for bringing down Poyet with an outstretched leg. The subsequent free-kick from Uruguay forward Álvaro Recoba rebounded off John O'Brien and fell to La Celeste's young winger Jorge Anchén. After playing a quick one-two with Recoba, Anchén drove in a shot that Keller smothered before it could beat him.

 

Uruguay's lone striker Diego Alonso would also be thwarted by Keller, who pushed behind his header just before half-time. 11 minutes into the second period, though, Alonso's luck turned. The Valencia hotshot outjumped American captain Marcelo Balboa to nod Federico Bergara's across the goal line, thus ending Team USA's resistance.

 

Despite that brief lapse, Balboa was actually having an excellent game at the back for the United States. It was thanks largely to the 34-year-old centre-back's experience that Uruguay couldn't find much more room to exploit. Leo Cullen also looked rock solid in defence after replacing Brown in the 59th minute.

 

Keller also continued to excel in goal, and he even helped set up the Stars & Stripes' equaliser in the 81st minute. His long punt from the penalty area went deep into La Celeste's half, and fellow stalwart Roy Lassiter deftly controlled it before smashing in a sensational shot from distance. Uruguay goalkeeper Fabián Carini wasn't exactly well-placed to make a save, but the Americans didn't mind.

 

Two minutes after that, Uruguay went back on the offensive. Poyet tried his luck from long range as well, but Keller was equal to his shot. A later attack ended with Recoba being crowded out by defenders as the USA ground out a 1-1 draw. They had already bettered their performance at France '98!

 

United States of America - 1 (R Lassiter 81)

Uruguay - 1 (D Alonso 56)

USA LINE-UP (4-4-2): K Keller; E Pope, M Balboa ©, CJ Brown (A Sanneh 59), J Agoos; F Hejduk (L Cullen 59), R Paule, J O'Brien, C Henderson; JM Moore, R Lassiter. BOOKED: Brown 25.

URUGUAY LINE-UP (4-2-3-1 Wide): F Carini; W Tais, D López, P Montero ©, F Bergara; A Fleurquin, G Poyet; J Anchén, Á Recoba, F O'Neill (AN Olivera 52); D Alonso.

MAN OF THE MATCH: Marcelo Balboa (United States of America).

 

Brazil vs Romania - at Chonan Stadium, Seoul

Brazil were the last of the big-hitters to get underway, though it took them a while to find their A-game in 'Seoul'. Poor headers in the 10th and 25th minutes from Amoroso showed none of the accuracy that had got him 19 Serie A goals for Parma this season.

 

It was Romania who looked more likely to open the scoring in the first period. Florentin Petre's 15th-minute shot from the right wing was caught by Seleção shotstopper Dida, who made rather harder work of Alin Stoica's banana shot in the 28th.

 

Brazil had their best chance yet on 34 minutes, with Rivaldo unfortunately clipping the crossbar from range. Ten minutes later, the Barcelona marvel turned provider for young midfielder Ronaldinho, who dribbled upfield and then sent a fierce shot right into the top corner. The 22-year-old from Grêmio was already well-known in South America, but this was arguably the moment when he introduced himself to the wider footballing world!

 

Confident that one goal would be enough for victory, Brazil dropped the pace a little in the second half. That was a real gamble, as Romania were in turn upping the ante. Substitute Ioan Viorel Ganea sent a shot inches wide of goal on 66 minutes, while Petre also went close three minutes later.

 

Eventually, in the 71st minute, the Tricolorii's greater endeavour paid off. Centre-half Iulian Filipescu ran onto a flick-on from Catalin Munteanu and hoisted it into the box. That was when Anderlecht winger Stoica leapt up to knock a header past Dida and break his international duck!

 

The Seleção tried to get themselves up and running again for the closing stages, but it was too late to save the two points they'd thrown away. A tame header from Rivaldo on 86 minutes was as close as they'd come to snatching victory. It remained to be seen whether Émerson Leão and his team would regret not putting further pressure on Romania when they'd had them by the throat.

 

Brazil - 1 (Ronaldinho 44)

Romania - 1 (A Stoica 71)

BRAZIL LINE-UP (5-3-2 Sweeper): Dida; R Pinheiro; Marinho, Zago; Cafú, Roberto Carlos; Ronaldinho, Emerson (Beto 53), Rivaldo; Ronaldo ©, Amoroso.

ROMANIA LINE-UP (4-4-2): B Stelea ©; C Contra (D Petrescu 70), I Filipescu, L Ciobotariu, S Nanu; F Petre, E Lincar, LC Marinescu (C Munteanu 70), A Stoica; C Barbu, A Mihalcea (IV Ganea 65).

MAN OF THE MATCH: Zago (Brazil).

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19 hours ago, argento said:

Have the Romanians all bleached their hair again?  Couple more surprises here

Not this time. Maybe they'll do it again later in the Group Stage, though I'd imagine goalkeeping captain Bogdan Stelea would struggle to bleach his hair. :lol:

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18 JUNE 2002

All 32 finalists have now kicked off their World Cup campaigns, and tonight sees the start of the second phase of the Group Stage. Having won their opening matches in Group A, France and Mexico each have opportunities to secure their passages to Round 2.

 

Defending champions France open the day's proceedings against China PR in Pohang. Les Bleus are expected to keep faith in the same starting XI that narrowly overcame Russia, which means Nicolas Anelka will remain up front alongside Thierry Henry. That's even despite Anelka kicking up another fuss because the team's common room has a PlayStation 2 but not an Xbox.

 

China have more significant problems to deal with, as first-choice left-back Jihai Sun will miss out after twisting his knee late on against Mexico. Sun is likely to be replaced by Liang Wang, who - at 23 - is the youngest player in this Chinese squad. Whether Wang can handle the similarly youthful but much more talented French right-winger Stéphane Dalmat remains to be seen.

 

Once that match is finish, we'll switch our focus to Pusan, where Russia and Mexico will do battle. Russia had two injury concerns before this match. While forward Sergey Semak will definitely sit it out after straining his thigh against France, goalkeeper Ruslan Nigmatullin has been cleared to play following a heel injury that he'd sustained in training.

 

Mexico have a full complement of players to choose from. Lyon's skilful striker Cuauhtemoc Blanco, who has 50 caps to his name, will be desperate to unleash his 'Cuauhtemiña' bunny-hop on Russia after being left on the bench for El Tri's opening fixture.

 

If France and Mexico both win, they will be assured of knockout places ahead of their meeting in Seoul/Chamsil next week. Were they both to lose, it would not only really open the group up, but it would also make me seriously question the realism of this computer simulation.

 

Group Stage

Group A Results

China PR vs France - at Pohang Stadium, Pohang

France got up and running in the seventh minute, with two Arsenal players of past and present combining for their first goal. Gunners winger Robert Pires' cross from the left wing was volleyed into the Chinese net by Paris-SG sulker... erm, I mean striker Nicolas Anelka.

 

The French Arsenal connection looked strong again when Thierry Henry went for goal in later minutes. Sadly, his 9th-minute header and 13th-minute overhead kick lacked the va-va-voom required to put Les Bleus 2-0 up.

 

China's beleaguered defence would be overwhelmed by their far superior French opponents again in the 31st minute. France captain Lilian Thuram knocked the ball into the area for Anelka, who then did something he'd never previously done in his fledgling career - set up a goal for a team-mate. The recipient of his square ball was another ex-Gunner in Emmanuel Petit, who doubled his country's lead.

 

A less positive side of France's game emerged in the 35th minute, when centre-half Marcel Desailly shoved China utility man Zhiyi Fan. The Dragons finally got a chance to attack two minutes later, when Jianjun Sun fired a free-kick against the post. As far as I'm aware, Sun has never played for Arsenal.

 

Another Chinese chance went begging on 51 minutes, as captain Haidong Hao powered wide a header from Fan's delivery into the six-yard box. That was about it for the East Asians, who quickly resigned themselves to a second group defeat.

 

France collected a second yellow card after 67 minutes, with Petit being cautioned for pushing Ming Li. The match then ended with a third French goal - scored by winger Ludovic Giuly four minutes from time. The Monaco star was making just his second appearance for Les Bleus, but he showed incredible confidence to ride past a couple of Chinese defenders before stabbing in the final goal.

 

China PR - 0

France - 3 (N Anelka 7, E Petit 31, L Giuly 86)

CHINA PR LINE-UP (4-4-2): C Ou; G Chen, M Li, E Zhang, L Wang; Q Zhu (X Zhang 64), J Li (H Qi 64), Jianjun Sun, M Ma; H Hao ©, Z Fan.

FRANCE LINE-UP (4-4-2): F Barthez; L Thuram ©, M Desailly, F Danjou, V Candela; S Dalmat (L Giuly 52), Z Zidane (A Boghossian 64), E Petit, R Pires; N Anelka, T Henry. BOOKED: Desailly 35, Petit 67.

MAN OF THE MATCH: Nicolas Anelka (France).

 

Russia vs Mexico - at Pusan Stadium, Pusan

Russia and Mexico each showed plenty of aggression in the opening stages. Russian captain Viktor Onopko was first in the book after two minutes, but Mexican centre-back Rafael Marquez 'outdid' him just a minute later.

 

Alexander Mostovoi was clean through in El Tri's penalty area when Marquez - the only player at this tournament who is also featuring in the real-life 2018 World Cup - hacked him down with two feet. The Monaco stopper was the last man, and he quite simply had to be sent off!

 

Marquez's dismissal forced Mexico into an early substitution, replacing striker Luis Hernandez with an extra midfielder in Nicolas Ramirez. Meanwhile, Mostovoi handed the ball over to his Russia team-mate Vladimir Bestchastnykh, who confidently fired his penalty beyond Jorge Campos.

 

Having gone a man down and a goal down within the first four minutes, Mexico just couldn't get into the match at all. Had it not been for a series of excellent Campos saves, they might well have gone into the break further behind than 1-0. The West Brom keeper's most vital save had come in the 36th minute.

 

Mexico clearly hadn't learnt how to deal with Russia's tricky winger Mostovoi, as midfielder Germán Villa clattered into him in the area and gave away a second penalty. Villa was booked, and Bestchastnykh approached the 12-yard spot again... but this time, Campos got a hand to a tame penalty from the Leicester forward.

 

Another blot on the Russians' copybook came when left-back Igor Yanovski was booked three minutes before half-time. The same player created a scoring opportunity for Valery Kechinov three minutes after the interval, but the Spartak Moscow wideman was crowded out by defenders and fired wide.

 

Russia were in cruise control throughout this match, and they would seal a 2-0 win after 77 minutes. Maxim Demenko's speculative shot from distance beat Campos and brought the defensive midfielder his first international goal. Oleg Romantsev's side are now slight favourites to finish in the top two ahead of Mexico, whose final group match is against France.

 

Russia - 2 (V Bestchastnykh pen4, M Demenko 77)

Mexico - 0

RUSSIA LINE-UP (4-4-2): R Nigmatullin; D Khlestov, V Onopko ©, Y Nikiforov, I Yanovski; V Kechinov (A Shirko 64), M Demenko, V Radimov, A Mostovoi; A Panov (A Smertin 64), V Bestchastnykh. BOOKED: Onopko 2, Yanovski 42.

MEXICO LINE-UP (5-3-2): J Campos; J Arellano, R Marquez, C Suarez ©, MA Zepeda, MA Carreon; G Villa, I Cantero, G Torrado; Paco (C Blanco 64), L Hernandez (N Ramirez 3). BOOKED: Villa 36. SENT OFF: Marquez 3.

MAN OF THE MATCH: Alexander Mostovoi (Russia).

 

GROUP A                            P     W     D     L     F     A     GD    PTS
1.          France                 2     2     0     0     5     1     4     6
2.          Russia                 2     1     0     1     3     2     1     3
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
3.          Mexico                 2     1     0     1     1     2     -1    3
4.          China PR               2     0     0     2     0     4     -4    0

 

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19 JUNE 2002

If you thought Italia '90 was dire, that's nothing compared to some of the football we've had in Group B so far. The first two group matches six days ago both ended goalless, but you've got to feel that things will be different this time around.

 

There will surely be goals in Hiroshima, where Morocco are up against the Czech Republic. For one thing, the Atlas Lions are blessed with two formidable strikers in Salaheddine Bassir and Rachid Rokki. They've also got two midfield masters in Youssef Chippo and Mustapha Hadji, who - thankfully for Moroccan fans - haven't yet realised that they are still playing for (and living in) Coventry.

 

The Czechs have their own attacking talents too. Wingers Pavel Nedved and Karel Poborsky seem to have been around forever, but there's also an exciting young prospect in midfield. 21-year-old Tomas Rosicky comes into the team as a replacement for David Jarolim, who is serving a suspension after his three minutes of madness last week.

 

Rosicky has the flair and technique to become a top-class playmaker, provided he stays clear of injuries and Arsenal - two things that seem to go hand-in-hand. He is also apparently 'homesick' at Dortmund, so goodness knows how he's coping with life on the other side of the world right now.

 

Across the water, we will see Germany play Paraguay in Ulsan. This is a real battle of the goalkeeping captains - Jens Mustermann vs Opposite Voldemort ('He Who Has Been Name-Checked So Many Times In This Story That His Name Has Lost All Meaning').

 

The Germans don't just have Oliver Kahn, though. He's just one of several exceptional Bayern München players that Rudi Völler has at his disposal, along with Thomas Linke, Alexander Zickler and Carsten Jancker (okay, maybe not exceptional). Völler can't call upon Jens Jeremies tonight, as the defensive midfielder has not fully recovered from the shin injury he sustained against the Czech Republic.

 

Paraguay have also been forced to make a change to their line-up from their opening fixture. Pedro Sarabia twisted his ankle against Morocco, leaving a vacancy at centre-half. Lovers of double entendres will be delighted to read that Francisco Javier 'Chiqui' Arce is favourite to replace him.

 

Group Stage

Group B Results

Morocco vs Czech Republic - at Hiroshima Big Arch, Hiroshima

An edgy match in a nervy group didn't get going until the 28th minute, when Morocco winger Yassine Abdellaoui's powerful header was tipped wide by Czech Republic keeper Pavel Srnicek. As Salaheddine Bassir whipped the corner into the box, his team-mate Talal El-Karkouri was the victim of a cynical barge from Patrik Berger. Penalty to the Atlas Lions!

 

What then followed was rather farcical. Morocco right-back Abdellah Saber took the penalty, which he clinically rolled into Srnicek's net. However, as one of his colleagues had encroached into the area, the referee ordered a retake. Saber had to compose himself again... and he once again got the better of the former Newcastle cult icon in the Czech goal. This time, it did count.

 

The officials would then rule out another goal in the 33rd minute, this time at the other end. Vratislav Lokvenc thought he'd equalised when he flicked in a delightful cross from Karel Poborsky... but the referee's assistant raised his offside flag against the Czech striker.

 

That was a big let-off for Morocco, who had chances to double their lead four minutes into the second half. Racing Santander striker Rachid Rokki had a fierce shot pushed back towards him by Srnicek. Rokki was confident of driving in the rebound... but Srnicek displayed incredible reflexes for a 34-year-old to not only reach the follow-up but catch it as well.

 

Then came yet more controversy in the Atlas Lions' area. Lokvenc found the net again from a delivery by substitute Miroslav Baranek in the 58th minute, but he would again be thwarted by the offside flag. This time, Czech Republic captain Pavel Nedved was adjudged to have strayed offside. Lokvenc's face seemed to resemble that of a man who thought the whole world was conspiring against him.

 

Three minutes later, Czech defender Karel Rada intercepted a long ball from Morocco midfielder Youssef Chippo on the halfway line. He then nodded it upfield to Tomas Repka, who found Vladimir Smicer in the penalty area. When Smicer's header bounced past Khalid Sinouh and into the net, the Czech players turned to the linesman once again. The flag stayed down, and they were level at last!

 

Morocco found themselves under the cosh for the closing half-hour, during which Abdellaoui was booked. It took a couple of Sinouh saves from Baranek and the luckless Lokvenc to keep them level. In the end, though, a 1-1 draw was perhaps the fairest result.

 

Morocco - 1 (A Saber pen29)

Czech Republic - 1 (V Smicer 61)

MOROCCO LINE-UP (4-4-2): K Sinouh; A Saber, T El-Karkouri, R Neqrouz, G Amzine; A Ramzi (S Chiba 82), M Hadji ©, Y Chippo, Y Abdellaoui; S Bassir, R Rokki. BOOKED: Abdellaoui 64.

CZECH REPUBLIC LINE-UP (4-4-1-1): P Srnicek; M Fukal, T Repka, K Rada, M Nikl; K Poborsky, T Rosicky (L Kozel 74), P Berger (M Baranek 50), P Nedved ©; M Heinz (V Smicer 50); V Lokvenc.

MAN OF THE MATCH: Marek Nikl (Czech Republic).

 

Germany vs Paraguay - at Ulsan Munsu Football Stadium, Ulsan

Prior to kick-off, a minute's silence was held in memory of West Germany's 1954 World Cup-winning captain Fritz Walter, who died yesterday aged 81. Heaven knows what the legendary attacking midfielder would have made of what proved to be such a turgid defensive contest.

 

Paraguay looked to press their opponents hard from the outset. Defender Carlos Gamarra got a little too aggressive in the 9th minute, picking up his team's first yellow cards. Eight minutes later, though, a corner from Miguel Ángel Benítez was flicked at goal by striker Roque Santa Cruz. Germany captain Oliver Kahn caught it relatively comfortably.

 

There wouldn't be much more excitement later on. Paraguay's own gloved skipper José Luis Chilavert spent much of the first half reading Rogério Ceni's best-seller "The Art of The Goalscoring Goalkeeper" (not out in bookshops now). He briefly had to put it down in the 36th minute to parry a shot from Germany midfielder Michael Tarnat, and then went carried on where he left off.

 

Three minutes into the second half, Santa Cruz had another chance to put La Albirroja ahead. He skipped past Germany midfielder Sebastian Deisler's challenge en route to goal, where his vicious shot was palmed away by Kahn.

 

The rest of the second period was very mundane. Paraguay midfielder Julio César Enciso was booked in the 56th minute, and team-mate Ruben Maldonado fired over the bar nine minutes later, but that was about it. Carsten Jancker offered so little going forward for the Mannschaft that Chilavert was already onto the second chapter of "The Art of The Goalscoring Goalkeeper: Part 2" when the final whistle blew.

 

Germany and Paraguay thus remained goalless after their first two matches apiece. They won't necessarily mind that, because Group B's draw glut meant that qualification will be well and truly up for grabs in six days' time. Let's hope we actually see all four teams go for the win.

 

Germany - 0

Paraguay - 0

GERMANY LINE-UP (4-4-1-1): O Kahn ©; M Rehmer, T Linke, M Happe (J Nowotny 86), S Schnoor; S Deisler (S Beinlich 53), Y Eigenrauch, M Tarnat, M Ketelaer (O Neuville 53); C Timm; C Jancker.

PARAGUAY LINE-UP (5-3-1-1): JL Chilavert ©; FJ Arce, C Ayala, C Gamarra, D Caballero, D Caniza; R Maldonado, JC Enciso (RM Acuña 71), C Paredes; MÁ Benítez (Fábio 52); R Santa Cruz (GT Guzman 71). BOOKED: Gamarra 9, Enciso 56.

MAN OF THE MATCH: Denis Caniza (Paraguay).

 

GROUP B                            P     W     D     L     F     A     GD    PTS
1.          Czech Republic         2     0     2     0     1     1     0     2
2.          Morocco                2     0     2     0     1     1     0     2
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
3.          Germany                2     0     2     0     0     0     0     2
4.          Paraguay               2     0     2     0     0     0     0     2

 

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20 JUNE 2002

Japan is the focus of today's fixtures in Group C. We start off at Tokyo's National Stadium, where Wales and Jamaica will both be keen to back up their opening-day victories.

 

The Red Dragons go into this match without left-wing virtuoso Ryan Giggs, who strained his thigh in the 4-0 thrashing of South Korea last week. That hasn't stopped him from reportedly seducing one of his colleagues' girlfriends, mind you. Wales will certainly need him to be back scoring on the pitch soon, because 'Mark Pembridge, the Welsh wizard' doesn't have quite the same ring to it.

 

Jamaica might suffer from the obvious deficiency of having Frank Sinclair in their defence, but they've proven themselves to be a force to be reckoned with so far. Sinclair's last-minute winner against Ukraine has given the Reggae Boyz hope that they can better their performances at France '98 and record a second victory. Don't put it past them.

 

Tonight's other match takes place in Osaka, with debutants Ukraine and co-hosts South Korea seeking their first points. Valery Lobanovsky's Ukrainians are without three big-name players: Alexander Holovko (injured), Serguei Kandaurov (suspended) and Andriy Shevchenko (on holiday after someone forgot to call him up).

 

Korean boss Guus Hiddink has had to deal with two major losses recently - his natty moustache from France '98, and star striker Yong-Soo Choi. The latter is out for the tournament with an ankle ligament injury, and it's come too late for Guus to call up future Middlesbrough hall-of-famer Dong-Gook Lee.

 

Before I go on, let me just remind you that there are no matches taking place tomorrow, so we've got a day's rest from all the excitement before the five-game extravaganza on 22 June. Oh boy.

 

Group Stage

Group C Results

Wales vs Jamaica - at National Stadium, Tokyo

Wales were hot favourites to record another victory after trouncing South Korea 4-0 in their opener. Just four minutes into proceedings, though, they were having to rethink things. Winston Griffiths raced through the middle of their defence and swerved in an excellent strike to give Jamaica the lead.

 

As it transpired, the Reggae Boyz' lead didn't last long. Though Mark Pembridge clipped the bar almost immediately after the restart, his team-mate Craig Bellamy would be more clinical in the sixth minute. The young Coventry striker (and apparent golf fanatic) aced a drive from Simon Davies' cross. Please forgive my usage of a tennis term there; Wimbledon starts in a few days.

 

Jamaica captain Warren Barrett prevented Adrian Williams from putting Wales ahead on 15 minutes, clawing away the new Derby centre-half's header. Williams had just spent the past two seasons in the lower half of Division 1 with Preston, but he was performing above expectations in the Welsh defence.

 

The yellow card came out in the 28th minute for Jamaican centre-half Danny Maddix after he pulled back on Bellamy's shirt. The Caribbean side then battled hard to keep themselves level at half-time, without avail. Mark Delaney's excellent square ball to Wales captain Gary Speed was met with a superb strike that sent the Red Dragons 2-1 up.

 

A second Jamaican defender went into the book on 53 minutes. Frank Sinclair was fortunate to avoid being yellow-carded again ten minutes later, after he barged Pembridge in the back. Frankie and his colleagues certainly couldn't relax, though, as Bellamy blasted the resultant free-kick right into Barrett's top-right corner. 3-1 to Wales!

 

Mark Hughes' bright sparks still had another goal up their sleeves, mind. On 73 minutes, full-back Darren Barnard successfully went past a puddle of, ahem, dog discharge before centring the ball from the left. John Hartson then leapt above Reggae Boyz defender Michael Johnson to round off another four-goal display for Wales.

 

The valley boys will almost certainly go through to Round 2 now, but Jamaica still have a great opportunity to follow them into the knockout stages. Despite Theodore Whitmore missing a couple of late chances to save a second goal, confidence in their camp will still be high going into their final group match against South Korea.

 

Wales - 4 (C Bellamy 6,63, G Speed 45, J Hartson 73)

Jamaica - 1 (W Griffiths 4)

WALES LINE-UP (4-4-2): M Crossley; M Delaney, A Williams, M Jones, D Barnard; J Oster (R Savage 58), S Davies, G Speed ©, M Pembridge; J Hartson, C Bellamy.

JAMAICA LINE-UP (4-4-2 Attacking): W Barrett ©; F Sinclair, D Maddix (D Stewart 50), M Johnson, R Brevett; T Whitmore, W Griffiths; J Lawrence (D Burton 56), R Gardner; T Benjamin, W Harris. BOOKED: Maddix 28, Sinclair 53.

MAN OF THE MATCH: Craig Bellamy (Wales).

 

Ukraine vs South Korea - at Nagai, Osaka

The referee had barely blown for kick-off when one of South Korea's players incurred his wrath. Midfielder Dong-Won Seo wasn't exactly regarded as the Korean Vinnie Jones, but his very early foul on counterpart Andrei Husin led to a similarly quick booking.

 

Sergueï Skatchenko scuffed a scoring opportunity for Ukraine in the sixth minute, despite some good creative work from Andrzej Michalczuk. Skatchenko would be rather more clinical on 27 minutes. Sergei Rebrov chipped a delightful ball into the box for his striking colleague, whose volley comfortably beat Dong-Myung Seo in the Korean goal.

 

The Zhovto-Blakytni found the net again on 30 minutes, only for captain Oleg Luzhniy's strike to be ruled out for an offside call against Rebrov. Luzhniy's scowl towards his 28-year-old colleague said a lot, but it was all smiles between the North London rivals just three minutes later. The offside decision was forgotten when Rebrov fired Alexandr Spivak's square ball into the net for a 2-0 Ukrainian lead.

 

South Korea's 'home' fans were resigning themselves to another defeat on Japanese soil. That would almost certainly have been the case had Rebrov secured his brace on 48 minutes, but he missed by a mile. Compared to some of Rebrov's shots for Tottenham this season gone, though, that wasn't too bad!

 

A poor first 60 minutes for the Taegeuk Warriors ended as it had started, with a player going into the book. Jong-Hwan Yoon was the man cautioned this time, but his near-namesake Jung-Hwan Ahn had a great opportunity to score in the 69th minute. Ukraine goalkeeper Valery Vorobjov palmed it away.

 

Vorobjov was a far busier man in the second half than he had been in the first. When he conceded a stunning Jung-Yoon Noh volley from Dong-Won Seo's cross in the 78th minute, South Korea clawed back half of their two-goal deficit.

 

Hyun-Seog Kim even came close to completing a dramatic comeback in the final minute of normal time. Alas, his strike from Noh's cross was palmed wide by Vorobjov before Luzhniy hacked the ball upfield. Ukraine had held firm to secure their first World Cup win, while the Koreans remained pointless. In the absence of any biased officials, they had shown themselves to be not very good at football.

 

Ukraine - 2 (S Skatchenko 27, S Rebrov 33)

South Korea - 1 (JY Noh 78)

UKRAINE LINE-UP (4-4-2): V Vorobjov; O Luzhniy ©, E Mor, A Virt, V Skripnik; A Michalzuk, M Kalinichenko, A Husin (M Tischenko 65), A Spivak (S Kovalets 59); S Skatchenko, S Rebrov.

SOUTH KOREA LINE-UP (5-3-2): DM Seo; KH Lee (JH Kim 48), E Bräck, MB Hong ©, TY Kim, YH Pak (MS Multescu 65); DW Seo, JH Ahn, JH Yoon; SY Lee (HS Kim 48), JY Noh. BOOKED: DW Seo 1, Yoon 60.

MAN OF THE MATCH: Sergei Rebrov (Ukraine).

 

GROUP C                            P     W     D     L     F     A     GD    PTS
1.          Wales                  2     2     0     0     8     1     7     6
2.          Jamaica                2     1     0     1     3     5     -2    3
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
3.          Ukraine                2     1     0     1     3     3     0     3
4.          South Korea            2     0     0     2     1     6     -5    0

 

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22 JUNE 2002

Because the wise heads at FIFA decided that there shouldn't be any matches played on 21 June, there will be FIVE on today's schedule. That means it's time to get ready for non-stop football, with the first match starting at noon local time and the final game ending just before midnight! I love football as much as the next man, but even that's a bit much!

 

Before I lock myself away from the outside world for the next 12 hours, let me tell you about what's in store. Let's start in Group D, where Cameroon and Italy can become the first teams to guarantee their Round 2 places if they both register back-to-back victories.

 

Cameroon looked compact and efficient, not to mention sleeveless, in their opening fixture. The 4-4-2 diamond proprietors are expected to shine again when they face Bosnia & Herzegovina in Yokohama. The Zmajevi were comprehensively beaten by Italy in their maiden World Cup match, and things are unlikely to get easier for them here.

 

As for the Azzurri, they play Iran in Hiroshima without star striker Christian Vieri, who is nursing a thigh strain. Not to worry, though, because Vincenzo Montella - who came off the bench to score twice against the Bosnians - is well-placed to take his spot.

 

Iran's gamble of smuggling a trio of South Americans into their team backfired a few days ago, when one of them - Jose Palacios - was ruled out for the tournament with a twisted knee. He has now had to fly back home to Argen... Tehran. Palacios' compatriot Christian Rivera is expected to start in defence again, while full-back Juan Rozalez remains available from the bench.

 

We'll then head over to Japan for a couple of Group E matches. Frank De Boer has miraculously recovered from stubbing his toe in the Netherlands' opening match, so the Dutch captain will keep his place for their meeting with Colombia in Pohang.

 

Unfortunately, Colombia right-winger Tresor Moreno will not be on show after gashing his leg. He'll be replaced by Gustavo Andrés Victoria - a pacey, two-footed 22-year-old who went on to have a decent real-life career in Turkish football. The only difference there was that he played on the left wing.

 

Scotland and Tunisia each lost their openers to the aforementioned group favourites, so their meeting in Seoul is effectively an eliminator. There's no doubt where my money would be going if I was a gambler.

 

Scotland's entire squad have 13 international goals between them. Three Tunisians - Mehdi Ben Slimane, Faouzi Rouissi and Adel Sellimi - have scored more goals for their country individually. The Eagles of Carthage are not up against so much a Tartan Army as a group of drugged-up Edinburghers who appear to have stumbled off the set of 'Trainspotting'.

 

Finally, Pusan hosts a Group H fixture between Japan and Finland. This is surely a must-win encounter for the co-hosts, but they'll have to get the result sans Makoto Tanaka after the right wing-back gashed his head in training.

 

The Finns, meanwhile, can take a huge step towards Round 2 if they follow up their narrow opening win over Nigeria with another victory. Much will depend on whether the injury-prone Jari Litmanen can stay fit for another 90 minutes, like he did against the Super Eagles.

 

Group Stage

Group D Results

Cameroon vs Bosnia & Herzegovina - at Yokohama International, Yokohama

Bosnia & Hezegovina showed no ill effects from the 4-0 shellacking they'd suffered against Italy. Indeed, they edged ahead of Cameroon after just six minutes. Bosnia's snarling captain Hristo Vidakovic ordered the Africans to back off before supplying Zlatan Muslimovic with a delightful cross that secured an early opener.

 

The Zmajevi looked comfortable after getting their first ever World Cup. They continued to intimidate Cameroon, especially in the 32nd minute, when Vidakovic's fellow centre-half Misrad Hibic was booked for shoving Patrick Mboma.

 

A second goal could've come Bosnia's way on 42 minutes, but Elvir Baljic's header was palmed away by Cameroonian goalie Alioum Boukar. Just three minutes later, the Indomitable Lions awoke from their slumber and roared back. Midfield general Geremi searched out Mboma, whose flick-on was blasted into the top corner by 21-year-old striker Meyong.

 

It was all Cameroon from that point onwards. Though Mboma and Meyong each missed headed chances to put them ahead early in the second half, Geremi looked like a real attacking threat. His fierce shot in the 56th minute was parried by Bosnian keeper Kenan Becirevic, and then cleared into touch by right-back Zlatan Bajramovic.

 

Geremi went for goal again four minutes later. After a delightful dribble towards goal, fellow Cameroon midfielder Pierre Wome weighted a cross to the far post, where Geremi popped up for a clinical header. Cameroon were 2-1 up, and they never looked back.

 

The Lions fought hard to retain their lead, with Boukar making several saves to deny Bosnia & Herzegovina an equaliser. They then hit their opponents on the break in the 89th minute to secure victory. Samuel Eto'o made a lung-busting run towards goal before lifting the ball above the advancing Becirevic for 3-1.

 

Though Cameroon had Atlético Madrid defender Jean Dika booked in the closing stages, that couldn't dampen their spirits. With two wins from two, they were already set to emulate the class of 1990 by reaching the knockout phase.

 

Cameroon - 3 (Meyong 45, Geremi 60, S Eto'o 89)

Bosnia & Herzegovina - 1 (Z Muslimovic 6)

CAMEROON LINE-UP (4-4-2 Diamond): A Boukar; R Song ©, L Mettomo, J Dika, S Olembé; P Wome, Geremi, S Branco (Kome 76); S Eto'o; P Mboma (Z Epale 52), Meyong. BOOKED: Dika 90.

BOSNIA & HERZEGOVINA LINE-UP (4-4-2): K Becirevic; Z Bajramovic, H Vidakovic ©, M Hibic, S Kapetanovic; H Salihamidzic, K Kuc (A Kevric 60), S Barbarez, E Baljic; E Bolic, Z Muslimovic. BOOKED: Hibic 32.

MAN OF THE MATCH: Pierre Wome (Cameroon).

 

Italy vs Iran - at Hiroshima Big Arch, Hiroshima

Wary of Italy's array of attacking talent, Iran wisely sat back in the first half and tried to weather an early storm. Captain Ahmad Reza Abedzadeh withstood the first Italian advance in the third minute, parrying a volley from Vincenzo Montella, who was starting in place of the injured Christian Vieri.

 

Sitting just behind lone striker Montella was the enigmatic Roma attacking midfielder Francesco Totti. He also forced Abedzadeh into a save, in the 28th minute. The Iranian goalkeeper also stopped a long-ranger from Montella five minutes before the end of the first period.

 

Azzurri coach Giovanni Trapattoni was rather annoyed to see his team go into half-time still level at 0-0. He made sure to get his troops fired up for the second half, and they responded by putting in the display many had expected from them beforehand.

 

Eight minutes after the restart, Montella brilliantly weighted a pass to Totti as his colleague made a run into the box. Though Totti's attempted chip over Abedzadeh was beaten away, the rebound was tucked away, and Italy were 1-0 up at last.

 

Iran's solid defence lost a bit of confidence after that breakthrough, and it was only a matter of time before they conceded again. On 66 minutes, Italy midfielder Jonathan Binotto's cross was nodded goalwards by Montella. Abedzadeh pushed the header wide, but Azzurri captain Demetrio Albertini took the ball and centred it back to Montella, who made no mistake with his next attempt.

 

Though Italy missed opportunities to further strengthen their lead, it had to be said that they did open the door for Iran every now and then. When Team Melli striker Seyedali Musawi was tripped by Paolo Vanoli after 69 minutes, the underdogs were awarded a free-kick. Mehdi Mahdavikia's set-piece had to be stopped by Gianluigi Buffon, who secured back-to-back clean sheets.

 

With that win, it was confirmed that Italy and Cameroon were the first teams confirmed to be through to Round 2. Their meeting in Kobe on 26 June will decide who tops Group D, while Iran and Bosnia & Herzegovina will merely battle for pride after being eliminated.

 

Italy - 2 (F Totti 53, V Montella 66)

Iran - 0

ITALY LINE-UP (3-5-1-1): G Buffon; A Nesta (D Adani 88), M Iuliano (G De Rosa 56), F Cannavaro; C Panucci, GI Gattuso, P Vanoli; D Albertini ©, G Zambrotta (J Binotto 62); F Totti; V Montella.

IRAN LINE-UP (5-3-2): AR Abedzadeh ©; AR Emamifar, MR Mahdavi, F Falahatzadeh, C Rivera, M Minavand; K Bagheri, S Dinmohammadi (R Khatibi 54), M Mahdavikia; A Daei (S Musawi 62), V Hashemian.

MAN OF THE MATCH: Vincenzo Montella (Italy).

 

GROUP D                            P     W     D     L     F     A     GD    PTS
1.    Q     Italy                  2     2     0     0     6     0     6     6
2.    Q     Cameroon               2     2     0     0     4     1     3     6
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
3.          Iran                   2     0     0     2     0     3     -3    0
4.          Bosnia & Herzegovina   2     0     0     2     1     7     -6    0

 

Group E Results

Colombia vs Netherlands - at Pohang Stadium, Pohang

Though Patrick Kluivert's 4th-minute header was kept out by Colombia goalie Oscar Córdoba, the Netherlands striker made sure to convert his next chance a minute later. Edgar Davids fed an excellent ball into the six-yard box for Kluivert to tap in an early opener for the Oranje.

 

Kluivert then attempted to score a second goal on 13 minutes, but his bicycle kick from Andy van der Meyde's floated delivery was well off target. Davids also failed to find the net in the 23rd minute.

 

Colombia made their first advance towards goal after 40 minutes. Striker Juan Pablo Angel was upended by Dutch defender Jurgen Dirx after a one-two with Leyder Preciado. That resulted in a free-kick, which Angel put a long way wide.

 

The Netherlands were back on the offensive early in the second half. A right-wing cross from Michael Reiziger almost found its way into the Colombian goal after 57 minutes, but Córdoba just about deflected it clear. Los Cafeteros' keeper was rather more helpless six minutes later, as he could only watch Dutch sub Boudewijn Zenden's speculative strike fly past him and put the Orange two goals clear.

 

Colombia looked down, but they weren't out of it yet. Teenager Johnnier Montaño troubled Netherlands goalkeeper Sander Westerveld with a volley in the 67th minute. Alexander Viveros did even more than that in the 74th, driving the ball home after Westerveld had pushed away a header from Preciado.

 

Louis van Gaal's Dutch destroyers had to stay strong if they weren't to throw points away. It didn't help when captain Frank De Boer was forced off injured 10 minutes before the end. De Boer had stubbed his toe against Scotland, and a recurrence of the injury forced Philip Cocu to come on for the closing stages.

 

These were nervy times for the Netherlands, but it soon became apparent that Colombia had run out of steam. Despite having Davids booked in the 87th minute for a holding foul on Cafeteros captain Freddy Euzébio Rincón, the Oranje had done enough to secure back-to-back victories.

 

Colombia - 1 (A Viveros 74)

Netherlands - 2 (P Kluivert 5, B Zenden 63)

COLOMBIA LINE-UP (4-4-2): O Córdoba; RL Martínez, J Bermúdez, AA Mosquera, B Sinisterra; GA Víctoria (M Candelo 63), FE Rincón ©, A Viveros, A Chitiva (J Montaño 52); L Preciado, JA Angel.

NETHERLANDS LINE-UP (4-1-4-1): S Westerveld; M Reizigier, J Dirkx, F De Boer © (P Cocu 80), W Bogarde; J Wolters; A van der Meyde, C Seedorf, E Davids, M Overmars (B Zenden 55); P Kluivert. BOOKED: Davids 87.

MAN OF THE MATCH: Patrick Kluivert (Netherlands).

 

Scotland vs Tunisia - at Chamsil Olympic Stadium, Seoul

Tunisia had Scotland on the ropes as early as the third minute. Mehdi Ben Slimane's header was parried behind by the Tartan Army's goalkeeper Neil Sullivan, who then fisted away Zoubaier Baya's whipped corner.

 

The Eagles of Carthage attacked again on 13 minutes, with left-winger Adel Chedli attempting to send a cross to the far post. Scots skipper Colin Hendry's clearance only found Baya, who pumped it back into the box. That was where Faouzi Roussi - who played for Ejido in the Spanish second tier - popped up to nod in Tunisia's opening goal!

 

Scotland threatened to equalise on a couple of occasions late in the first period. Dundee United youngster Stephen McConalogue was denied in the 31st minute by Tunisia keeper Ali Boumnijel, who also saved a 42nd-minute header from Hendry. Seven minutes prior to that, Hendry's central defensive partner David Weir had been cautioned for bringing Ben Slimane to ground.

 

There was plenty of attacking action at both ends when play resumed after the interval. The crossbar just about prevented Ben Slimane from doubling Tunisia's lead on 50 minutes. Five minutes later, Mark Burchill and McConalogue each missed opportunities to draw Scotland level.

 

Scottish midfielders Stephen Glass and Christian Dailly would later see shots tipped away by Boumnijel, who looked alert as ever for a 36-year-old veteran. Another golden oldie in the Tunisian defence was centre-half Taoufik Hichri, whose work rate and fearlessness in the tackle made it hard to believe that he was 37. Perhaps Craig Brown should have considered recalling Jim Leighton and Tosh McKinlay for Scotland after all...

 

Though Tunisia couldn't quite build on their 1-0 advantage, the North Africans' doggedness at the back ensured they wouldn't need to. This would be yet another humiliating defeat for the Tartan Army, ranking alongside their losses against Peru in 1978 and Costa Rica in 1990.

 

Scotland - 0

Tunisia - 1 (F Rouissi 13)

SCOTLAND LINE-UP (4-4-2): N Sullivan; R Stockdale, C Hendry ©, D Weir (S Baltacha 84), G Naysmith; D Hopkin, S Gemmill (C Dailly 51), S Glass, N McCann; S McConalogue, M Burchill (T McManus 72). BOOKED: Weir 35, Hopkin 66.

TUNISIA LINE-UP (4-4-1-1): A Boumnijel; D Jemmali, S Trabelsi ©, T Hichri, J Clayton; K Sdirir (S Chihi 60), S Fekhi (H Gabsi 77), Z Baya, A Chedli (B Sahbani 66); F Rouissi; M Ben Slimane.

MAN OF THE MATCH: Taoufik Hichri (Tunisia).

 

GROUP E                            P     W     D     L     F     A     GD    PTS
1.          Netherlands            2     2     0     0     4     1     3     6
2.          Colombia               2     1     0     1     5     2     3     3
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
3.          Tunisia                2     1     0     1     1     4     -3    3
4.          Scotland               2     0     0     2     0     3     -3    0

 

Group H Result

Japan vs Finland - at Pusan Stadium, Pusan

Japan quickly went on the defensive, with Yoshikatsu Kawaguchi having to get his gloves to a shot from Finnish teenager Daniel Sjölund in the fifth minute. As players jostled for position before the resultant corner, Finland's roly-poly talisman Jari Litmanen tumbled to the ground. It quickly emerged that the big man had been bundled over by Naoki Matsuda, which meant a straight red card for the Japanese centre-half!

 

Once the dust had settled, Joonas Kolkka ran up to drift the corner into Japan's area. Up rose the Ajax centre-back Petri Pasanen, who climbed above opposing right-back Yutaka Akita and powered in just his second international goal!

 

The co-hosts crumbled again in the 21st minute, when Kawaguchi charged out of his box and wiped out Litmanen to stop the Liverpool attacking midfielder from having a shot at goal. Kawaguchi narrowly avoided a red card himself, though he couldn't keep out the subsequent penalty, which Hannu Tihinen put beyond his reach.

 

Even at 2-0 up, Finland continued to attack Japan relentlessly. On 29 minutes, Jonatan Johansson flicked the ball out left to Sjölund, who found himself in acres of space and easily tucked away his second goal of the tournament. He would soon add a third to his tally.

 

Just seven minutes later, Kolkka got his brace of assists with an excellent through-ball to Sjölund, whose confident finish belied his 19 years. That completed a dominant first-half display for Finland, who led 4-0 at the break. Not even bookings for Pasanen and captain Sami Hyypiä could dampen spirits in the Finnish dressing room.

 

The Huuhkajat took flight again in the 49th minute, as Sjölund turned provider for his more experienced Liverpool colleague Litmanen. The 31-year-old's first touch was not the cleanest, but he still managed to drive the ball past Kawaguchi and get the goal his all-action performance had deserved.

 

Finland mercifully stopped scoring at 5-0, safe in the knowledge that they were on the brink of Round 2. They had put the Samurai Blue to the sword, effectively dashing Japanese hopes of further progress in the competition. Philippe Troussier's charges had not so much registered a shot on target against their far superior Nordic foes.

 

Japan - 0

Finland - 5 (P Pasanen 5, H Tihinen pen21, D Sjölund 29,36, J Litmanen 49)

JAPAN LINE-UP (4-4-2): Y Kawaguchi; Y Akita, N Matsuda, Y Nakazawa, K Nakata; H Nakata ©, D Oku (S Mochizuki 73), Y Endo, T Hirano; Y Sato, T Kubo (H Suzuki 37). BOOKED: Hirano 69. SENT OFF: Matsuda 5.

FINLAND LINE-UP (4-3-1-2 Narrow): J Jääskeläinen; H Tihinen, S Hyypiä ©, P Pasanen, J Saarinen (L Mattila 86); F Nordback (T Tainio 56), T Grönlund, J Kolkka; J Litmanen; J Johansson, D Sjölund. BOOKED: Hyypiä 7, Pasanen 38.

MAN OF THE MATCH: Daniel Sjölund (Finland).

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23 JUNE 2002

I hear there's more signs of division in the France camp, two days before the World Cup holders' final match in Group A. You see, it's Zinedine Zidane's 30th birthday today, and the French team made sure their follically-challenged midfield virtuoso got a big cake.

 

That annoyed Nicolas Anelka no end, and the striker complained that he didn't get a cake for scoring twice against Russia nine days ago. Head coach Roger Lemerre eventually got Anelka back on side by promising him a trip to the nearest Toys R Us if he finds the net against Mexico.

 

Anyway, onto tonight's action. Group F favourites Argentina have already beaten one European team on Japanese soil, and La Albiceleste can make it a double by seeing off Belgium in Kobe. That would certainly put a smile on the face of captain Diego Pablo Simeone, who is still struggling to return to fitness after straining his calf earlier this month.

 

Belgium will also be without their captain's services tonight. Gert Verheyen recently twisted his knee in training, which means that goalkeeper Jean-François Gillet will have to lead by example in his absence. After all, a second defeat will surely mean it's curtains for the Red Devils.

 

If Argentina win, they and South Africa will both be safely through to Round 2, provided that Bafana Bafana beat the other European team in the group. Sweden need to arrive in Seoul (or, rather, Chonan) on time tonight, as they were about 15 minutes late for the Argentina game last week.

 

Our other match comes from Group H, with Nigeria and Denmark going toe-to-toe in Yokohama. This is a match that the Super Eagles simply cannot afford to lose, else they will be out of the World Cup with a game to spare, along with Japan.

 

A Denmark victory would ensure that they and rivals Finland both go into the knockout phase, meaning that their clash in Pohang on 28 June will simply determine 1st place. The Finns' qualification will also be secured if tonight's match ends in a draw.

 

Group Stage

Group F Results

Argentina vs Belgium - at Kobe Universiade Memorial, Kobe

Belgium were forced into a change after just eight minutes, when star striker Emile Mpenza broke his toe. (Curiously, that injury has only ruled him out for the next 10 days.) Peter van Houdt came on in Mpenza's place... but barely six minutes later, he too would be replaced.

 

Head coach Robert Waseige was forced into taking desperate action when Belgium's goalkeeping captain Jean-François Gillet brought down Walter Gaitán in the penalty area. Gillet was shown a straight red card, which meant Olivier Renard had to come off the bench to take his place in goal. Though he had barely even touched the ball, van Houdt was nominated as the sacrificial lamb.

 

Renard's first act upon entering play was to pick a penalty kick out of his net. Hernan Jorge Crespo's spot-kick was just too clinical for him, and Argentina were already 1-0 up.

 

Argentina's barmy coach Marcelo Bielsa made a curious substitution after just 26 minutes, taking right-back Hugo Ibarra off to bring on another striker in Martín Palermo. That huge gamble would pay off within four minutes, as Palermo headed in La Albiceleste's second goal from a superb cross by Gaitán.

 

Bielsa continued to bamboozle the Belgians in the 36th minute, subbing off his own captain Gabriel Batistuta for left-winger Kily González. His off-the-cuff substitutions certainly had an effect, as the Red Devils couldn't get close to putting themselves back in the game.

 

Lazio midfielder Claudio López had chances in either half to send Argentina 3-0 up, while star performer Gaitán hit the post in the 62nd minute. The South Americans would eventually get their third goal on 66 minutes, as Palermo found an unmarked López in the Belgian box. One simple finish past Renard later, and it was almost all over for Belgium.

 

The Red Devils' misery was later compounded by a second López goal - a header from left-back Juan Pablo Sorín's cross in the 76th minute. Crespo could have matched his Lazio club-mate's double on 87 minutes, but his header hit the woodwork, which meant Argentina 'only' won 4-0.

 

Argentina - 4 (HJ Crespo pen15, M Palermo 30, C López 66,76)

Belgium - 0

ARGENTINA LINE-UP (4-1-3-2): PÓ Cavallero; H Ibarra (M Palermo 26), RF Ayala, W Samuel, JP Sorín; J Zanetti; JS Verón, C López, W Gaitán; HJ Crespo, G Batistuta © (K González 36). BOOKED: González 54, Ayala 71, Samuel 90.

BELGIUM LINE-UP (4-4-2): JF Gillet ©; R Genaux, B Crasson, W Delbroek, N Van Kerckhoven; R Van De Weyer, K Van De Paar, J Walem, B Goor; E Mpenza (P van Houdt 8 (O Renard 14)), B Strupar (C Janssens 53). BOOKED: Van De Weyer 83.

MAN OF THE MATCH: Walter Gaitán (Argentina).

 

South Africa vs Sweden - at Chonan Stadium, Seoul

The fifth minute saw an encouraging contribution from one of Sweden's many Anderssons. Bari midfielder Daniel Andersson took on the South Africa defence and then drilled a centre to the near post. Dortmund youngster Kennedy Bakircioglü should've thumped the ball into the net, but he instead gave a young Korean spectator an unexpected souvenir.

 

Bakircioglü would not get another chance to make amends. He twisted his knee in the 35th minute and was replaced by Heerenveen striker (and future Aston Villa legend) Marcus Allbäck. Another disappointing moment for the Blågult came just before half-time. Andersson - that's Daniel again, not Christoffer or Patrik or Benny - was booked for upending opposing striker Bennedict McCarthy.

 

South Africa had had their only scoring opportunity of the first half midway through it, with McCarthy's vicious attempt being spilled by Swedish keeper Mattias Asper. The Scandinavians' skipper Joachim Björklund then showed nerves of steel to hack the ball away.

 

Bafana Bafana would not seriously threaten to score again. Indeed, they conceded the first and only goal of the match 12 minutes into the second half. Daniel Andersson showed South African left-back Bradley Carnell a clean set of heels before whipping in a cross that super-sub Allbäck nodded home.

 

Two equalising attempts from South African went awry later on. Vincent N'Gobe's 65th-minute volley was blocked by Niclas Alexandersson, while the cautioned winger Steve Lekoelea sent a header clean over the bar four minutes later.

 

Sweden defended bravely in the closing stages as they ground out a potentially huge win in their quest to reach Round 2. There were no surprises when Andersson was named 'man of the match', though that award actually went to right-back Christoffer rather than their busiest player Daniel.

 

South Africa - 0

Sweden - 1 (M Allbäck 57)

SOUTH AFRICA LINE-UP (4-4-2): H Vonk; G Mofokeng, L Radebe ©, P Issa, B Carnell; S Lekoelea (S Pienaar 74), M Arnold (V N'Gobe HT), Q Fortune, S Armstrong; S Nomvete, B McCarthy. BOOKED: Lekoelea 47.

SWEDEN LINE-UP (4-4-2): M Asper; C Andersson, P Andersson, J Björklund ©, G Sündgren; N Alexandersson, D Andersson, S Schwarz (C Karlsson 41), J Blomqvist; J Pettersson (F Ljungberg 47), K Bakircioglü (M Allbäck 35). BOOKED: D Andersson 45.

MAN OF THE MATCH: Christoffer Andersson (Sweden).

 

GROUP F                            P     W     D     L     F     A     GD    PTS
1.          Argentina              2     2     0     0     6     0     6     6
2.          Sweden                 2     1     0     1     1     2     -1    3
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
3.          South Africa           2     1     0     1     2     2     0     3
4.          Belgium                2     0     0     2     1     6     -5    0

 

Group H Result

Nigeria vs Denmark - at Yokohama International, Yokohama

I could write a summary of first-half highlights on the back of a cigarette packet, but I'll try to pad it out a bit more for your entertainment. In the fifth minute, Nigeria defender Taribo West sent a throw-in to Nwankwo Kanu, whose near-post cross was headed way over the bar by Victor Agali.

 

Denmark then attacked in the 38th minute, as Stig Tøfting crawled out of his dump to intercept a header from West. Hamburg's hardest man then played a through-ball to striker Miklos Molnar, who skied it into the stands. That's about all I've got.

 

Fortunately, we saw a bit more action in the second period. Nigeria defender Godwin Okpara was booked for a barge on the Danes' other forward Ebbe Sand in the 51st minute. Two minutes later, a ferocious left-footer from Molnar was turned behind by Super Eagles goalkeeper Ike Shorunmu.

 

The Danish Dynamite continued to throw everything at Nigeria, but Shorunmu would not be bowed. In the 67th minute, Molnar had another shot saved by the Tampa Bay gloveman, who then stopped a 77th-minute effort from winger Dennis Rommedahl.

 

A frustrating goalless draw for Denmark would end with left-back Ulrik Laursen being booked for knocking Sunday Oliseh to the turf. Laursen's defensive colleague Stefan Bidstrup would pick up the 'man of the match' award, with his fearless tackling restricting Nigeria to only two shots at goal all night long. Neither were on target, obviously.

 

Nigeria - 0

Denmark - 0

NIGERIA LINE-UP (5-3-2 Sweeper): I Shorunmu; Uche; G Okpara, T West; Finidi, J Shakpoke; S Oliseh, Epitié (C Kanu 73), JJ Okocha ©; V Agali, N Kanu. BOOKED: Okpara 51.

DENMARK LINE-UP (4-4-2): T Sørensen; T Helveg ©, R Henriksen, S Bidstrup, U Laursen; D Rommedahl, T Gravesen, S Tøfting (R Bagger 59), J Grønkjær (M Wieghorst 59); M Molnar, E Sand. BOOKED: Laursen 90.

MAN OF THE MATCH: Stefan Bidstrup (Denmark).

 

GROUP H                            P     W     D     L     F     A     GD    PTS
1.    Q     Finland                2     2     0     0     7     1     6     6
2.          Denmark                2     1     1     0     3     1     2     4
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
3.          Nigeria                2     0     1     1     1     2     -1    1
4.          Japan                  2     0     0     2     1     8     -7    0

 

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24 JUNE 2002

The second round of group matches reaches its conclusion today, and we should soon be closer to figuring out which two teams will emerge from Group G. Then again, if we have a couple more draws, not even Mystic Meg could help us predict the outcome.

 

I'm going to start with the day's second match, which is essentially the dessert after the main course. The United States of America will welcome star striker Eric Wynalda back to the fold in Osaka, where they take on Romania. Wynalda missed the Yanks' first match with a neck strain, but he will now join national captain Marcelo Balboa in participating in a fourth successive World Cup.

 

Romania will be favourites to win that match, particularly with their own striking ace Adrian Ilie also set to return after recovering from a twisted knee. Tricolorii manager Victor Piturca now has the headache of having four quality forwards to choose from. Mind you, that's at least four more than Scotland have.

 

Before that match, South America will come to a standstill as Ulsan hosts the highly-anticipated clash between Uruguay and Brazil. This is their fourth encounter in the past two years; Uruguay took four points during the World Cup qualifiers, but Brazil beat them 4-2 in the Group Stage of last year's Copa America.

 

Uruguay's Argentine coach Daniel Passarella was in a confident mood before the match. "We will destroy the Brazilians and break Ronaldo's legs so badly that the tubby so-and-so never walks again," Passarella growled whilst forcibly shaving Álvaro Recoba's head.

 

There is rather less self-belief in the Brazil camp, and the national press have already turned on head coach Émerson Leão after an unconvincing 1-1 draw against Romania. The omissions of several quality players from the squad have also been highlighted. At a recent press conference, Leão visibly winced when he was informed that the Juninho he had called up wasn't the same attacking midfielder who used to play for Atlético Madrid and Middlesbrough.

 

Group Stage

Group G Results

Uruguay vs Brazil - at Ulsan Munsu Football Stadium, Ulsan

This was billed as the match of the Group Stage, and it certainly did not disappoint. Brazil edged in front of their South American foes after just 10 minutes, as Rivaldo drove in a vicious shot from Roma defender Zago's lofted ball.

 

Brazil tried to slow play down upon taking the lead, but they didn't count on Uruguay upping their own game. In the 27th minute, holding midfielder Jorge Anchén crossed to Fabián O'Neill, whose delivery into the six-yard box was then nodded into the net by Diego Alonso. La Celeste were back level.

 

Rivaldo and Ronaldo attempted to restore the Brazilian advantage late in the first half, only to be denied by a couple of impressive saves from Uruguay keeper Fabián Carini. A less positive highlight involving the Seleção had come in the 31st minute, when sweeper Rogério Pinheiro was booked for upending Andrés Fleurquin.

 

Uruguay increased the pace again in the second half, winning a 52nd-minute free-kick after Álvaro Recoba was knocked to the floor by Marinho. Recoba dusted himself down and then drove said free-kick past Dida, who was probably day-dreaming of duetting with Eminem and then watching her house get demolished. Wait, that was Dido, wasn't it?

 

Uruguay wouldn't stay 2-1 up for down. Ronaldo was fortunate not to tear what little remained of his groin muscle when he was hacked down in La Celeste's area by Washington Tais. The aggressive right-back was booked, and when Rivaldo put his penalty past a static Carini, Brazil made it 2-2.

 

That was when Uruguay decided to abandon any concept of defending, and instead take the game to their more storied opponents. The gamble paid off after 72 minutes, when Alonso's cross was tucked away from close range by O'Neill for 3-2. O'Neill then celebrated with a solo rendition of the Riverdance that would have made Michael Flatley proud.

 

Recoba came within inches of volleying Uruguay into a 4-2 lead on 77 minutes, but he did strengthen his side's advantage with an assist two minutes later. His delivery to the far post found Tais, who headed in his first international goal in 58 caps. Dida had been left stranded and was probably thinking of waving the white flag already.

 

Brazil's humiliation ended seven minutes from time, as Alonso outjumped Dida to turn Gustavo Poyet's delivery into the net and confirm a stunning 5-2 win for Uruguay. That was the most shocking collapse by a Brazilian team in World Cup history (at least until 2014, anyway), and it leaves the four-time champions on the brink of a very early exit!

 

Uruguay - 5 (D Alonso 27,83, Á Recoba 52, F O'Neill 72, W Tais 79)

Brazil - 2 (Rivaldo 10,pen58)

URUGUAY LINE-UP (4-2-3-1 Wide): F Carini; W Tais, M Rivas (M Alzugaray 75), P Montero ©, F Bergara; A Fleurquin, G Poyet; J Anchén (AN Olivera 69), Á Recoba, F O'Neill; D Alonso. BOOKED: Tais 57.

BRAZIL LINE-UP (5-3-2 Sweeper): Dida; R Pinheiro; Marinho, Zago; Cafú, Roberto Carlos (Amoroso 58); Emerson, Beto, Rivaldo; Ronaldinho, Ronaldo ©. BOOKED: Pinheiro 31.

MAN OF THE MATCH: Diego Alonso (Uruguay).

 

Romania vs United States of America - at Nagai, Osaka

USA striker Eric Wynalda was back in action after missing their opening group game with a neck injury. He showed just how much better he was feeling in the sixth minute, when he confidently rose up to meet a cross from Chris Henderson, only to nod it inches over the Romanian crossbar.

 

In the 14th minute, Wynalda was the victim of a holding foul from Romania defender Iulian Filipescu, who was booked as a result. Wynalda set out to make Filipescu pay on 32 minutes, which he did with a more clinical header. John O'Brien was credited with the assist for the goal that put Team USA 1-0 up.

 

The Americans eyed up another goal four minutes before half-time. On that occasion, O'Brien's cross was flicked on by Frankie Hejduk to Everton striker Joe Max Moore, who unleashed a volley at goal. The shot struck Bogdan Stelea's bar and went behind, which perhaps explains why Moore will move to Bundesliga mid-tablers Werder Bremen on a free transfer once the World Cup is over.

 

The crossbar would incredibly thwart Moore for a second time on 55 minutes. Five minutes later, it was Ross Paule's turn to see a shot come back off the woodwork. I've no idea if the Tricolorii put some Eastern European magical spell on Stelea's goal before kick-off, but if they had, then it certainly worked!

 

Romania could have done with some luck at the other end in the 50th minute, when Constantin Barbu's header was brilliantly caught by Kasey Keller. Fortune started to favour them again on 75 minutes. Midfielder Eric Lincar got free in the American box, where he got to a delivery from Adrian Mihalcea and thrusted in an equalising goal.

 

Both teams went for the win late on, only to be denied by some strong goalkeeping. Keller parried an 81st-minute header from Barbu, whose team-mate Stelea tipped over O'Brien's strike six minutes later.

 

Action then switched back to the USA's goal in the 90th minute, where only the bottom of Keller's right-hand post denied Lucian Christian Marinescu a late winner. Both teams remained unbeaten, though they were also still looking for their first victories.

 

Romania - 1 (E Lincar 75)

United States of America - 1 (E Wynalda 32)

ROMANIA LINE-UP (4-4-2): B Stelea ©; C Contra, I Filipescu (D Petrescu 79), L Ciobotariu, S Nanu; F Petre (A Ilie 58), E Lincar, LC Marinescu (P Codrea 90), A Stoica; C Barbu, A Mihalcea. BOOKED: Filipescu 14, Nanu 89.

USA LINE-UP (4-4-2): K Keller; E Pope, M Balboa ©, L Cullen, J Agoos; F Hejduk, R Paule, J O'Brien, C Henderson; JM Moore, E Wynalda. BOOKED: O'Brien 74.

MAN OF THE MATCH: Marcelo Balboa (United States of America).

 

GROUP G                            P     W     D     L     F     A     GD    PTS
1.          Uruguay                2     1     1     0     6     3     3     4
2.          Romania                2     0     2     0     2     2     0     2
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
3.          USA                    2     0     2     0     2     2     0     2
4.          Brazil                 2     0     1     1     3     6     -3    1

 

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25 JUNE 2002

We're almost a fortnight into the World Cup, and we have now reached the thick end of the group stage. After tonight's matches, four teams will be confirmed into Round 2, and four more will be forced to pack their bags and leave the Far East.

 

Having recorded back-to-back wins, France look likely to continue their title defence after today, but they can't rest on their laurels. While a point against Mexico in Seoul would secure Les Bleus' progress as Group A winners, a defeat would potentially put their hopes of retaining the Cup in doubt.

 

Mexico go into this match without two defenders. Regular centre-half Rafael Marquez is serving a suspension, which means he can devote more time to his burgeoning drug-trafficking business. Meanwhile, reserve Joel Sánchez's World Cup dreams are in ruins after he broke his foot in training.

 

The Mexicans' qualification prospects basically hinge on them getting a better result against the holders than Russia can muster against bottom team China PR, who need a miracle to qualify.

 

Russia have themselves lost right-winger Valery Kechinov for the tournament with a groin strain. Paris-SG left-back Igor Yanovski was booked in successive matches, so he too must sit out the match against China in Hiroshima. Their opponents have no injury concerns but will be desperate to salvage at least something - maybe a point, possibly a goal - before they go home.

 

Thanks to a spate of draws, the final matches in Group B are as close to knockout ties as they could be without being official. As they at least managed to score in their stalemate, it's the Czech Republic and Morocco who currently hold the narrowest of advantages.

 

Three-time champions Germany will need to find their scoring powers to avoid a premature exit against Morocco in Tokyo. Likewise, Paraguay will be under pressure to take maximum points from the Czech Republic in Pusan. If neither of the group's big guns can find the net within 90 minutes, then it might be time for FIFA and Budweiser to introduce their latest innovation: ADDED-TIME MULTIBALL!

 

Group A Results

China PR vs Russia - at Hiroshima Big Arch, Hiroshima

China's slim hopes of qualification were dealt a huge blow by two fouls in quick succession less than two minutes after kick-off. Jianjun Sun was booked for pushing Russia midfielder Alexander Mostovoi and conceding a free-kick close to goal. Dmitry Khlestov hoisted the set-piece into the box, where his colleague Maxim Demenko went down under a challenge from Enhua Zhang. Penalty to the Russians!

 

Mostovoi stepped forward to take the penalty. He emphatically sent China goalkeeper Chuliang Ou the wrong way, setting the tone for what would be a dominant first-half display from Russia.

 

Though Vladimir Bestchastnykh sent a header over the bar on five minutes, Oleg Romantsev's team would double their advantage three minutes later. West Brom winger Andrey Tikhonov had a moment to remember, dribbling past Chinese right-back Gang Chen before powering in his team's second goal.

 

China remained under duress throughout the first period. Ou was fortunate not to concede a second Russian penalty when he appeared to bring striker Alexandr Panov to ground in the 22nd minute. He then saved shots from Alexei Smertin and Mostovoi before the latter beat him for a second time on 41 minutes. Mostovoi's drive made it 3-0, and the Russian Bear now had its arms around the Chinese Dragon's neck.

 

Mostovoi was denied a hat-trick in the 48th minute, when he fired a low Tikhonov cross against the post. The Russians then got a little too fired-up in their quest to kill China off, as Tikhonov and captain Viktor Onopko each received bookings. Onopko would now be suspended from Russia's Round 2 match... if they qualified, of course.

 

China finally got themselves into the game when Xiaorui Zhang blasted Sun's cross into the net for the East Asians' first World Cup goal. Unfortunately, it was the 76th minute by then, and they didn't have enough time to push for an improbable comeback. A last-minute booking for captain Zhiyi Fan brought an end to a difficult debut on the biggest stage.

 

Russia now had their second win from three group games. Would it be enough to send them into the knockout phase?

 

China PR - 1 (X Zhang 76)

Russia - 3 (A Mostovoi pen3,41, A Tikhonov 8)

CHINA PR LINE-UP (4-4-2): C Ou; G Chen, M Li, E Zhang, L Wang; Q Zhu (X Zhang 55), Z Fan ©, Jianjun Sun, M Ma (J Li 65); H Hao (X Yao 55), M Su. BOOKED: Sun 2, Fan 90.

RUSSIA LINE-UP (4-4-2): R Nigmatullin; D Khlestov (V Min'ko 71), V Onopko ©, M Demenko, Y Kovtun; V Radimov, A Mostovoi, A Smertin, A Tikhonov; A Panov (Y Nikiforov 86), V Bestchastnykh. BOOKED: Tikhonov 57, Onopko 70.

MAN OF THE MATCH: Alexander Mostovoi (Russia).

 

Mexico vs France - at Chamsil Olympic Stadium, Seoul

Mexico put up a strong early resistance against the world champions, with Jorge Campos beating away left-winger Robert Pires' shot in the very first minute. France's right-winger Stéphane Dalmat went close just a minute later, as his volley from Vincent Candela's cross missed the target by inches.

 

Les Bleus were first pushed into their half in the seventh minute, but Mexico striker Paco scooped a shot comfortably over goalkeeper Fabien Barthez's crossbar. Barthez was called into action for the first time shortly afterwards, when he parried a vicious drive from Mexican central defender Duilio Davino.

 

Nicolas Ramirez collected Mexico's first booking on 20 minutes for upending Emmanuel Petit. Four minutes later, El Tri were lucky not to go 1-0 down. France playmaker Zinedine Zidane's delivery into the penalty area was flicked against the bar by Thierry Henry. Campos and Barthez then made late saves for their respective sides before the half-time whistle blew with the scoreline still at 0-0.

 

Jesus Arellano could have done with some divine intervention for Mexico in the 48th minute, when the attacking midfielder's long-range shot hit the wrong side of the post. Unbeknownst to the Mexicans, Russia's comfortable beating of China PR meant that El Tri needed a big win to have any chance of qualifying for the last 16. They would need to take their chances soon.

 

The second half was very end-to-end, with plenty of chances - and a couple of yellow cards - going in either direction. The breakthrough finally came after 72 minutes. Gerardo Torrado lobbed the ball up to his Mexican team-mate Miguel Angel Zepeda, who broke into the box and slipped in his first international goal. Significantly, that bumped France to 2nd place, with the world champions now trailing Russia.

 

Sadly for Mexico, that was as good as things got. Their failure to score again meant they could only 3rd, behind both Russia and France on head-to-head. Despite having been reduced to 10 men when Henry hurt his heel in the 87th minute, Les Bleus were still just about on course to defend their title.

 

Mexico - 1 (MA Zepeda 72)

France - 0

MEXICO LINE-UP (5-3-1-1): J Campos; E Alfaro (J Beltran 87), C Suarez ©, D Davino, MA Zepeda, MA Carreon; G Villa, G Torrado, N Ramirez; J Arellano (L Hernandez 49); Paco (C Blanco 68). BOOKED: Ramirez 20, Suarez 65.

FRANCE LINE-UP (4-4-2): F Barthez; L Thuram ©, M Desailly, F Danjou (M Djetou 66), V Candela; S Dalmat (L Giuly 49), Z Zidane, E Petit (A Boghossian 54), R Pires; N Anelka, T Henry. BOOKED: Desailly 55.

MAN OF THE MATCH: Jorge Campos (Mexico).

 

GROUP A                            P     W     D     L     F     A     GD    PTS
1.    Q     Russia                 3     2     0     1     6     3     3     6
2.    Q     France                 3     2     0     1     5     2     3     6
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
3.          Mexico                 3     2     0     1     2     2     0     6
4.          China PR               3     0     0     3     1     7     -6    0

 

Group Stage

Group B Results

Germany vs Morocco - at National Stadium, Tokyo

Germany had neither scored nor conceded in this tournament, but their long-suffering fans' wait to see a goal would end after nine minutes. To their delight, 1.FC Köln forward Christian Timm lost his Moroccan marker to latch onto Stefan Schnoor's through-ball and send the Mannschaft 1-0 ahead!

 

Hertha BSC winger Sebastian Deisler looked for a second German goal on 11 minutes, only to be thwarted by a determined save from Khalid Sinouh. The Morocco goalkeeper also withstood the advance of Teutonic battering ram Carsten Jancker five minutes later.

 

Morocco had spent most of the first half on the back foot, rarely getting a chance to counter. Central defender Rachid Neqrouz was booked late in the half for a trip on Jancker, and his team-mate Adil Ramzi would also be cautioned four minutes into the second period.

 

The Moroccans tried to attack their opponents after the resumption, but they were twice stung on the break by Oliver Neuville. The Germany substitute found the net just moments after coming on in the 51st minute, only for his goal to be chalked off for an offside call against Timm. 15 minutes later, Neuville dribbled past a couple of North African defenders and stroked in a goal that did count.

 

A 2-0 win was enough to put Germany into the knockout phase with three clean sheets. However, Jancker would miss the rest of the tournament after twisting his ankle in the 77th minute. In most circumstances, Jancker leaving the pitch would have actually improved the Mannschaft... but his replacement on this occasion was Sean Dundee, so...

 

As for the Atlas Lions, they would return home with their tails between their legs. So much had been expected of Henri Michel's Moroccans, but they never really got going in a disappointing tournament.

 

Germany - 2 (C Timm 9, O Neuville 66)

Morocco - 0

GERMANY LINE-UP (4-4-1-1): O Kahn ©; M Rehmer, T Linke, M Happe, S Schnoor; S Deisler (O Neuville 51), S Beinlich, M Tarnat, M Ketelaer; C Timm; C Jancker (S Dundee 77).

MOROCCO LINE-UP (4-4-2): K Sinouh; A Saber, T El-Karkouri, R Neqrouz (A Ouaddou 72), G Amzine; A Ramzi, S Chiba (Y Chippo 63), M Hadji ©, Y Abdellaoui (A Jrindou 72); S Bassir, H Kamatcho. BOOKED: Neqrouz 35, Ramzi 49.

MAN OF THE MATCH: Thomas Linke (Germany).

 

Czech Republic vs Paraguay - at Pusan Stadium, Pusan

The first half of this potential group decider made as pretty a sight as Jocelyn Wildenstein in a house of mirrors. Paraguay launched the only meaningful attack on 11 minutes, when Fábio crossed to another exciting young forward in Roque Santa Cruz. The 20-year-old from Bayern München proceeded to head it against the bar before Czech Republic defender Milan Fukal cleared.

 

Fukal could adequately describe the rest of the opening 45 minutes. The only other highlights - if you call them highlights - were bookings for his Czech team-mates Tomas Repka (I was expecting that) and Pavel Nedved (okay, I wasn't expecting that).

 

The Czech Republic didn't threaten to score until the 51st minute, when Vratislav Lokvenc's piledriver was caught by José Luis Chilavert. A miss from Vladimir Smicer in the 68th minute meant that Paraguay's goalkeeping leader Chilavert remained unbeaten... for the time being.

 

A 0-0 draw would've favoured the Czechs, so it was up to Paraguay to look for the win. Considering that La Albirroja had gone through nearly three whole matches without scoring or conceding, there wasn't much chance of that happening. Substitute Carlos Morales Santos had a shot tipped away by Pavel Srnicek in the 74th minute, after which he and his fellow Paraguayans quickly gave up.

 

In the penultimate minute, the Czech Republic ensured that they would join Germany in Round 2. 'Man of the match' Fukal hit the ball upfield for the giant Jan Koller, who towered over Chilavert and knocked the ball over the line. There would be no third successive clean sheet for Paraguay's legendary keeper.

 

In all honesty, few football fans outside of Asunción will be shedding tears over La Albirroja's early exit. Purists will be particularly pleased that Paraguay could not bore their way to global glory. Mind you, I've a feeling that Greece will attempt to replicate Cesare Maldini's ultra-defensive tactics at Euro 2004, so we can't sleep easily just yet...

 

Czech Republic - 1 (J Koller 89)

Paraguay - 0

CZECH REPUBLIC LINE-UP (4-4-1-1): P Srnicek; M Fukal, T Repka, K Rada, M Nikl; K Poborsky (V Smicer 50), T Rosicky, P Berger, P Nedved ©; M Heinz (M Baranek 50); V Lokvenc (J Koller 83). BOOKED: Repka 17, Nedved 29.

PARAGUAY LINE-UP (5-3-1-1): JL Chilavert ©; FJ Arce, C Ayala, C Gamarra, D Caballero, D Caniza (C Morel Rodríguez 57); R Maldonado, RM Acuña (GT Guzman 69), C Paredes; Fábio; R Santa Cruz (C Morales Santos 69).

MAN OF THE MATCH: Milan Fukal (Czech Republic).

 

GROUP B                            P     W     D     L     F     A     GD    PTS
1.    Q     Germany                3     1     2     0     2     0     2     5
2.    Q     Czech Republic         3     1     2     0     2     1     1     5
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
3.          Paraguay               3     0     2     1     0     1     -1    2
4.          Morocco                3     0     2     1     1     3     -2    2

 

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18 hours ago, argento said:

Gutted we wont be seeing more of Chilavert

Chilavert was Paraguay's best player by a long distance and will be missed. Unfortunately for him, other star names such as Santa Cruz never really turned up.

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26 JUNE 2002

Ukraine and Wales were in a proper East versus West slog during the World Cup qualifiers, and now they will do battle again in the Far East. Pohang is the setting for what could well be the Group C decider.

 

Wales have won their first two matches in Group C, which means Mark Hughes and his bright sparks don't have much more work to do to reach Round 2. A draw will send the Red Dragons through as group winners, as would a defeat by no more than two goals. By my calculations, only a five-goal defeat would put Wales' knockout berth at risk.

 

Ukraine must win this match by at least two goals to guarantee that they reach the knockout rounds on their debut, with only a three-goal victory being enough to win the group. Progression would represent success for manager Valery Lobanovsky at his first (and probably last) World Cup. Yes, Lobanovsky did guide the USSR to the Final of Euro 1988, and it took a brilliant Netherlands team to beat them, but this is a different ball game (not literally, of course).

 

3rd-place Jamaica are hoping to gatecrash the top two, and they've got a good chance of doing that when they play their final group match in 'Seoul'. After two miserable defeats on Japanese soil, South Korea will be relieved that they at last get to play in front of their home fans before they (almost certainly) leave the tournament early.

 

Jamaica's fate basically rests on them bettering Ukraine's result. Matching their result won't be enough, unless the Zhovto-Blakytni win 5-0 and the Reggae Boyz win by any score, in which case both those teams will go through... I think. I've got a GCSE in Mathematics, you know, but even this is confusing me!

 

Thank goodness for Italy and Cameroon in Group D, eh? They've both made it through to Round 2 with back-to-back victories, meaning that the only purpose of their encounter in Kobe tonight is to decide 1st and 2nd place. The winners will get top spot, though a draw would see Italy take it on goal difference.

 

The Azzurri are looking more and more like potential champions by the day. Roma's Vincenzo Montella has emerged as a more than adequate replacement for the injured Christian Vieri, scoring three goals in one-and-a-bit games. Montella has even captured the imagination of Jamaican reggae star Shaggy, who has been looking for a word to rhyme with "fella" for his next single. At least that sounds better than the song he made with Ali G earlier this year. [That link is NSFW, obviously.]

 

Meanwhile in Osaka, Bosnia & Herzegovina and Iran will battle only for pride and points before exiting stage left. The Bosnians are looking for their maiden finals points, while Iranians will want a second World Cup win to go with that triumph over the United States of America in 1998.

 

Group Stage

Group C Results

Jamaica vs South Korea - at Chonan Stadium, Seoul

This match saw plenty of attacking action early on. Jamaica striker Trevor Benjamin had a pop at goal in the fourth minute, but it was caught by South Korea keeper Dong-Myung Seo. Six minutes later, the hosts' Perugia forward Jung-Hwan Ahn saw his volley turned behind by Warren Barrett. That no doubt pleased Perugia owner Luciano Gaucci, who'd placed a bet worth thousands of Euros on a Jamaican win.

 

Gaucci's gamble looked like backfiring after half an hour, though. South Korea right-back Ki-Hyung Lee sent a cross-field pass to midfielder Jong-Hwan Yoon, who dribbled towards goal before powering in the opener. Were the Taegeuk Warriors about to win a match at the third time of asking?

 

Not if Wolde Harris had his way. Just two minutes later, in the 32nd minute, the Jamaican striker met Theodore Whitmore's long ball with a stunning volley that soared into the net. The Reggae Boyz would go into the second period level at 1-1, despite a late first-half booking for defender Danny Maddix.

 

South Korea could've regained the lead on 53 minutes had Barrett not parried a vicious shot from Hyun-Seog Kim. Yoon was booked a minute later, and things would get even worse for the co-hosts shortly after that. Winston Griffiths' corner evaded the Korean defence, but not Benjamin, whose first international goal gave Jamaica a 2-1 lead!

 

By the 62nd minute, though, it was more a case of "Oh yes" than "Oh Noh" for South Korea's supporters. Yoon looked for Jung-Yoon Noh in the Jamaican box, and the Japanese-based striker met it with a fantastic header. Now it was 2-2!

 

The scoreline would change again just two minutes later with another headed goal. Unfortunately for the Koreans, it came at their end. Benjamin made the most of another excellent Griffiths corner to flick in his second goal. The Reggae Boyz were singing once again, and Gaucci was back in the money.

 

Jamaica had to battle hard to retain their lead in the closing stages. They also needed some luck in the 76th minute, when Ahn hit Barrett's left-hand post, inadvertently saving his own job in the process. That miss effectively condemned South Korea to a third straight defence, ending a virtual tournament that had been far worse for them than the real-life World Cup. Jamaica's hopes of progressing to Round 2 now hinged on the group's other match.

 

Jamaica - 3 (W Harris 32, T Benjamin 55,64)

South Korea - 2 (JH Yoon 30, JY Noh 62)

JAMAICA LINE-UP (4-4-2 Attacking): W Barrett ©; F Sinclair, D Stewart, D Maddix, M Johnson (D Moore 84); T Whitmore (C Crossland 62), W Griffiths; R Bastow (J Sinnott 68), R Gardner; T Benjamin, W Harris. BOOKED: Maddix 45.

SOUTH KOREA LINE-UP (5-2-1-2): DM Seo; KH Lee (JH Kim 54), E Bräck (HS Jang 62), MB Hong ©, TY Kim, YH Pak (SJ Ha 68); DW Seo, JH Yoon; JH Ahn; JY Noh, HS Kim. BOOKED: Yoon 54.

MAN OF THE MATCH: Trevor Benjamin (Jamaica).

 

Ukraine vs Wales - at Pohang Stadium, Pohang

Wales were assured of qualification after two straight wins, so they could relax a little against Ukraine. John Hartson didn't relax in the 13th minute, when the firebrand Bradford striker was booked. Despite his Slavic-sounding surname, Eyal Berkovic was nowhere to be seen.

 

Hartson channelled his anger into doing something more productive 10 minutes later. He got above Ukrainian defender Dmitry Parfenov to head home a Simon Davies cross and put Wales 1-0 up. It was baffling that Parfenov was on the field in the first place, having come on as a 20th-minute substitute for Eduard Mor, who didn't look like he was carrying a knock. Ukraine boss Valery Lobanovsky works in mysterious ways.

 

Hartson would miss a couple of chances to double the Red Dragons' lead later in the period, as he failed to make the most of excellent deliveries by Gary Speed and John Oster. Ukraine frontman Sergueï Skatchenko would be guilty of an even more glaring miss just before half-time, sending an overhead kick well wide after a promising set-up from Sergei Rebrov.

 

Ukraine's shooting accuracy continued to elude them in the opening skirmishes of the second half. Skatchenko missed the target again in the 46th minute, before Besiktas midfielder Maxim Kalinichenko and long-time Widzew winger Andrzej Michalczuk did likewise.

 

Wales resumed their quest for a second goal on 66 minutes, when Oster's speculative effort was beaten away by Ukrainian keeper Valery Vorobjov. That would be followed by a couple more bookings - one for Red Dragons centre-half Adrian Williams, and one for his Zhovto-Blakytni counterpart Sergey Krukovets.

 

A victory for Wales would've seen Jamaica join them in the knockout stages. However, the Reggae Boyz' status was put under threat five minutes from time. Welsh keeper Mark Crossley made difficult work of a powerful shot from Rebrov, leaving Benfica midfielder Serguei Kandaurov free to bury the rebound.

 

Ukraine were level, and they now knew that a late winner would send them into the finals at Jamaica's expense. The yellow-clad fans in Pohang held their breaths during a last-minute attack.

 

Rebrov squared an excellent pass to Krukovets, who'd charged forward to unleash a hit-an-hoper. The ball soared beyond a stunned Crossley and into the net, sending Ukrainians into ecstasy! Wales still won the group, but they were almost as devastated as the eliminated Caribbeans at full-time.

 

Ukraine - 2 (S Kandaurov 85, S Kovalets 90)

Wales - 1 (J Hartson 23)

UKRAINE LINE-UP (4-4-2): V Vorobjov; O Luzhniy ©, S Krukovets, E Mor (D Parfenov 20), V Skripnik; A Michalczuk, M Kalinichenko (A Husin 55), S Kandaurov, A Spivak (S Kovalets 55); S Skatchenko, S Rebrov. BOOKED: Krukovets 79.

WALES LINE-UP (4-4-2): M Crossley; M Delaney, A Williams, M Jones, D Barnard; J Oster, S Davies (R Savage 54), G Speed, M Pembridge; J Hartson, N Blake. BOOKED: Hartson 13, Williams 74.

MAN OF THE MATCH: Serguei Kandaurov (Ukraine).

 

GROUP C                            P     W     D     L     F     A     GD    PTS
1.    Q     Wales                  3     2     0     1     9     3     6     6
2.    Q     Ukraine                3     2     0     1     5     4     1     6
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
3.          Jamaica                3     2     0     1     6     7     -1    6
4.          South Korea            3     0     0     3     3     9     -6    0

 

Group D Results

Bosnia & Herzegovina vs Iran - at Nagai, Osaka

Neither team had anything left to lose after their early eliminations. Iran looked especially relaxed in the fifth minute, but perhaps they were too much so, as they conceded an early goal to Bosnia & Herzegovina. Hasan Salihamidzic's ambitious shot came back off the crossbar and fell fortuitously to his fellow midfield man Kemal Kuc, who tucked it away.

 

That goal was a moment for Iran's goalkeeping captain Ali Reza Abedzadeh to forget. He would nearly be beaten again in the 22nd minute. Kuc gathered up another shot that had rebounded off Abedzadeh's bar - from Zlatan Muslimovic on that occasion - and then tried to play in Nantes youngster Mirza Mesic in the six-yard box. The ball was brilliantly intercepted by Team Melli defender Christian Rivera, who was happy to reap the benefits of having a rather dodgy Iranian passport.

 

Iran did have a few scoring opportunities of their own in the first half, but they failed to make the most of them. Their profligacy was punished on the stroke of half-time, when Muslimovic took Mesic's cross on the bounce and drove in Bosnia's second goal.

 

Muslimovic's celebration appeared to get on Iran centre-half Mohammed Reza Mahdavi. A few minutes later, just as the referee was about to blow for half-time, Mahdavi attempted to gouge Muslimovic by sticking his fingers in his eyes. Goodness knows how the Swiss-based 29-year-old only got away with a booking.

 

At 2-0 up, Bosnia & Herzegovina manager Miso Smajlovic was happy to take things easy. He decided not to make any changes in tactics or personnel, leaving his players to it. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the Zmajevi would not build on their advantage after the resumption.

 

Iran striker Vahid Hashemian threatened to pull a goal back in the 59th minute, only to fire Karim Bagheri's cross into the hands of Bosnian keeper Sead Ramovic. Hashemian was rather unluckier not to score in the 71st minute, striking the woodwork from a centre by Juan Rozalez - another of Team Melli's foreign ringers.

 

Supporters of any far-right political parties in Tehran were perhaps pleased to see two bona-fide Iranians combine for a consolation goal in the 86th minute. National institution Ali Daei lifted a through-ball to Rasoul Khatibi, whose emphatic strike ensured that his team would return home with at least one reason to be cheerful.

 

Bosnia & Herzegovina - 2 (K Kuc 5, Z Muslimovic 45)

Iran - 1 (R Khatibi 86)

BOSNIA & HERZEGOVINA LINE-UP (4-4-2): S Ramovic; Z Bajramovic, H Vidakovic ©, M Hibic, S Kapetanovic; H Salihamidzic, K Kuc, S Barbarez, E Baljic; M Mesic, Z Muslimovic.

IRAN LINE-UP (5-3-2): AR Abedzadeh ©; AR Emamifar (R Khatibi 54), MR Mahdavi, F Falahatzadeh, C Rivera, M Minavand; K Bagheri, M Mahdavikia, D Yazdani (J Rozalez 54); A Daei, V Hashemian. BOOKED: Mahdavi 45.

MAN OF THE MATCH: Mirza Mesic (Bosnia & Herzegovina).

 

Italy vs Cameroon - at Kobe Universiade Memorial, Kobe

Vincenzo Montella had bagged three goals in Italy's first two matches, so there were no prizes for guessing the Roma hotshot would open the scoring against Cameroon as well. His second-minute header from Paolo Vanoli's left-wing delivery got the Azzurri off to the perfect start in this Group D decider.

 

Nearly half an hour went by before the next scoring opportunity, which was flicked over the bar by Italy's other striker Filippo... no, sorry, Simone Inzaghi. The younger Inzaghi sibling went for goal again on 36 minutes, only to be stopped by Cameroon keeper Alioum Boukar.

 

The Indomitable Lions rarely looked like equalising before half-time. To be fair, Patrick Mboma was being marked out of the game by Fabio Cannavaro. Mboma did get past Cannavaro in the 45th minute, but the Parma centre-back pulled on his club-mate's shirt, conceding a free-kick and a yellow card.

 

Cameroon would give the Italian backline more food for thought in the 54th minute. Shortly after Boukar had stopped Montella from doubling Italy's lead, Samuel Eto'o almost single-handedly erased it. Eto'o went past a couple of defenders, played a quick one-two with Salomon Olembé, and then drove a clinical shot beyond the onrushing Gianluigi Buffon.

 

The Africans' day would take a turn for the worse in the 73rd minute, when captain and right-back Rigobert Song gashed his leg. He was replaced by Arsenal full-back Lauren, who made his first appearance at the tournament. While all that was going on, Montella angrily squared up to Cameroon midfielder Pierre Wome, for which he received a yellow card.

 

Three minutes later, Montella calmed down enough to help restore Italy's advantage. He lifted the ball towards his Roma team-mate Marco Delvecchio in the Cameroonian box, and the substitute forward let rip with an unstoppable half-volley.

 

Delvecchio's goal was enough to secure the win, even though he and Gennaro Ivan Gattuso each spurned opportunities to strengthen the Azzurri's position further. Giovanni Trapattoni would now lead Italy into the knockout phase as Group D winners, with Cameroon being gallant runners-up.

 

Italy - 2 (V Montella 2, M Delvecchio 76)

Cameroon - 1 (S Eto'o 54)

ITALY LINE-UP (3-5-1-1): G Buffon; D Adani, M Iuliano (G Zambrotta 68), F Cannavaro; C Panucci, A Nesta, P Vanoli; GI Gattuso, D Albertini ©; S Inzaghi (M Delvecchio 51), V Montella. BOOKED: Cannavaro 45, Montella 73.

CAMEROON LINE-UP (4-4-2 Diamond): A Boukar; R Song © (Lauren), L Mettomo, J Dika, S Olembé; P Wome; Geremi, S Branco (R Douala 51); S Eto'o; P Mboma, Meyong (Z Epale 51).

MAN OF THE MATCH: Vincenzo Montella (Italy).

 

GROUP D                            P     W     D     L     F     A     GD    PTS
1.    Q     Italy                  3     3     0     0     8     1     7     9
2.    Q     Cameroon               3     2     0     1     5     3     2     6
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
3.          Bosnia & Herzegovina   3     1     0     2     3     8     -5    3
4.          Iran                   3     0     0     3     1     5     -4    0

 

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I heard the Iran manager took a direct flight back home rather than back to Iran. Because there's no point in him coming back!

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3 minutes ago, git2thachoppa said:

I heard the Iran manager took a direct flight back home rather than back to Iran. Because there's no point in him coming back!

Iran didn't have a manager in the database, let's not forget, so he might as well have vanished out of thin air. :D

Truth be told, I wasn't expecting Iran to lose all three games. They weren't completely outclassed in the group, but perhaps they lacked a bit of quality and/or good fortune.

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Jamaica crashing out on 6 points, imagine the support the Reggae Boyz would've had round the globe with performances like that, heartbreaking after all of Big Frank Sinclairs heroics

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12 hours ago, argento said:

Jamaica crashing out on 6 points, imagine the support the Reggae Boyz would've had round the globe with performances like that, heartbreaking after all of Big Frank Sinclairs heroics

I don't think we'll find an unluckier team at this tournament. Jamaica were excellent (except against Wales) and were just moments from qualifying for the last 16, so to have that taken from them was agonising.

9 hours ago, Drogba11CFC said:

Just like in Cool Runnings.

Yes, you could say that, though in fairness, this Jamaican team was not widely expected to struggle at the start of the competition.

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27 JUNE 2002

This World Cup has been about as enjoyable to Scotland as the World Bagpipes Championships are to most English people like me. The Tartan Army have lost two Group E matches in a row, their star defender David Weir is suspended, and they haven't found the net even once. To be fair, Craig Brown has nobody to blame but himself for picking a squad full of players who didn't know how to score at international level.

 

The Scots will surely be put out of their misery today, when they face Colombia in Hiroshima. It will take something akin to the 'Second Coming' of Archie Gemmill to prevent a 47th successive Group Stage elimination at a major tournament.

 

Victory for Colombia would guarantee their place in the World Cup knockout stages for the first time since 1990.

 

The table-topping Netherlands will also progress if they at least avoid a heavy defeat to Tunisia in Yokohama. That should be simple enough for the Oranje, even if they won't dare risk captain Frank De Boer stubbing his toe for the third game in succession.

 

Argentina also have one foot in Round 2, if you'll pardon the pun. A point against South Africa in Pusan will guarantee La Albiceleste's supremacy in Group F and avoid a repeat of their real-life early exit from the tournament. If only the real Marcelo Bielsa decided to leave that long-haired clown Mauricio Pochettino at home, eh?

 

By my reckoning, South Africa either need to beat Argentina (unlikely) or hope that rivals Sweden slip up against table-proppers Belgium (again, unlikely) to qualify for the Last 16.

 

With goalkeeper Jean-François Gillet suspended and striker Emile Mpenza injured, Belgium boss Robert Waseige needs more than a miracle to keep the Red Devils alive; he needs a Tardis, which he could use to bring Thibaut Courtois and Eden Hazard over from 2018. Basically, as long as the Swedes 'turnip' in Ulsan, they should be fine. (That 'Bad Pun of the Day' was brought to you by fathers everywhere.)

 

Group Stage

Group E Results

Colombia vs Scotland - at Hiroshima Big Arch, Hiroshima

The first half was a very scrappy one, with a couple of Scotland defenders picking up yellow cards. Right-back Robbie Stockdale was booked for a trip on Colombia striker Juan Pablo Angel in the 17th minute. Captain Colin Hendry would also be cautioned just before half-time for tripping the same player.

 

At least Colombia tried to make a match of it. Leyder Preciado led their attack effectively midway through the first period, but he was kept off the score by a combination of Scottish keeper Neil Sullivan and bad luck. In the 23rd minute, Preciado's header was pushed away by Sullivan and then cleared by Gary Naysmith. Preciado would then hit the woodwork twice over the next four minutes.

 

The first move from Scotland that vaguely resembled an attack came after 53 minutes. Stephen Glass threaded the ball into Los Cafeteros' area looking for Colin Cameron, whose low shot Oscar Córdoba turned behind. Córdoba's parry gave away an unnecessary corner, as it looked like Cameron's shot was heading off target prior to the save.

 

Cameron would miss another chance for the Tartan Army on 67 minutes. The Hearts winger's diving header from a long throw by Stockdale went well wide. Five minutes before then, Colombia defender Jorge Bermúdez collected what would be Colombia's only booking of the evening.

 

The Colombians went back on the offensive on 72 minutes, when Angel's drive was stopped by Sullivan. Angel then tried an overhead kick from teenage substitute Johnnier Montaño's cross, but he was nowhere near the target. Those were the last great scoring opportunities in a match that finished 0-0.

 

Another lacklustre World Cup for Scotland ended with two more bookings - for defender Christian Dailly and striker Thomas McManus. They were also reduced to 10 men for the final 11 minutes after left-winger Neil McCann did his knee in. While Craig Brown's Tartan Army started to ponder an early flight back to Glasgow, Colombia awaited news on whether they would be going home too.

 

Colombia - 0

Scotland - 0

COLOMBIA LINE-UP (4-4-2): O Córdoba; RE Martínez, J Bermúdez, ÁA Mosquera, B Sinisterra; GA Victoría (J Montaño HT), FE Rincón ©, A Viveros (M Candelo 74), A Chitiva (H Ricard HT); L Preciado, JP Angel. BOOKED: Bermúdez 62.

SCOTLAND LINE-UP (4-4-2): N Sullivan; R Stockdale, C Hendry ©, C Dailly, G Naysmith; C Cameron, D Hopkin (S Gemmill 74), S Glass, N McCann; S McConalogue (G McSwegan 50), M Burchill (T McManus 50). BOOKED: Stockdale 17, Hendry 42, Dailly 79, McManus 86.

MAN OF THE MATCH: Álvaro Andrés Mosquera (Colombia).

 

Tunisia vs Netherlands - at Yokohama International, Yokohama

Tunisia certainly had no desire to leave the Far East if goalkeeper Ali Boumnijel's first-half performance against the Netherlands suggested anything. Boumnijel saved a couple of Clarence Seedorf shots in the first two minutes, while also reacting quickly after the latter save to stop Jannes Wolters' follow-up.

 

The North Africans' number 1 came good again midway through the first period. Oranje winger Marc Overmars was denied from distance in the 18th minute. Two minutes after that, Tunisia skipper Sami Trabelsi saw yellow for giving away a free-kick close to goal. His opposite number Edgar Davids - wearing the Dutch armband in place of the injured Frank De Boer - sent the set-piece goalwards but was stopped by another outstanding Boumnijel save.

 

The Eagles of Carthage were defending with their lives, but their resistance crumbled two minutes into the second half, after midfielder Sofiane Fekhi sustained a knee injury. Within moments, the Netherlands had broken the deadlock through Seedorf, whose header from Overmars' corner was irresistible.

 

A couple more Boumnijel saves briefly prevented the Dutch from pulling further ahead, but they wouldn't be denied for long. Andy van der Meyde's cross to the near post was nodded into the net by Patrick Kluivert, and the Oranje led 2-0 after 57 minutes.

 

Louis van Gaal's team were now happy to play out time, as they would almost certainly top Group E now. With the other match still goalless, Tunisia were desperately needing a victory to progress to Round 2 alongside them.

 

The Tunisians left their comeback bid a bit late, only getting their first goal when 10 minutes remained on the clock. Regardless, a vicious drive from left-winger Mehdee Benamar gave them some much-needed momentum.

 

Tunisia would score again in the final minute of normal time, as substitute striker Taoufik Jam'an hammered full-back José Clayton's square ball beyond the reach of Sander Westerveld. However, they couldn't conjure up a third goal in injury time, and so 2-2 was how the match finished. The Netherlands finished top of the group, with Colombia following them into the next phase.

 

Tunisia - 2 (M Benamar 80, T Jam'an 90)

Netherlands - 2 (C Seedorf 47, P Kluivert 57)

TUNISIA LINE-UP (4-4-2): A Boumnijel; D Jemmali, M Badra, S Trabelsi ©, J Clayton; K Sdirir (B Sahbani 54), S Fekhi (S Chihi 47), Z Baya, M Benamar; M Ben Slimane, F Rouissi (T Jam'an 54). BOOKED: Trabelsi 20.

NETHERLANDS LINE-UP (4-1-4-1): S Westerveld; M Reiziger, J Dirkx, K Hofland, W Bogarde; J Wolters (P Cocu 48); A van der Meyde, C Seedorf, E Davids ©, M Overmars; P Kluivert.

MAN OF THE MATCH: Marc Overmars (Netherlands).

 

GROUP E                            P     W     D     L     F     A     GD    PTS
1.    Q     Netherlands            3     2     1     0     6     3     3     7
2.    Q     Colombia               3     1     1     1     5     2     3     4
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
3.          Tunisia                3     1     1     1     3     6     -3    4
4.          Scotland               3     0     1     2     0     3     -3    1

 

Group F Results

Argentina vs South Africa - at Pusan Stadium, Pusan

Argentina immediately set about testing South Africa goalkeeper Hans Vonk to his limits. Serie A goal machines Hernan Jorge Crespo and Gabriel Batistuta each had shots saved by Vonk within the first five minutes. Meanwhile, Albiceleste midfielder Juan Sebastián Verón drew a foul - and a yellow card - out of the Africans' central defender Pierre Issa.

 

The referee's yellow card would come back out on 32 minutes, after Argentina stopper Roberto Fabián Ayala pulled on the shirt of Bennedict McCarthy. Bafana Bafana's set-piece specialist was their 20-year-old right-back Gabriel Mofokeng, who took the free-kick... and sent it well off target.

 

Mofokeng's miss haunted South Africa in the 38th minute, when they fell behind to a moment of Argentine brilliance. Lazio midfielder Claudio López drifted out to the left wing and then drifted the ball into the penalty box. Batistuta then rose up to head in the type of finish that supporters of Fiorentina and Roma knew and loved him for.

 

Argentina's long-haired 33-year-old frontman was not nicknamed 'Batigol' for nothing. He got his second goal of the night two minutes into the second half, pouncing on a fantastic cross from Verón. His brace could have become a hat-trick had subsequent shots not hit the post or been tipped away by Vonk.

 

La Albiceleste did go 3-0 ahead after 55 minutes, when Crespo decided that he wanted to get his name on the scoresheet. Verón angled a delightful pass to his Lazio team-mate, who drove it into the net from 25 yards out. That was Verón's third assist of the tournament - a statistic unmatched by anyone else thus far.

 

Despite a late booking for Walter Samuel, it was all plain sailing for Argentina from that point onwards. They had won Group F without dropping any points or conceding any goals, underlining their status as one of the teams to beat. Sadly, South Africa's World Cup adventure was almost certainly over.

 

Argentina - 3 (G Batistuta 38,47, HJ Crespo 55)

South Africa - 0

ARGENTINA LINE-UP (4-1-3-2): PÓ Cavallero; H Ibarra, RF Ayala (M Pellegrino 69), W Samuel, JP Sorín; J Zanetti; JS Verón, C López (M Posse 59), W Gaitán; HJ Crespo, G Batistuta ©. BOOKED: Ayala 32, Samuel 88.

SOUTH AFRICA LINE-UP (4-4-2): H Vonk; G Mofokeng, L Radebe ©, P Issa, B Carnell; S Lekoelea, M Arnold (T Seli 69), V N'Gobe (H Marumo 50), Q Fortune; S Nomvete (S Pienaar 50), B McCarthy. BOOKED: Issa 5.

MAN OF THE MATCH: Juan Sebastián Verón (Argentina).

 

Sweden vs Belgium - at Ulsan Munsu Football Stadium, Ulsan

Belgium needed to prove a point after a couple of defeats all but ended their Round 2 aspirations. A glimmer of hope emerged 15 minutes into their meeting with Sweden, as central midfielder Kurt Van De Paar buried Bart Goor's low cross into the top corner of the net.

 

Van De Paar then created a couple of chances for Belgium's front two of Branko Strupar and Toni Brogno. Neither striker could make the most of their opportunity, and midfielder Johan Walem also missed the target in the 21st minute.

 

With Jean-François Gillet serving a ban, Olivier Renard was perhaps expecting a busy evening in the Belgian goal. As it transpired, he had almost nothing to do in the first half. Marcus Allbäck didn't trouble him one bit, though the Sweden striker did get into trouble with the referee when he upended Van De Paar seven minutes before half-time. A yellow card duly followed.

 

The Blågult looked like they were heading out of the World Cup, and their hopes were reduced further when captain Joachim Björklund bruised his thigh early in the second half. He was replaced with Olof Mellberg, who helped his team to withstand some rather lacklustre Belgian attacks.

 

For the final 15 minutes, Belgium decided to take their feet off the accelerators and go on the defensive. Sweden hadn't got a look-in at the Red Devils' end of the pitch, but this was the moment they were waiting for. With seven minutes to go, Allbäck roared into action by collecting the ball from Daniel Andersson. He then centred it to Pettersson, whose rocket beat Renard and shattered Belgian dreams.

 

Sweden had smashed and grabbed their way to a point, but what a point that was. A draw was enough for the Scandinavians to finish 2nd behind Argentina and book their Round 2 place!

 

Sweden - 1 (J Pettersson 83)

Belgium - 1 (K Van De Paar 15)

SWEDEN LINE-UP (4-4-2): M Asper; C Andersson (M Antonsson 60), P Andersson, J Björklund © (O Mellberg 48), G Sündgren; N Alexandersson, D Andersson, S Schwarz, J Blomqvist; J Pettersson, M Allbäck. BOOKED: Allbäck 38.

BELGIUM LINE-UP (4-4-2): O Renard; R Genaux, B Crasson (C Janssens 74), W Delbroek, N Van Kerckhoven (P van Houdt 81); G Verheyen © (K Temmerman 81), K Van De Paar, J Walem, B Goor; B Strupar, T Brogno.

MAN OF THE MATCH: Kurt Van De Paar (Belgium).

 

GROUP F                            P     W     D     L     F     A     GD    PTS
1.    Q     Argentina              3     3     0     0     9     0     9     9
2.    Q     Sweden                 3     1     1     1     2     3     -1    4
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
3.          South Africa           3     1     0     2     2     5     -3    3
4.          Belgium                3     0     1     2     2     7     -5    1

 

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28 JUNE 2002

16 days after the 2002 World Cup got underway, today sees the last of the initial group games. By the end of tonight, we will know our full 16-team line-up for the knockout stages.

 

Group G is fairly close, with all four competitors still in contention to qualify for the next phase. There are all sorts of permutations that could send certain teams through and others out.

 

Basically, Brazil must beat the United States of America in Tokyo, otherwise the Seleção will be bowing out at the first round of a World Cup for the first time since 1966. Brazil topped the FIFA World Rankings going into this tournament, so it would be a massive surprise if they departed early.

 

The USA cannot afford any sort of defeat, otherwise they'll be eliminated at the Group Stage for the third time in their last four attempts. Another premature exit would be disastrous for the sport in America, as Major League Soccer is already struggling financially in just its seventh season.

 

Meanwhile, whoever wins between Uruguay and Romania in Kobe will be assured of a place in Round 2. Uruguay currently sit top of the table and can afford a draw. This has already been an emotional tournament for La Celeste forward Fabián O'Neill, who was recently reunited with his long-lost father - Celtic manager and BBC pundit Martin O'Neill.

 

Fabián visited the BBC's studio in Tokyo a few days ago. Proud dad Martin told him on air, "You've done really well, 'cos I thought you would struggle after the USA game. You can't run, you can't hold up the ball... Álvaro Recoba probably kept the team together. But your performance against Brazil was top-class, I have to say that."

 

Finland have certainly been top-class in Group H so far and are already guaranteed a place in the Last 16. They host Nordic rivals Denmark at Pohang knowing that a draw will be enough to win them the group.

 

The Danes can finish top of the group if they win, though they would quite happily take a point, as that would put them through as runners-up. Some people are even speculating that they'll do a deal with Finland and settle for a result that would benefit both teams. If you can remember the shenanigans surrounding West Germany's match with Austria in Gijón at the 1982 World Cup, you'll know the situation only too well.

 

Nigeria will be desperately hoping that history does not repeat itself. They need to beat bottom team Japan in Seoul, hope that Denmark lose, and then pray that there has been a three-goal swing in goal difference. That's the only way that the Super Eagles can qualify.

 

Japan's tournament will end right here come what may, but they will at the very least want to salvage some pride for their country... and the Asian continent. The AFC's representatives in this event have lost 11 matches out of 11 so far.

 

Group Stage

Group G Results

United States of America vs Brazil - at National Stadium, Tokyo

Ronaldinho and Rivaldo each put shots wide for Brazil in a feisty start to this match. Their Seleção team-mate Marinho was booked in the 19th minute for knocking USA striker Eric Wynalda to the ground. Wynalda's strike partner Joe Max Moore had already been booked in the third minute.

 

The Brazilians continued to increase the pressure, putting Kasey Keller under increasing strain midway through the first half. Keller parried a pot-shot from Emerson in the 20th minute and saved a header from Rivaldo in the 25th, but he would eventually crack in the 32nd. A careless lunge on a clean-through Rivaldo saw Keller given his marching orders and Brazil awarded a penalty.

 

Moore was substituted to make way for a replacement goalkeeper in Tony Meola. This was the Kansas City gloveman's 90th cap for Team USA, but it didn't get off to a great start, as Rivaldo emphatically drove his penalty past him. The pre-tournament favourites were 1-0 up in a match that they needed to win to stay in contention.

 

Meola made his first save on 37 minutes, tipping away an effort from Amoroso. The same Brazilian striker was denied again a minute later, when USA right-back Eddie Pope hacked his header off the line. The Yanks would also see Wynalda and Frankie Hejduk go into the book before the break.

 

Brazil did get their second goal on the board three minutes into the second half. That was when Ronaldo finally announced his arrival in the Far East, heading in a delightful cross from right-back Cafú to break his duck. It was a great moment for 'O Fenômeno', who had been a major doubt for this World Cup after three injury-ravaged years.

 

USA coach Bruce Arena subbed Hejduk off immediately after Ronaldo's strike. Wynalda would also leave the field in the 56th minute, but he could not be replaced. After barging Ronaldinho in the back, the 33-year-old was shown his second yellow card, and the Americans were down to NINE men!

 

Team USA could have lost yet another player in the 58th minute, though midfielder Ross Paule escaped with a caution after angrily squaring up to Brazil counterpart Zago. Meola pushed away a long-distance shot from Rivaldo a minute later, as the Seleção onslaught continued and the Americans resigned themselves to another early elimination.

 

Despite having a host of chances, Brazil could not build on their lead in the final half-hour. The closest they came to doing so was when sweeper Rogério Pinheiro volleyed a shot against the bar on 79 minutes. The Brazilians eventually finished with 21 shots on goal (10 on target) to their name, but was a 2-0 win enough to squeak them through?

 

United States of America - 0

Brazil - 2 (Rivaldo pen32, Ronaldo 48)

USA LINE-UP (4-4-2): K Keller; E Pope, M Balboa ©, L Cullen, J Agoos; F Hejduk (A Sanneh 49), R Paule, J O'Brien, C Henderson; JM Moore (T Meola 32), E Wynalda. BOOKED: Moore 3, Wynalda 35, Hejduk 45, Paule 58. SENT OFF: Keller 32, Wynalda 56.

BRAZIL LINE-UP (5-3-2 Sweeper): Dida; R Pinheiro (F Luciano 80); Marinho, Zago; Cafú, Roberto Carlos; Ronaldinho (Giovanni 61), Emerson, Rivaldo; Ronaldo ©, Amoroso (M Alves 61). BOOKED: Marinho 19.

MAN OF THE MATCH: Rivaldo (Brazil).

 

Uruguay vs Romania - at Kobe Universiade Memorial, Kobe

Romania were unlucky not to break the deadlock during the opening quarter-hour. Star forward Adrian Ilie - making his first start of the tournament - hit the bar in the 12th minute, and a similarly slim margin prevented Constantin Barbu from scoring two minutes later. Between those agonising misses came a great chance for Uruguay forward Álvaro Recoba, who was stopped by a save from Romanian keeper Bogdan Stelea.

 

Ilie had missed the Tricolorii's first group match after twisting his knee in training. He suffered an unfortunate recurrence of the injury after 21 minutes, putting his future World Cup involvement in serious doubt. Catalin Munteanu came on in Ilie's place, and within two minutes, he was involved in an attacking move that ended with Barbu's header being stopped by Fabián Carini.

 

On 25 minutes, Uruguay attacking midfielder Andrés Nicolás Olivera was brought down by the outstretched leg of Romania full-back Cosmin Contra. The yellow card came out for what would be the only time in Kobe that afternoon.

 

Uruguayan goalkeeper Carini made a couple of saves late in the first period to keep the half-time scoreline at 0-0. He would have to be called upon again 12 minutes into the second half, palming away a volley from Tricolorii substitute Ioan Viorel Ganea.

 

Carini had another scare on 75 minutes. Barbu's shot took a heavy ricochet off Uruguay centre-half Martín Alzugaray's thigh and almost deflected into the net... but Carini just about palmed it behind. Contra then floated the resultant corner to Ganea, whose header was nodded off the line by La Celeste's other central defender Paolo Montero.

 

Had Romania won this match, they would have eliminated four-time winners Brazil in the process. Five minutes from full-time, though, it was the Tricolorii who were consigned to elimination. Walter Cohelo's header from Recoba's corner ensured that Uruguay won the match (and Group G), with their South American neighbours joining them in Round 2.

 

Uruguay - 1 (W Cohelo 85)

Romania - 0

URUGUAY LINE-UP (4-3-2-1 Narrow): F Carini; W Tais ©, P Montero, M Alzugaray, F Bergara; A Fleurquin (W Cohelo 74), J Anchén (G Poyet 55), M Rivas; D Silva (F O'Neill 49), AN Olivera; Á Recoba.

ROMANIA LINE-UP (4-4-2): B Stelea ©; C Contra, I Filipescu, L Ciobotariu, S Nanu; A Ilie (C Munteanu 21), E Lincar, LC Marinescu, A Stoica (IV Ganea 53); C Barbu, A Mihalcea. BOOKED: Contra 25.

MAN OF THE MATCH: Federico Bergara (Uruguay).

 

GROUP G                            P     W     D     L     F     A     GD    PTS
1.    Q     Uruguay                3     2     1     0     7     3     4     7
2.    Q     Brazil                 3     1     1     1     5     6     -1    4
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
3.          Romania                3     0     2     1     2     3     -1    2
4.          USA                    3     0     2     1     2     4     -2    2

 

Group H Results

Japan vs Nigeria - at Chonan Stadium, Seoul

Nwankwo Kanu hit the bar for Nigeria just six minutes into proceedings. Shortly afterwards, his team-mate Epitié was cynically tripped by Japan captain Hidetoshi Nakata. The Roma and future Bolton winger got his second booking of the tournament, meaning that he would miss the Samurai Blue's first knockout game... if they somehow managed to find a way through.

 

By the 15th minute, there was a stronger chance of Emperor Hirohito coming back from the dead than his football team emerging from the abyss. Kanu pounced on a corner delivery by Finidi to turn the ball in off the post. That sent Nigeria 1-0 ahead and put Japan on course for a third straight defeat.

 

Kanu pushed for another goal on 20 minutes, only to see his low long-ranger tipped wide by Japanese keeper Yoshikatsu Kawaguchi. Strike partner Victor Agali then put a header well wide four minutes later. The Frankfurt forward's game would come to an end in the 39th minute, when he strained his knee ligaments.

 

The thousands of Japanese fans in South Korea's capital had little to cheer during the first half. Striker Tatsuhiko Kubo's audacious overhead kick in the 27th minute never looked like finding the net. Two minutes before that, young midfielder Yasuhito Endo had gone in the book for tripping Nigeria defender Godwin Okpara.

 

It briefly looked like the Samurai Blue would strike in the 61st minute, when Kubo weighted a brilliant centre to debutant right-back Shigeki Tsujimoto. The 23-year-old Purple Sanga defender got his head to the cross, but he unfortunately struck the woodwork.

 

Nigeria's Super Eagles then spread their wings and flew out of Japan's sights. Kanu wrapped up his brace in the 73rd minute with a bullet header from Epitié's long ball. With that, it was effectively confirmed that all four Asian teams would leave the tournament without accumulating a single point between them. It had been a World Cup to forget for the host continent.

 

Nigeria now had a win, a draw and a defeat on their record. It would only be enough to send them into Round 2 if Denmark had lost comfortably against Finland.

 

Japan - 0

Nigeria - 2 (N Kanu 15,73)

JAPAN LINE-UP (4-4-2): Y Kawaguchi; S Tsujimoto, Y Nakazawa, H Suzuki, K Nakata; H Nakata ©, D Oku (M Motoyama 57), Y Endo (S Mochizuki 57), T Hirano; T Hirase, T Kubo. BOOKED: H Nakata 6, Endo 25.

NIGERIA LINE-UP (5-3-2 Sweeper): I Shorunmu; Uche; T West ©, G Okpara; Finidi, J Shakpoke; Epitié, S Oliseh, JJ Okocha (U Okafor 81); V Agali (Aliyu 39), N Kanu.

MAN OF THE MATCH: Nwankwo Kanu (Nigeria).

 

Denmark vs Finland - at Pohang Stadium, Pohang

After winning their first two Group H fixtures, Finland went into this Nordic derby high on confidence. In the 13th minute, Joonas Kolkka whipped a corner to his fellow midfielder Tommi Grönlund. Denmark keeper Thomas Sørensen parried it behind to give away another Kolkka corner, which was rather less effective.

 

Finland's next attack on 30 minutes would have more success. Fredrick Nordback's cross into the box was excellently controlled by Liverpool's teen talent Daniel Sjölund, who jinked past Danish defender René Henriksen and thundered the ball home. Sjölund now had four goals at this World Cup, which was three more than he'd managed in his entire club career thus far (That lone club goal came while he was on loan at FC Jokerit in the Finnish league last season).

 

Danish winger Jesper Grønkjær could've equalised in the 40th minute, when he got to a low cross from Miklos Molnar. Sadly for him, his fierce drive was stopped by Jussi Jääskeläinen in the Finnish goal. Grønkjær's frustration would get on top of him two minutes later, when he was yellow-carded for pushing Nordback.

 

The Finns collected a yellow card of their own in the 47th minute, with centre-half Petri Pasanen going into the referee's book. That was followed five minutes later by another fine save from Jääskeläinen, this time to stop Ebbe Sand drawing Denmark level.

 

Finland then suffered a double blow after 67 minutes. Firstly, substitute midfielder Jarkko Wiss strained his thigh and had to be subbed himself. Moments later, Molnar latched onto a cross from Morten Wieghorst and blasted it first-time past Jääskeläinen, putting the Danish Dynamite back on terms.

 

A 1-1 draw was ideal for both teams, as it would send them through to the next round and shut Nigeria out. The final 23 minutes and stoppage time would see no more goals. That being said, there was no repeat of the 'Disgrace of Gijón'.

 

Even though a tie kept Finland at the top, the Huuhkajat really wanted to have exited the Group Stage with three straight victories. In the 70th minute, defensive substitute Janne Salli was booked following a full-blooded lunge on Grønkjær. Seven minutes later, the Finns' star man Jari Litmanen crashed a fierce shot against the post. A matter of inches was all that kept Denmark's unbeaten record intact.

 

Denmark - 1 (M Molnar 67)

Finland - 1 (D Sjölund 30)

DENMARK LINE-UP (4-4-2): T Sørensen; T Helveg ©, R Henriksen, S Bidstrup, U Laursen; D Rommedahl (M Bisgaard 53), M Wieghorst, T Gravesen, J Grønkjær; M Molnar, E Sand (P Møller 53). BOOKED: Grønkjær 42.

FINLAND LINE-UP (4-3-1-2): J Jääskeläinen; H Ylönen (J Wiss HT (T Tainio 67)), P Pasanen, S Hyypiä ©, V Nylund; F Nordback, T Grönlund, J Kolkka (J Salli HT); J Litmanen; M Kottila, D Sjölund. BOOKED: Pasanen 47, Salli 70.

MAN OF THE MATCH: René Henriksen (Denmark).

 

GROUP H                            P     W     D     L     F     A     GD    PTS
1.    Q     Finland                3     2     1     0     8     2     6     7
2.    Q     Denmark                3     1     2     0     4     2     2     5
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
3.          Nigeria                3     1     1     1     3     2     1     4
4.          Japan                  3     0     0     3     1     10    -9    0

 

Round 2

Fixtures

29 June - Russia vs Czech Republic (in Seoul, SK)

29 June - Italy vs Ukraine (in Yokohama, JP)

30 June - Netherlands vs Sweden (in Kobe, JP)

30 June - Finland vs Brazil (in Tokyo, JP)

1 July - Germany vs France (in Ulsan, SK)

1 July - Wales vs Cameroon (in Hiroshima, JP)

2 July - Argentina vs Colombia (in Pohang, SK)

2 July - Uruguay vs Denmark (in Tokyo, JP)

 

The top half is very much a European affair. Russia and the Czech Republic will be very tough to split in the opening match. One imagines, though, that Italy and the Netherlands will continue their serene progress at the expense of Ukraine and Sweden. Finland's dream World Cup could come to an end against Brazil, who must now beat off three UEFA members to reach another Final.

 

There's no doubting about what most fans will be looking forward to on 1 July... but I imagine a few of you will be excited about Germany vs France as well. Africa's last remaining team Cameroon will be slight favourites to beat Wales. Argentina and Colombia will then battle it out for CONMEBOL bragging rights before regional rivals Uruguay end the round against our third Nordic team - Denmark.

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I laughed at the turnip joke!

This is great stuff, really engaging and love the humour. 

Any predictions on who might end up victorious?

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