World Cup capsules: A detailed look at 32 participating nations.
By Jerry Langdon
Gannett News Service
(Wednesday, June 3, 1998) -- The final rosters have been submitted by the 32
nations participating in the World Cup in France.
If form holds true in the early rounds, the quarterfinals would be:
* Italy vs. France.
* Brazil vs. Nigeria or Spain.
* Netherlands vs. Argentina.
* Germany vs. England.
The semifinals might then pair juggernauts Brazil and Argentina, with European
powers vying for the other finals slot -- setting up South America versus
Europe for the crown.
Among top second-round pairings, if favorites win in the first round:
* France vs. Nigeria.
* Germany vs. Belgium or Mexico (runnerup in Group E).
* Netherlands vs. Yugoslavia or United States (runnerup in Group F).
* England vs. Croatia.
Jerry Langdon is the Gannett News Service sports editor and can be e-mailed at
Here are updated capsules of the 32 participating nations:
Team by team capsules by group
(Key: F - forward; M - midfielder; D - defender; GK - goalkeeper)
Group A (Brazil, Morocco, Norway, Scotland)
Group B (Austria, Cameroon, Chile, Italy)
Group C (Denmark, France, Saudi Arabia, South Africa)
Group D (Bulgaria, Nigeria, Paraguay, Spain)
Group E (Belgium, Mexico, Netherlands, South Korea)
Group F (Germany, Iran, United States, Yugoslavia)
Group G (Columbia, England, Romania, Tunisia)
Group H (Argentina, Croatia, Jamaica, Japan)
Key players: F Ronaldo (Inter Milan, Italy), M Leonardo (AC Milan,
Italy), M Dunga (Jubilo Iwata, Japan), M Giovanni (Barcelona, Spain), D Roberto
Carlos (Real Madrid, Spain).
Previous appearances: (15) 1930 - 94. Won in 1958, 1962,
Analysis: One of the top favorites, but no longer the unquestioned
choice. Loss of Romario (calf) will allow rivals to concentrate much more on
striker Ronaldo. Questions abound at playmaker, with Denilson (Sao Paulo) out of
favor and Juninho (Atletico Madrid, Spain) not judged fully recovered from
broken leg suffered three months ago. Lack of organization on defense a problem.
Zagallo in sixth World Cup, won twice as player in 1958 and 1962, was coach of
the victorious 1970 team and unsuccessful 1974 squad and was assistant on the
Coach: Henri Michel.
Key players: F Salaheddine Bassir (Deportivo Coruna, Spain), M Mustapha
Hadji (Deportivo Coruna, Spain), D Noureddine Naybet (Deportivo Coruna, Spain),
D Abdelkrim El Hadrioui (Benfica, Portugal).
Previous appearances: (3) 1970, 1986, 1994.
Analysis: Speedy counterattack is main offensive weapon from cautious,
defensively oriented team that has problems at goalkeeper. Key is the return to
good health of Bassir. The hub of the offense is Hadji, a native of France who
played eight years at Nancy. First-round elimination is expected.
Coach: Egil Olsen.
Key players: F Tore Andre Flo (Chelsea, England), F Ole Gunnar Solskjaer
(Manchester United, England), D Henning Berg (Manchester United, England), D Ronnie
Johnsen (Manchester United, England).
Previous appearances: (2) 1938, 1994.
Analysis: This is a team not afraid of Brazil, witness its 4-2 rout of
the world champions in Oslo a year ago. Known for long-ball attack and tireless
running, Norway has improved attacking options. Favored to make second round and
could go further.
Coach: Craig Brown.
Key players: F Kevin Gallacher (Blackburn, England), M John Collins
(Monaco, France), M Paul Lambert (Glasgow Celtic), D Colin Hendry (Blackburn, England).
Previous appearances: (7) 1954, 1958, 1974 - 90.
Analysis: "I don't think too many (teams) will relish playing our
defense," Coach Craig Brown said. Punch-less offense is a big problem, though
Gallacher is an above-average scorer. Getting him the ball is the question. Loss of
M Gary McAllister (knee) was serious.
Coach: Herbert Prohaska.
Key players: F Toni Polster (Cologne, Germany), M Andreas Herzog
(Werder Bremen, Germany), D Wolfgang Feiersinger (Dortmund, Germany).
Previous appearances: (6) 1934, 1954, 1958, 1978, 1982, 1990.
Analysis: Team struggled in homefield losses to Hungary and the
United States. Polster is a key threat on attack. GK Michael Konsel has been
slowed by injuries. Despite problems, wins against Cameroon and Chile not
Coach: Claude Le Roy.
Key players: D Rigobert Song (Metz, France), F Patrick Mboma (Gamba
Osaka, Japan), F Oman Biyik (Sampdoria, Italy), F Alphonse Tchami (Hertha Berlin,
Previous appearances: (3) 1982, 1990, 1994,
Analysis: Lacks cohesion. Quarterfinalist in '90, but a mess four years
later in United States. Loss of M Marc Foe due to broken left leg major problem.
Song is superstar on defense. Not much is expected in France, though this is a
modest bracket aside from Italy.
Coach: Nelson Acosta.
Key players: F Ivan Zamorano (Inter Milan, Italy), F Marcelo Salas (River
Plate, Argentina), D Javier Margas (Universidad Catolica), D Pedro Reyes (Colo Colo).
Previous appearances: (6) 1930, 1950, 1962, 1966, 1974, 1982.
Analysis: Two brilliant strikers, but they need to be more aggressive
and get creative service from M Jose Luis Sierra (Colo Colo) and M Marcelo Vega
(New York/New Jersey, MLS). Defense is more than adequate. This is a team that
should advance to the second round.
Coach: Cesare Maldini.
Key players: D Paolo Maldini (AC Milan), M Dino Baggio (Parma), M
Demetrio Albertini (AC Milan), F Alessandro Del Piero (Juventus), F Christian Vieri
(Atletico Madrid, Spain).
Previous appearances: (13) 1934, 1938, 1950, 1954, 1962 - 94. Won in 1934,
Analysis: Del Piero is close to superstar status at 23 and expects to have
hamstring OK soon. Italy has the goal-scorers at forward; getting them the ball is
another question. Midfield depth and creativity lacking. Veteran defense solid,
though AC Milan club play of Paolo Maldini and Alessandro Costacurta was erratic in
last month of season. 1994 goalkeeper starter Gianluca Pagliuca replaces injured
Angelo Peruzzi (calf). Heavy favorite to win group.
Coach: Bo Johansson.
Key players: GK Peter Schmeichel (Manchester United, England), D Marc
Rieper (Glasgow Celtic, Scotland), D Michael Schjoenberg (Kaiserslautern,
Germany), M Michael Laudrup (Ajax Amsterdam, Netherlands), F Brian Laudrop
(Glasgow Rangers, Scotland).
Previous appearance: (1) 1986.
Analysis: Denmark hasn't been in World Cup since 1986. Has switched
from cautious 3-5-2 to more aggressive 4-4-2. Peter Schmeichel is brilliant veteran
in goal. Late loss in Sweden discouraging. Expected to battle South Africa and
Saudi Arabia for second advancement slot, behind France.
Coach: Aime Jacquet.
Key players: M Zinedine Zidane (Juventus, Italy), M Marcel Desailly (AC
Milan, Italy), M Youri Djorkaeff (Inter Milan, Italy), M Didier Deschamps
(Juventus, Italy), D Laurent Blanc (Marseille),
Previous appearances: (9) 1930, 1934, 1938, 1954, 1958, 1966, 1978,
Analysis: Pressure is on the home side. French have gone to a more
attacking mode in recent months. Zidane, slowed occasionally by ankle injury,
carries the offensive load with extraordinary playmaking. Lack an overpowering
striker. No problems expected in first round.
Coach: Carlos Alberto Parreira.
Key players: F Sami-Al-Jaber (Al-Hilal), M Khalid Al-Muwallid (Al-Ahli),
D Hussein Sulimani (Al-Ahli), D Mohammed Al-Khilawi (Al-Ittihad), GK Mohammed
Previous appearance: (1) 1994.
Analysis: Defense is big question for Saudi Arabia. Top players eschewed
going abroad to high-level leagues and instead remained home. Will '94 star M
Saeed Owairan regain form? He ran afoul of Islamic law authorities for partying
exploits in 1996, spending some time in a detention center. Parreira, who won with
Brazil four years ago, is in fourth World Cup with fourth different team.
Coach: Philippe Troussier.
Key players: D Mark Fish (Bolton, England), M/D Lucas Radebe (Leeds,
England), M John Moshoeu (Fenerbahce, Turkey), F Phil Masinga (Bari, Italy), F
Benedict McCarthy (Ajax Amsterdam, Netherlands).
Previous appearance: First.
Analysis: Team has had three different coaches in six months. One
question involves role of playmaker Doctor Khumalo, formerly a star but in
decline the past year after two mediocre seasons in United States. Another former
Major League Soccer player, F Shaun Bartlett, also is in the mix. Talent is there
to contend for No. 2 spot in group.
Coach: Hristo Bonev.
Key players: D Trifon Ivanov (CSKA Sofia), M Krassimir Balakov
(Stuttgart, Germany), F Hristo Stoichkov (CSKA Sofia), F Lyuboslav Penev
(Compostela, Spain), F Emil Kostadinov (CSKA Sofia).
Previous appearances: (6) 1962, 1966, 1970, 1974, 1986, 1994.
Analysis: Aging team will find difficulty approaching stunning
fourth-place finish in 1994. In fact, it probably won't survive the first
round. Team likely to rely more on midfield attack than traditional emphasis
on forwards. Left out in squad selection was '94 mainstay midfielder Yordan
Lechkov, who has not played since February when he walked out on Turkish club Besiktas.
Coach: Bora Milutinovic.
Key players: D Uche Okechukwu (Fenerbahce, Turkey), M Finidi George
(Real Betis, Spain), M Sunday Oliseh (Ajax Amsterdam, Netherlands), F Daniel
Amokachi (Besiktas, Turkey), F Victoir Ikpeba (Monaco, France), M/F Nwankwo Kanu
(Inter Milan, Italy).
Previous appearance: (1) 1994.
Analysis: Can fired Mexico coach, in fourth World Cup with fourth
different team, organize explosive offensive Super Eagles into coherent,
two-way team that also plays consistent defense? Loss of goalkeeper Ike
Shorunmu, 30, with fractured right arm doesn't help. Unimpressive in 3-0 loss
at Yugoslavia. Favored to advance to second round but not a sure bet anymore.
Coach: Paolo Cesar Carpeggiani.
Key players: GK Jose Luis Chilavert (Velez Sarsfield, Argentina), D
Francisco Arce (Palmeiras, Brazil), D Celso Ayala (River Plate, Argentina), M
Roberto Acuna (Real Zaragoza, Spain).
Previous appearances: (4) 1930, 1950, 1958, 1986.
Analysis: Dominant is combative goalkeeper Jose Luis Chilavert, who
takes his team's penalty kicks and most free kicks of less than 35 yards. F
Aristides Rojas is a modest attacking threat. Big question is midfield; can
Acuna get the team going in the right direction? Not expected to get out of group.
Coach: Javier Clemente.
Key players: M Raul Gonzales (Real Madrid), M Fernando Hierro (Real
Madrid), M Luis Enrique Martinez (Barcelona), D Sergi Barjuan (Barcelona).
Previous appearances: (9) 1934, 1950, 1962, 1966, 1978 - 94.
Analysis: Loss of M Josep Guardiola due to persistent leg muscle
problems a blow. Veteran goalkeeper Andoni Zubizarreta struggling with left calf
injury. Gonzales is one of the best young strikers in the sport. Barjuan is an
excellent defender and long-range shooter. Scoring punch needed. Spain should
advance to second round.
Coach: Georges Leekens.
Key players: F Luc Nilis (PSV Eindhoven, Netherlands), M Enzo Scifo (Anderlecht,
Belgium), M Marc Wilmots (Schalke, Germany), M Franky Van der Elst (Club Bruges), F
Luis Oliveira (Fiorentina, Italy).
Previous appearances: (9) 1930-1938, 1954, 1970, 1982-94.
Analysis: Defense may be a problem on team that has tried to shed
conservative image by stressing attack. "If you pull up the bedsheets, you expose
your feet," Leekens said. Scifo, 32, and Van der Elst, 37, are set for fourth
World Cup. Probably must beat Mexico to advance to second round.
Coach: Manuel Lapuente.
Key players: D Claudio Suarez (Guadalajara), D/M Ramon Ramirez
(Guadalajara), M/F Luis Garcia (Atlante), F Luis Hernandez (Necaxa).
Previous appearances: (10) 1930, 1950, 1954, 1958, 1962, 1966, 1970,
1978, 1986, 1994.
Analysis: Bora Milutinovic was sacked after finishing qualifying round
with four straight ties. Team has not played well this spring. Refusal to select
high-scoring Carlos Hermosillo (Los Angeles Galaxy, MLS) has been controversial.
Can goalkeeper Jorge Campos (Chicago Fire, MLS) come up big despite 5-9 height
and tendency to leave his line?
Coach: Guus Hiddink.
Key players: D Jaap Stam (PSV Eindhoven), D Frank de Boer (Ajax
Amsterdam), M Clarence Seedorf (Real Madrid, Spain), M Marc Overmars (Arsenal,
England), F Dennis Bergkamp (Arsenal, England), F Patrick Kluivert (AC Milan, Italy).
Previous appearances: (6) 1934, 1938, 1974, 1978, 1990, 1994.
Analysis: Awesome attacking talent both up front and on the wings, but
fingers are crossed on F Bergkamp, held out of recent matches due to hamstring.
Midfield not consistent on defense, but Edgar Davids (Juventus, Italy) should be
big help. He was called up despite being absent nearly two years due to feud with
coach. Lack of mental toughness cited by some Dutch critics who say team has talent
to go a long way in France.
Coach: Bum-Kun Cha
Key players: D Hong Myung-bo (Bellmare Hiratsuka, Japan), F Choi
Young-su (Sangmoo), F Hwang Sun-hong (Pohang Steelers).
Previous appearances: (4) 1954, 1986, 1990, 1994.
Analysis: Hard-working and athletic, South Korea has been the dominant
team in Asia and did well in '94 though not advancing. Yet to win in 10 matches
past three World Cups. Midfield consistency is the big question. The winless string
may continue in the deepest group in France.
Coach: Berti Vogts.
Key players: D Juergen Kohler (Dortmund), M Andreas Moeller (Dortmund),
M Thomas Haessler (Karlsruhe), F Oliver Bierhoff (Udinese, Italy), F Ulf
Kirsten (Bayer Leverkusen), F Juergen Klinsmann (Tottenham, England).
Previous appearances: (13) 1934, 1938, 1954 - 94. Won in 1954, 1974, 1990.
Analysis: Germany is feared due to its methodical, tenacious play. It
lacks flair but persistence wears down rivals. Defender Thomas Helmer questionable
with thigh muscle tear. Aging team. Tough decision at loaded striker position, with
four stars for two slots. Must get leadership at midfield. Question at libero
(sweeper), where Olaf Thon is questionable, forcing callup of Lothar Mattheaus, 37,
for his fifth World Cup, tying him with former Mexico goalkeeper Antonio Carbajal
(1950-66) for the most in history. One of the elite teams. Vogts played on 1974
World Cup-title team.
Coach: Jahal Talebi.
Key players: F Ali Daei (Arminia Bielefeld, Germany), F Khodadad Azizi
(Cologne, Germany), M Karim Bagheri (Arminia Bielefeld, Germany).
Previous appearance: (1) 1978.
Analysis: Little chance given defensively challenged team with fourth
coach since September. Might put all its marbles on historic second game, against
arch-political rival United States. Daei recently was purchased by German power
Coach: Steve Sampson.
Key players: GK Kasey Keller (Leicester, England), D Eddie Pope (D.C.
United), D/M Thomas Dooley (Columbus Crew), D David Regis (Karlsruhe, Germany), M
Claudio Reyna (Wolfsburg, Germany), M Cobi Jones (Los Angeles Galaxy).
Previous appearances: (5) 1930, 1934, 1950, 1990, 1994.
Analysis: Martinique native D David Regis became citizen in mid-May,
quickly nailed down starting slot. Biggest problems are single striker position -
all-time scoring leader Eric Wynalda (San Jose Clash) is recovering from knee
injury - and right wing midfield slot, where newcomer Frankie Hejduk (Tampa Bay
Mutiny) is recovering from hamstring. Heavy responsibility on playmaker Reyna, who
has speed to burn with Jones and Hejduk (if healthy) on flanks and in front with M
Ernie Stewart (NAC Breda, Netherlands). Can Brian Maissonneuve (Columbus Crew) and
Chad Deering (Wolfsburg, Germany) hold up at defensive midfield?
Coach: Slobodan Santrac.
Key players: D Sinisa Mihaljovic (Sampdoria, Italy), M Dragan Stojkovic
(Grampus Eight, Japan), M Vladimir Jugovic (Lazio, Italy), F/M Dejan Savicevic
(AC Milan, Italy), F Predrag Mijatovic (Real Madrid, Spain), F Dejan Stankovic
(Red Star, Belgrade).
Previous appearances: (8) 1930, 1950, 1954, 1958, 1962, 1974, 1982, 1990.
Analysis: War in the Balkans robbed banned Yugoslavia of a possible
peak performance in 1994. "We are aware of our qualities and have been waiting for
six years for some sort of colossal success," Mijatovic said. "We think we're
among the best two or three teams who will be in France." That's a reach, but maybe
not by much. Yugoslavia is strongly favored to advance, at the expense of third-game
opponent United States.
Coach: Hernan Dario Gomez.
Key players: D Jorge Bermudez (Boca Juniors, Argentina), M Carlos
Valderrama (Miami Fusion, MLS), M Freddy Rincon (Corinthians, Brazil), F
Faustino Asprilla (Parma, Italy).
Previous appearances: (3) 1962, 1990, 1994.
Analysis: Biggest flop of 1994, this team is aging. Valderrama is 36
but still the hub of offense. Asprilla appears to have overcome long-term groin
injury. More emphasis on defense has occurred but there are still holes. Not a
sure thing to advance even with Romania and Tunisia included in group.
Coach: Glenn Hoddle.
Key players: GK David Seaman (Arsenal), D Gary Neville (Manchester
United), Tony Adams (Arsenal), M Paul Ince (Liverpool), M David Beckham
(Manchester United), F Alan Shearer (Newcastle).
Previous appearances: (9) 1950, 1954, 1958, 1962, 1966, 1970, 1982,
1986, 1990. Won in 1966.
Analysis: England is capable of winning the World Cup, and the dropping
of injury-plauged M Paul Gascoigne may help improve the team focus. F Michael Owen
(Liverpool), 18, is a deadly finisher. "We're a very confident squad," Shearer
said. "... A lot of teams fear England now, that's the important thing."
Coach: Anghel Iordanescu.
Key players: D Dan Petrescu (Chelsea, England), M Gheorghe Popescu
(Galatasaray, Turkey), M Gheorge Hagi (Galatasaray, Turkey), F Adrian Ilie
Previous appearances: (6) 1930, 1934, 1938, 1970, 1990, 1994.
Analysis: Team has changed little since 1990, which is the problem.
Benefitted by easy European qualifying group. One of the surprises in 1994,
losing to Sweden in a quarterfinal shootout. Coach to leave afterwards for a
two-year contract with Greece.
Coach: Henry Kasperczak.
Key players: M Zoubier Beya (Freiburg, Germany), M Adel Sellimi (Jaen,
Spain), F Skander Souayah (CSS Faxien).
Previous appearance: (1) 1978.
Analysis: Once the doormats of African soccer, Tunisia has improved
considerably in recent years. Strong support from large French immigrant base
is expected. Strength in central midfield, but finishing is poor. Injury to
high-scoring attacking M Hassan Gabsi has hurt attack. Longshot to win a game.
Coach: Daniel Passarella.
Key players: F Gabriel Batistuta (Fiorentina, Italy), M Ariel Ortega
(Valencia, Spain), M Diego Simeone (Inter Milan, Italy), D Nestor Sensini
(Parma, Italy), D Roberto Ayala (Napoli, Italy).
Previous appearances: (11) 1930, 1934, 1958, 1962, 1966, 1974, 1978,
1982, 1986, 1990, 1994. Won in 1978, 1986.
Analysis: Strong, balanced side, capable of winning the World Cup as
shown by recent triumph in Brazil. Batistuta could be the scoring star. First
time since 1974 without legendary playmaker Diego Maradona in uniform for World
Cup. M Sergio Berti (River Plate) questionable due to leg injury. Depth at
striker position. Brilliant long-haired M Fernando Redondo (Real Madrid, Spain)
absent; has longstanding feud with coach.
Coach: Miroslav Blasovic.
Key players: F Davor Suker (Real Madrid, Spain), M Zvonimir Boban (AC
Milan, Italy), M Robert Prosinecki (Croatia Zagreb).
Previous appearance: First.
Analysis: No team suffered more losses in May. Star F Alen Boksic
(Lazio, Italy) is out due to knee surgery. F Igor Cvitanovic (Real Sociedad, Spain)
was dropped when he refused to run post-practice laps. Defense is inexperienced,
and team is not odds-on favorite anymore to advance. Boban was banned from the
1990 Yugoslavia World Cup team. While playing with Dynamo Zagreb in an aborted
league match against Red Star Belgrade, he kicked a policeman to protect a fan, he
said, from baton-charging police - and became a hero in Croatia, which won
independence from Yugoslavia in 1991.
Coach: Rene Simoes.
Key players: GK Warren Barrett (Violet Kickers), D Ian Goodison
(Olympic Gardens), D Linval Dixon (Hazard FC), M Theodore Whitmore (Seba), M Robbie
Earle (Wimbledon, England), M Paul Hall (Portsmouth, England), F Deon Burton
(Derby, England), F Andrew Williams (Columbus Crew, MLS).
Previous appearance: First.
Analysis: The style of soccer is free-flowing and attractive, but the
Reggae Boyz have failed to score much in an ambitious spring schedule. British-born
players of Jamaican descent helped the team qualify, and more have been added.
"They play with a very Brazilian philosophy - confident with the ball, calm and
looking for space," Simoes said of the natives. "(However), no one plays hard
(rough) in Jamaica. I have to look to the players from England for that."
Coach: Takeshi Okada.
Key players: D Masami Ihara, (Yokohama Marinos), M Hidetoshi Nakata
(Bellmare Hiratsuka), F Wagner Lopes (Bellmare Hiratsuka), F Masashi Nakayama
Previous appearance: First.
Analysis: Japan lacks muscle and international experience, but it has
good speed. Nakata, the playmaker, is budding superstar. Lopes is a naturalized
Brazilian. Nakayama had four hat-tricks in J-League this spring. Huge crowd
support from thousands of countrymen traveling to France is expected. Not likely
to win a game.