World Cup Special
Tom ‘Darlinda’ Lappin tests his battered reputation as a forecaster once more with his tips for World Cup success. The management accepts no responsibility
for any losing bets.
Dateline: Friday I7 June. Venue: The suitably martially-named Soldier Field. Chicago. The combatants are holders Germany and tricky South Americans Bolivia. The hype. the commerce. the training. the anticipation end here at 8pm our time. as the fifteenth World Cup Finals kicks off.
A month later in Los Angeles somebody will be hoisting high the gold statuette that has never managed to shake off its Cup misnomer. and twenty million British TV viewers will sigh and say. ‘that‘s it over for another four years. is that Lm'ejoy repeat on the other side‘?‘
Motherwell fans will testify to the sadly limited oracular skills of The List sports desk. and The World Cup is a much more complicated beast than the Scottish Premier Division. Nevertheless. in the spirit of ‘nothing ventured. nothing picked up at the Ladbrokes payout counter‘ here's a speculative guide to how the first round groups might pan out. Just don‘t come crying to us if a resurgent Saudi Arabia side ruin your coupon.
A tricky one to read this. Hosts USA get an automatic seeding and they did give Graham Taylor‘s England a gubbing last summer. but they should struggle against a trio of useful middle-rankers. A lot of clever money has been staked on the Colombians, and Romania and Switzerland certainly have the players. if not the team spirit. The Yanks won’t ﬁnd it easy.
Final table: I. Colombia 2. Switzerland 4. USA
with the city‘s Gay Games. Elsewhere American awareness of the World Cup is roughly on a par with the nation‘s grasp of taste and restraint. Limited.
is for Victors A European side Vhas never won a World Cup
played in the Americas. In the past this has been blamed on esoteric and desperate causes: altitude sick- ness. Bobby Moore being framed for jewellery theft. goalkeepers being poisoned. players being kept awake all night by excitable Latin Americans massing outside their hotels. culture shock. bent referees. crowd intimidation and the unsettling rhythms of the Mexican wave. to name just a few. In the land ofthe free-market. democratic. good old civilised US of A. these excuses are no longer valid. What tortuous expla- nations will take their place?
The List 3-l6 June l994
Potentially the toughest group, although the Cameroon side is rumoured to be a shadow of its I990 self. Brazil will expect a lot from Euro-strikers Bebeto and Romario. while Russia and Sweden are both sporadically talented sides who tend to struggle in the Finals once they‘ve swaggered through their qualifiers. Final table: 1. Brazil 2. 4.Sweden.
Germany tend to take a while getting into gear. but shouldn‘t have any problems qualifying from this group. Spain are potential dark horses. particularly if Barcelona‘s Bakero is on form. Bolivia caused Brazil some embarrassment in the qualifiers, but South Korea are probably the nearest thing the toumament has to fall guys. Final table:
1. Spain 2. Germany 3. Bolivia 4. South Korea
Bulgaria saw off France in the last minute of their qualifier. but they've never won a game in sixteen attempts at the Finals and one Stoichkov doesn‘t make a summer. Argentina have resilience when their skill lets them down as they proved in 1990. Greece‘s recent 5—0 thrashing at Wernbley suggests they are out ofthcir depth. but African champions Iiigeria are tipped to be the revelation of the tournament.
Russia 3. Cameroon
i.Nigeria 2. Argentina 3. Bulgaria 4. Greece
“llot the yellow card, I never touched him . .
“That's Zubizarreta with a tee . . .”
Big Jack‘s Irish troubadours will take some stopping. fuelled as they are by a balanced diet of Guinness and Shredded Wheat. They‘re a subtler. hardier side than the heroes who got to the quarter-finals in I990 where Italy were unlucky not to win the trophy. The Italians this time. built around Maldini at the back with Baggio doing everything else. are potentially the most exciting side in the tournament. with defensive Norway the dullest. Mexico return after a lengthy ban and could spring a few surprises.
Final table: 1. Italy 2. Norway
Deserts versus lowlands. Belgium are remarkably consistent World Cup performers. but their squad is one of their weakest. Holland have brought back Gullit but still miss Van Basten. If they can avoid their usual internal squabbles they should progress. Morocco have a good Cup pedigree and won't mind the high temperatures. Saudi Arabia are South Korea‘s nearest challenger for the also-rans‘ title.
Final table: I. Holland 2. Belgium 3. Morocco 4. Saudi Arabia
You‘re on your own after this I‘m afraid. Surprise packages rarely make it beyond the quaner—ftnals though. so expect the ﬁnal four to come from Italy. Brazil. Argentina. Germany. Holland and maybe Colombia. Wishful thinking suggests an
Ireland 3. Mexico 4.
is for Willimowski, a glum Polish chappie who banged in
four goals in a 1938 World Cup tie and still ended up on the los- ing side. Not a lot of people know that. but John Motson is probably one ofthem.
is for Xtra time. Lots of it. The Xiast World Cup was marred by
the increasing numbers of teams settling for draws and chancing their nerve in the penalty shoot-out. FIFA have discussed the possibility of sud- den-death extra-time for this touma- rnent. This is a welcome back-to-basics idea inspired by the familiar schooldays situation when you're tn the middle ofa tight game. Your Mum emerges to shout that your tea‘s ready and somebody says. ‘OK. next goal is the winner'. Of course World Cup ties are unlikely to be ruined by the hungry fat kid who can‘t wait for his beans on toast and greedin cycles off on the Chopper
FIRST ROUND HIGHLIGHTS l
TV coverage has yet to be con- ﬁrmed, but these are the absolute essential games from the ﬁrst ~ week or so of US '94. Kick-offs are UK times.
I‘ltaly v Ireland New Jersey. 9pm. Every rosary bead on the Eastern seaboard will be ﬁngered feveristh during the repeat of the 1990 quarter-ﬁnal. Opening group games are traditionally tight affairs (although the three points for a win rule might change things). but the atmosphere should be electric. Sat 18.
I Colombia v Romania Los Angeles. I2.30am. Worth staying up late for a ﬁrst glimpse of the spectacular Colombians. taking on an ageing but exciting Romanian squad. Sat 18.
I Romany v Spain Chicago. 9pm. The holders‘ second game pits them against their toughest chal- lengers in the group, offering the first clues as to whether the Germans remain the force they were in 1990. Tues 21.
I Brazil v Cameroon San Francisco. 9pm. A free and easy footballing exhibition or a poten- tial blood bath? A lot will depend on Cameroon’s attitude. but it's a chance to see how Brazil are approaching the tournament. Fri 24.
I Belgium v Holland Orlando. 5.30pm. The Iowianders battle it out in the Florida midday heat. Worth watching for the sight of pale and tubby Ronald Koeman sweltering in the Dutch defence. Sat 24.
I Argentina v lllgeria Boston. 9pm. Argentina were beaten by Cameroon in their opening game in Italy, and most neutrals will be willing Nigeria to win this one. Sat 24.
Italy/Brazil final, with the Italians shading a classic match.
you were using for a goalpost. before the decider can be scored.
is for Yellow Card, the intema- Ytionai symbol for ‘watch your-
selfsonny‘. An intriguing wager before the tournament is to speculate as to which country will pick up the most cautions (score double for a red card). The South Americans are prob- ably stilI well ahead ofthe field in the gratuitous nastiness stakes. but the African nations are catching up fast. In the I990 tournament. the standard of violence displayed by the Cameroon side impressed the most cynical of pundits.
is for Zmuda, the efficient Polish qulI-back who played more World
Cup ties than anybody else. until his record was eclipsed by the simi- larly-initialled Italian goalkeeper Zoff. Not far behind is Spain‘s most-capped member of their current squad. goalie Zubizarreta who makes up the short-
fall by boasting two Zs to his name. J
Pictures taken from Shotlz Football in the 70s (Gollancl, £12.99)