Want to know which country will win the 1986 World Cup? You could do worse than ask Antonio Battista.
It was Battista, described locally as "magician, fortune teller, seer, and chairman of Italy's magician association," who, before Tuesday's Italy-France match, predicted the downfall of the reigning world champions.
"The witches are on France's side," Battista said an hour or so before the game began. "Their magic sphere is spinning to the left. That is bad for Italy. It has a 99% chance of losing. The final score will be 2-0 or 2-1."
For those who missed it, France won, 2-0.
Drug Diversion: Spain's surprisingly convincing win over Denmark Wednesday will no doubt divert attention from the fact that the Spanish are the only team so far to have become embroiled in a World Cup drug problem.
Scandal is too strong a word, since the incident appears to have been accidental, but it has raised some interesting questions.
Spanish midfielder Ramon Caldere failed the postmatch drug test after his country's first-round victory over Northern Ireland. An inquiry by FIFA, world soccer's governing body, revealed that Caldere, suffering from stomach problems and a cough, had been given medication containing an undisclosed banned substance.
The Spanish soccer association was fined the equivalent of about $13,890 by FIFA, and the team doctor was admonished. But Caldere escaped without punishment because a FIFA official said the player "did not know what he had taken."
Said Caldere: "I did what I was ordered to and I did not know I was taking something prohibited."
Said Spanish Coach Miguel Munoz: "If I had known, he would not even have been on the bench."
But what if all the Spanish players had been given the medication without the coach's knowledge? Would FIFA still have allowed the result to stand?
Denmark, before Wednesday's game, protested the fact that FIFA had not taken action against Caldere. The Danish contention was that innocence by reason of ignorance is a dangerous precedent to set.
The African Challenge: Brazil is almost certain to be the host nation for the 1994 World Cup, with the United States being held in reserve in case the Brazilian economy falls apart even further during the next eight years.
Now, however, a new candidate has emerged to challenge Brazil. Morocco has officially informed FIFA that it wishes to be considered as the first African country to play host to the event.
"We have the stadiums, we have the experience and we have the infrastructure to hold the event," Moroccan Sports Minister Semlali Abdellatif said earlier this week. "The bid has the full support of King Hassan II."
Morocco has been the host for the Mediterranean Games and the Pan-Arab Games in recent years.
In 1492, etc . . . : Colombia, which for financial reasons had to withdraw as the host for the current World Cup, has announced that Barranquilla, Colombia, will be the site for the championship match of the "Christopher Columbus Cup" on Oct. 12, 1992.
The game will begin at 4:23 p.m. in Colombia, believed to be the exact time that Columbus landed in the New World.
The tournament, celebrating the 500th anniversary of the discovery, will be played over a five-year period and will feature the national teams of Colombia, Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay, Uruguay, Mexico, Spain, Portugal, France and Italy.
Let the Buyer Beware: As a rule, and despite protestations to the contrary, Mexican police are turning a blind eye to the ticket scalpers that are easily found outside any of the World Cup stadiums.
Some arrests have been made, with those caught either being fined or jailed for two weeks, but most scalpers are going about their business unhampered. They are also helped by the fact that none of the World Cup tickets contain either a price or the names of the teams playing.
According to the Mexico City News, two fans trying to get into Tuesday's France-Italy match said they had been sold tickets to the Argentina-Bulgaria game.
That match had been played a week earlier.
Briefly Tired of the remorseless hounding he and his team have received from the media, West German Coach Franz Beckenbauer told reporters, "I care as much about what you write as I do about a bicycle falling over in Peking." . . . Poland's Wladyslaw Zmuda tied a World Cup record held by former West German star Uwe Seeler when he came on as a substitute in the 83rd minute of the Poland-Brazil game. It was Zmuda's 21st World Cup appearance. . . . Brazilian defender Josimar is, like Pele before him, the product of a poor family living in rural Brazil. According to one story making the rounds, when Josimar scored a goal against Northern Ireland, his father, watching on television, leaped so high into the air that he put his head through the ceiling. . . . FIFA president Joao Havelange and Argentine star Diego Maradona will announce on Friday the names of most of the key players being invited to play in the FIFA-UNICEF World All-Star game July 27 at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena. Proceeds from the charity event will benefit the children of Mexico.