Four Brazilians--defenders Jorginho and Marcio Santos, midfielder Dunga and forward Romario--were named to the World Cup ’94 all-star team Friday.
Italy and Bulgaria each have two players on the team selected for the first time by FIFA, soccer’s world governing body. Italian defender Paolo Maldini joined forward Roberto Baggio, considered by many the tournament’s top player. Forward Hristo Stoitchkov and midfielder Krasimir Balakov were the Bulgarians selected.
Belgium goalkeeper Michel Preud’homme and midfielders Gheorghe Hagi of Romania and Sweden’s Tomas Brolin round out the team.
Nine players drew honorable mention, among them American defender Alexi Lalas.
Lalas, not regarded among the tournament’s elite before the competition, got high marks for attitude.
“His fighting spirit,” said Jurg Nepfer, a FIFA coordinator who sat on the six-member all-star panel. “And he is an idol for American youth. He is very popular and that must be taken into account.
“Really, what distinguishes defenders is their fighting spirit. He might not be technically the most skillful, but when you consider his stamina and spirit he is among the best.”
Nepfer discounted the notion that Lalas was a public-relations nod to the home fans.
“Whenever we would discuss defenders, Lalas would be one of the first names mentioned,” he said.
Although Lalas’ mention was a coup for the Americans--Lalas, Argentina’s Fernando Redondo and Nigeria’s Rashidi Yekini were the only players honored from teams that failed to make it to the quarterfinals--the relegation of several players to honorable mention was surprising.
Germany’s Juergen Klinsmann, the Netherlands’ Dennis Bergkamp, Brazil’s Bebeto and Swedish goalkeeper Thomas Ravelli all might have expected all-star status, but it was the choice of Preud’homme over Ravelli--the hero of a quarterfinal shootout with Romania--that raised the most eyebrows.
But selection-panel member Walter Gagg said none of the goalkeeping had been spectacular.
“This World Cup has shown us that we have very high levels of tactical play, and very weak goalkeeping. We saw this particularly in the first-round matches,” Gagg said. “Perhaps that is due to a lack of concentration.”