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Today’s Games

Group A

Brazil vs. Scotland

Site: Saint-Denis

TIME: 8:30 a.m.; TV: ESPN, Ch. 34

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* ABOUT BRAZIL: Defending champion Brazil is a solid favorite to beat Scotland. The team has been ranked No. 1 in the world by FIFA since 1994 and is spearheaded by 21-year-old forward Ronaldo, twice voted FIFA player of the year. Brazil Coach Mario Zagallo draws from a talent pool that is the envy of his rivals. When 1994 World Cup hero Romario was ruled out of the tournament last week because of a calf injury, another star from four years ago, Bebeto, moved into the spot. Zagallo has changed the team’s style from the defensive setup of 1994 to a freer-flowing game he calls “art soccer.” In midfield are virtuosos Giovanni and Rivaldo, teammates at Spanish champion Barcelona. Still more firepower comes from speedy wing back Cafu and thunder-footed Roberto Carlos. But Brazil’s seemingly relentless march to the title recently has faltered. A shaky defense and injuries--center back Aldair was only cleared to play late Tuesday--could derail the Brazilian express.

* ABOUT SCOTLAND: Scotland’s first priority is to stop Brazil from displaying its renowned attacking prowess. “We have to lift ourselves to another level and show we can compete against Brazil,” midfielder John Collins said. “We will need a superb performance, as well as in the other two games if we are to progress.” Brazil has faced Scotland three times in the World Cup. A 0-0 tie in 1974 was followed by a 4-1 win in 1982 and a 1-0 victory in 1990, when rookie goalie Taffarel made a miraculous save to guarantee the win. Scotland’s Gordon Durie is in a determined mood. “We must go for the throat,” Durie said. “If we sit in and try and defend, they have players who can destroy you.”

* OUTLOOK: Scotland will put up a valiant effort, but Brazil is too tough and should win going away.

Group A

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SITE: Montpellier

TIME: noon; TV: ESPN, Ch. 34

* ABOUT NORWAY: Norway is fourth in FIFA’s world rankings after winning the last three exhibitions over fellow World Cup teams Denmark, Mexico and Saudi Arabia by a combined 13-2. Eleven Norwegians are back from 1994, most of them with more experience from some of the toughest leagues in the world. Norway could field a complete starting lineup of English-based players. No longer so dull they put fans and opponents to sleep, the Norwegians have prospered because so many of them play overseas. Tall striker Tore Andre Flo and forward Ole Gunnar Solskjar might provide some excitement, while Norway’s strong counterattacks could cause some problems.

* ABOUT MOROCCO: A speedy counterattack is the main offensive weapon from a defense-oriented Moroccan team. Morocco bombed out of the ’94 World Cup and has taken heat back home ever since. These “Atlas Lions” are coached by Henri Michel, a top mentor from France, and they’ve looked decent at times. But they also went out early in the African Cup. Veteran sweeper Noureddine Naybet, who plays in the Spanish first division, is their leading player.

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* OUTLOOK: Norway, in a rout.


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