Argentina vs. England

SITE: Stade Geoffroy-Guichard, Saint-Etienne

TIME: Noon. TV: ESPN, Channel 34. RADIO: KWKW (1330, Spanish).

* ABOUT ARGENTINA: Coach Daniel Passarella’s team has yet to give up a goal in this tournament and Croatia’s coach, Miroslav Blazevic, says Argentina has “the best defense in the world.” Although all-time scoring leader Gabriel “Batigol” Batistuta is the unquestioned star of the team, with 47 goals in 63 games for his country, it is playmaker Juan Veron around whom the team revolves. Equally dangerous is midfielder Ariel Ortega.

* ABOUT ENGLAND: Veron, who has been doing his homework, said: “England has many strong points. Their weakness? They’re good in the air in defense but not on the ground, and we must exploit that.” Argentina is a slight favorite, but Glenn Hoddle, England’s coach, thinks that works in his favor. “In many ways, we are stronger when we have got our backs to the wall a little bit,” he said. “Psychologically, that suits us rather than the other way around.” Alan Shearer and Michael Owen are key to England’s hopes of ending Argentina’s shutout string.


* OUTLOOK: This is the first France 98 game to feature two former world champions and has an added bite to it because both are considered possible winners of the tournament. Argentina has the creativity and is in top form. England has the discipline but may be too predictable. One piece of individual brilliance--or a memorable mistake--by either team could decisive.