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Romario Not on World Cup Team

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Brazil Coach Luiz Felipe Scolari ignored intense public pressure, including some advice from President Fernando Henrique Cardoso, and left 1994 World Cup winner Romario off the 23-player roster he named Monday for Korea/Japan ’02.

The decision to omit the 36-year-old Vasco Da Gama striker is likely to cause a furor that will abate only if Brazil wins the World Cup.

Otherwise, Scolari probably will pay with his job. Romario has been the top goal scorer in Brazil for the last two seasons.

As recently as Saturday, Scolari was sworn at and shoved by angry fans outside the Brazilian soccer federation’s headquarters in Rio de Janeiro for continually leaving Romario off the national team for what he claimed were “tactical and technical” reasons.

Former coach Mario Zagallo bumped a then slightly injured Romario off his team on the eve of the 1998 World Cup and was fired after Brazil lost to France in the final. Similarly, former coach Wanderley Luxemburgo refused to take Romario to the Sydney 2000 Olympics and was ousted from his position after Brazil lost to eventual gold medalist Cameroon in the quarterfinals.

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The only other notable player left off Brazil’s roster was Djalminha, who did his cause little good last week when he head-butted Javier Irureta, his coach at the Spanish club Deportivo La Coruna.

Scolari selected 11 European-based players and 12 who play in the Brazilian league. Included in the team are the trio of Ronaldo, Rivaldo and Ronaldinho, who are likely to comprise Brazil’s attack.

Brazil plays Turkey, China and Costa Rica in the first round.

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Argentina Coach Marcelo Bielsa set up a potential confrontation with Japanese immigration officials Monday when he included forward Claudio Caniggia among the dozen players he said would definitely make his World Cup roster.

Caniggia, who injured knee ligaments Saturday while helping the Rangers win the Scottish Cup final, was suspended for more than a year by FIFA in 1993 for cocaine use. Japanese law forbids entry into the country of those involved in drug use, which is why Caniggia’s former Argentina teammate, Diego Maradona, has consistently been denied entry.

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Ecuador’s World Cup team flew to the United States on Monday for two warm-up games this week, against Yugoslavia on Wednesday at East Rutherford, N.J., and against AC Milan on Saturday at New Haven, Conn.

Coach Dario Gomez’s squad then travels to Spain for a game against Atletico Madrid before continuing on to Japan, where it plays Italy, Mexico and Croatia in the first round.

Europe

Germany Coach Rudi Voeller also named his roster Monday and caused a surprise by selecting Carsten Jancker as one of his forwards instead of Martin Max. Jancker, who plays for Bayern Munich, failed to score a goal in the Bundesliga season that ended Saturday, while Max, from TSV 1860 Munich, scored 18.

“This is a body blow,” Max said. “I don’t really know what the world has come to.”

Apart from defender Christian Ziege and midfielder Dietmar Hamann, who play in England, and forward Oliver Bierhoff, who plays in France, Voeller’s entire roster is drawn from Bundesliga clubs.

Voeller decided to take a chance and include talented midfielder Sebastien Deisler, even though the 22-year-old Hertha Berlin but soon-to-be Bayern Munich player had knee surgery in October, suffered a groin injury in April and is not fully fit.

The veteran squad, with eight of the players 30 or older, meets Saudi Arabia, Ireland and Cameroon in the first round.

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Spain became the latest country to lose one of its leading players Monday when veteran defender Sergi was ruled out of the World Cup after injuring his left ankle while playing for Barcelona last week. He will undergo surgery today.

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The club future of U.S. defender David Regis was cast into doubt Monday when FC Metz fired Coach Gilbert Gress after the former Switzerland national team coach had failed to help the French club from being relegated to the second division.

Asia

South Korea, the U.S. team’s second opponent at the World Cup, has started final preparations by putting its players under armed guard on the resort island of Jeju and also cutting off their access to hotel telephones.

Coach Guus Hiddink said the moves were intended to shield the players from the increasing pressure of fans and the media.

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Japanese police are investigating why the grass at Russia’s intended training site in Shimizu has turned yellow and died. World Cup organizers said it appeared someone had overdosed the field with pesticides. They promised to sow new grass and hoped that it would be ready for the Russian team’s May 26 arrival.

Russia plays in the same first-round group as Japan, along with Belgium and Tunisia.


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