Roy Wegerle, the most experienced forward on the U.S. team, said Monday he won't start Saturday in the Americans' World Cup opener against Switzerland.
Wegerle, 30, was injured Jan. 8 and had three arthroscopic operations on his right knee this spring, the last on April 15. He hasn't played a full game since Jan. 3, when he scored for Coventry City during a 1-1 tie with Swindon Town in England's Premier League.
The South African-born Wegerle, who became a naturalized U.S. citizen before the 1992 U.S. Cup exhibition tournament, scored the goal for the United States in a 1-0 victory against Mexico on June 4, the last World Cup warm-up for the Americans. In his only other action since the injury, he played 19 minutes against Saudi Arabia on May 25 and 13 minutes against Greece on May 28.
"There's no substitute for match fitness," he said.
Seventy-one percent of Americans surveyed still don't know the World Cup is being played in the United States, according to a Harris Poll released Monday.
Fifty-six percent of those surveyed say they're not interested in watching any games on television and 65% aren't interested in attending. Only 38% know that the World Cup involves soccer.
The poll of 1,253 adults was conducted from May 23-26 and has an error margin of 3%.
The Nigerian soccer team was prevented from leaving the country for the United States because of visa problems, officials said.
The Nigerian squad and a delegation from the country's soccer federation had been due to arrive in Dallas on Monday evening but World Cup officials said they had been advised they would now be arriving today.
Andreas Herren, spokesman for the world soccer body FIFA, said: "The Nigerian team has some kind of visa problems that have delayed their departure."
An official from the World Cup organizers added: "Some visas were apparently not in order and the flight has been delayed. We believe it will now arrive at 5 a.m. on Tuesday, but we are still seeking details from Lagos."
The United States has made an exception to allow a flight from Nigeria as all flights emanating from Lagos are banned from entering the country because U.S. authorities consider it a transit port for drug smugglers.
Referees who fail to comply with a directive to send off players tackling from behind will be sent home, FIFA President Joao Havelange said.
"Any referee who doesn't show a red card for a tackle from behind will be going home on the first plane the following day," he said. "All the referees know it."
FIFA will decide in October how to allocate the eight extra places at future World Cup finals when the tournament is expanded in 1998.
Africa, Asia and North and Central America would all receive extra places under the two main proposals put forward, Havelange said, and Oceania would be guaranteed its own berth for the first time.
Assailants armed with automatic weapons mugged the pregnant wife of Brazilian soccer star Bebeto in Rio and almost kidnapped the player's brother, according to police and news reports.
Denise de Oliveira, 25, was stopped at a traffic light in the Tijuca district of Rio at 7:30 p.m. on Sunday when a black sports car pulled up in front of her car.
Two men with machine guns ordered Oliveira, eight months pregnant, Bebeto's brother, Wilson de Oliveira and his wife, Nivalda, out of the car.
"One of them wanted to kidnap Wilson. Denise pleaded with them and gave them her Rolex wrist watch so they would go away," Nivalda told the Rio daily Jornal do Brasil.
The ads on television in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, pitched a vacation package that was a soccer fan's dream: A flight to the United States, tickets to every World Cup game, and even a hard-to-obtain U.S. visa.
It sounded too good to be true--and it was, the government-run newspaper Fraternite Matin said.
Police arrested two of the four Ivorians identified as the directors of the group, called Dimension International, and were hunting for two others after learning they had withdrawn the equivalent of $26,000 from an account set up to collect payments for the tours.
Frank Rijkaard is doubtful for the Dutch World Cup opener against Saudi Arabia, team chief Dick Advocaat said.
Rijkaard left in the second half of Sunday's 3-0 victory over Canada in Toronto with a leg muscle injury.
Belgium, tuning up for the World Cup defeated the United States Under-23 team, 6-2, in Ormond Beach, Fla.
Forward Marc Wilmots scored two goals and Luc Nilis, Scifo, Georges Grun and Czerniatynski scored one each against a team with huge holes in its defense.
Players will not be barred from drinking water during World Cup games as some team managers feared, FIFA said.
"Players will be allowed to take drinks during matches as long as they stand on the (sideline)," said FIFA press officer Guido Tognoni.
"We won't allow drink bottles to be thrown on to the (field) but, of course, we will allow the players to take in fluid."
Clip and save: Tommy Svensson, Sweden's coach, whose team routed the United States in February, said "The U.S. will have quite a good chance against Romania (on June 26 at the Rose Bowl)."
Midfielder Ilie Dumitrescu of Romania was asked to name his favorite aspect of the United States during his first week here: "The way Americans behave," he said.
The Soccer Expert
Brazil 1994--Brazil is considered by many to be the World Cup favorite. The Brazilians have abandoned the sweeper and returned to a 4-4-2 formation. The two forwards might be the world's best combination: Romario scored a Spanish League-high 30 goals for champion Barcelona; Bebeto had 16 for runner-up Deportivo de la Coruna. Future stars are Muller and Ronaldo, a 17 year-old sensation who has drawn raves from Pele.
Source: Times staff