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WORLD CUP USA '94 : 'IT'S THE AMAZING, AWESOME, FANTASTIC FOUR, BAY-BEE!!' : For Those Who Turn Up the Volume for Andres Cantor, Turn It Down Now, Because Here Comes Dick Vitale on the World Cup


Hey, look what we have there, it's the championship of soccer, the ball that you kick with your foot and knock with your head and try to put in a net the size of a delivery truck lying on its side. Hey, is this a great sport, or what? I mean, it's not a little round goal, but, that's another sport.

I'm talking soccer now, baby. And don't call a TO, baby. Not here, not now, not ever. This entire World Cup has been amazing, absolutely great for America, and now we're down to the last four teams.

Do one thing for me, though, please. Just don't call it the Final Four. There's only one Final Four and it's college hoops, baby, so this has got to be something like the Amazing Four or Fantastic Four or Truly Awesome Four or . . . you get the idea.

Now, I'm no soccer expert, but let's look at the four teams that are still left. I like Italy, naturally, maybe because with a name like mine, I'm as Italian as gnocchi.

Take Baggio. Know something about this guy? He's awesome, baby. Baggio, A-E-I-O-U, you know, great vowels, great consonants, he's got it all, including hair, which is something I know about, or used to, anyway.

As far as I know, the only drawback is that Baggio dated Madonna one time or something, so you've got to grade him down on that. Sorry, baby.

The way I see it, the Italians have a lot going for them: a good offense, a good defense and the ability to appreciate good food. You gotta love 'em. How can you go against these guys?

Besides, if they find out that we're not all in their corner, they might do something really drastic, like take all our cappuccino machines back.

Then there is Brazil. What a country. I mean, any place that has a mountain called Sugar Loaf in it, well, it's got to have a sweet team. Know what I mean?

I don't know that much about Brazil's players except they're the all-name team by themselves.

It's amazing. Everybody goes by one name. Bebeto, Romario, Ronaldo, Muller, Viola, Zetti, Gilmar, Jorginho, Branco, Aldair, Cafu, Dunga, Zinho, Rai, Mazinho. Looks like the pass list at the Copacabana.

They sound like a high-wire act. This could be important since they play this tournament without a safety net. Good luck, Brazil (but not if it plays Italy).

Bulgaria isn't supposed to be here, but it is anyway after a huge upset of Germany. Since Germany was the defending World Cup champion, the Germans really were upset.

So we know Bulgaria is capable of pulling off a big one. The other thing we know about Bulgaria is that the Danube River flows along its northern border with Turkey and that Yordan Letchkov, the guy who scored the winning goal against Germany, doesn't have any more hair than I do.

Sweden also made the big party. For anyone who thought the best things Sweden ever came up with were Anita Ekberg and saunas, the soccer team is right up there too. Sweden's coach is Tommy Svensson, who had to sit there and wait through an overtime and then wait some more before his team finally beat Romania on penalty kicks.

Hey, Tommy, I've got news for you. Keep it up this week and you'll be so big over here they'll name an ice cream parlor after you.

That reminds me. I'm taking a TO myself right here. I've got just a little bit of advice for all the World Cup coaches and it comes straight from the heart.

Here it is: Just win. Yes, just win. Says it all, doesn't it?.

Too bad the U.S. didn't get here, but boy, were they ever something. Great spirit, great uniforms. I loved 'em, especially that guy with the big red hair and the red goatee, Lalas, Alexi Lalas. He'd make my All-Wacko team. . . . I mean wacko in a positive way, you understand.

You know the thing I like about soccer? The passion they all play with. The players have such a love of putting that jersey on. It's incredible. And the love they have for their country, that excites me.

They play with the three E's. You know: energy, excitement, enthusiasm. You gotta love the World Cup, baby. I do.


Times staff writer Thomas Bonk helped put into words the thoughts of Dick Vitale.

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