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WORLD CUP USA 1994 : The Best and the Worst

July 14, 1994

OOO BABY, BABY: You've seen athletes mug for the camera with a "Hi Mom" or two? Well, the Brazilians provided the dance highlight of the World Cup with a tribute to star forward Bebeto's newborn son, Mattheus. In a shuffle that would make Smokey Robinson and the Miracles proud, Bebeto, Romario and Mazinho celebrated a goal against the Netherlands by doing a cradle-rocking motion with their arms. It was reminiscent of a step you might learn at Arthur's, you know, that Murray, guy.

AMERICAN CUISINE: There is a vending machine inside the press center that pumps out hot pizza, egg rolls and chicken wings. It has drawn oohs and ahhs from foreign writers (calling them journalists might be a stretch), many of whom think this is state of the art in American fast food. The pizza is dreary frozen-food caliber, selling for $2 an item or $5 on media expense accounts. Still, the quality hasn't stopped the foreign writers from making pilgrimages to the "Hot Choice" machine and pouring dollar bills into it.

GREAT GOAL, I'LL GIVE YOU A COUNTRY: Saudi Arabia was truely one of the biggest surprises of the tournament. It was listed as having a 500-to-1 chance of winning the World Cup, the longest odds of any of the 24 finalists. With such success, comes perks. After it qualified for the finals, one of the head guys gave each player a $100,000 Mercedes. For advancing to the round of 16, players were given a Volvo. Wait a minute, aren't we going backward? With that logic, if it won the final game, the players would have all received Yugos.

SOCCERSPEAK: Soccer has clearly brought a new topic to daily conversations. People in elevators, airports and hotel lobbies are all swept up in World Cup excitement. In fact, one of the great ways to meet new people and strike up a friendship is by saying, so: "Did you think Saudi Arabia should have started Al Daeyea, Al Sadik or Al Helwah in goal against Morocco?" Works every time.

QUICK, CALL THE BOARD OF HEALTH: The time-honored practice of exchanging jerseys at the end of a game is one of the sport's most endearing traditions. It sure beats hockey's forced congratulatory handshakes at the end of a playoff series. But can you imagine taking a sweat-soaked jersey to the dry cleaner for a sprucing up job? Imagine the cost. Imagine the smell. Maybe the handshake is better.

ANDRES CANTOOOOOOOOR: If there is one enduring star of the World Cup, it is Andres Cantor, the man who calls "Gooooooaaaallllll" after every gooooooaaaallllll for Spanish language Univision. Cantor, a graduate of USC, is even rumored to replace the aging Tom Kelly, football television play-by-play voice of the Trojans. Think what a call he would make when he says, "Mercy Nuuuuurrrssssseeee."

ANOTHER BRICK IN THE . . .: It's not as historical as the one that used to be in Berlin, or as old as the one in China but soccer's "wall" is indeed memorable. No where in sports does man's innermost fears come to light than on this play. C'mon, we know that you know that you understand what we're talking about.

BEAUTY SCHOOL DROPOUT: What would happen if you cross the coiffeurs of Colombia's Carlos Valderama and Bulgaria's Iordan Letchkov? Fabio at age 50, perhaps. Or maybe something American International pictures would have made a movie about. By the way, you get extra bonus points if you can name in which the movie the song "Beauty School Dropout" appeared. (Hint: Look under your car.)

LOOK MA, NO ARTIFICIAL TURF: The were two agronomy rages: The grass grown for use indoors at the Silverdome in Pontiac, Mich. and the circular cut at Soldier Field in Chicago. We think Chicago's feat the more impressive. Its bull's-eye like appearance made all the other stadiums green with envy.

BEST BEER SALES: Ireland versus Italy in New York. And this was just before the game.

DO YOU BELIEVE IN MIRACOLOS?: Roberto Baggio, with his rat-tail haircut flowing in the wind, is the heart and soul of the Italian team. In the second round he scored in the final minutes of regulation and in overtime to beat Nigeria and he turned the same trick in the quarterfinals to beat Spain. As Baggio goes, so go the Italians.

THE GOAL DUST TWINS: How would you like to have Jim Brown and Gale Sayers in the same backfield? Magic and Michael in the same backcourt? Brazil has a Dream Team of its own in Romario and Bebeto. Or is that Bebeto and Romario. One ball might not be enough for them, but they make do awfully well. And they can dance.

NOT LIKE RIDING A BIKE: It would have been the most spectacular goal of the tournament. Marcelo Balboa was facing away from the goal against Colombia, but his bicycle kick went just wide. If not for TV replays, he could tell his grandchildren that he made it.

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