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SPORTS EXTRA / FOCUS ON THE WORLD CUP: FRANCE '98

Group G

June 09, 1998

COLOMBIA

* World Cup Record: Played 10, won two, lost six, tied two, goals for 13, goals against 21.

* Best Finish: Second round, 1990.

* 1994 Showing: Eliminated in the first round.

* Coach: Hernan Dario Gomez. He was the assistant coach in 1994 but rose to the top job despite the debacle that year. Has stuck with the same players, which might be a mistake.

* Players to Watch: Jorge Bermudez, Freddy Rincon, Anthony de Avila, Carlos Valderrama, Faustino Asprilla.

* In Brief: Colombia came into the '94 World Cup as one of the hottest teams and yet crashed out in the first round, losing to the U.S. Expectations this time are much lower, but the team has some capable, if aging, players. It is unlikely to cause any surprises, however.

* Quick Quote: "We really must do better than we did last time."--Hernan Dario Gomez.

* Forecast: Three games and out.

ENGLAND

* World Cup Record: Played 41, won 18, lost 11, tied 12, goals for 55, goals against 38.

* Best Finish: Champion in 1966.

* 1994 Showing: Did not qualify.

* Coach: Glenn Hoddle. A more than capable player, Hoddle has turned bizarre as coach and employs a so-called faith healer as part of the entourage.

* Players to Watch: David Seaman, Steve McManaman, Alan Shearer, David Beckham, Michael Owen.

* In Brief: For years, England was viewed as being all commitment and no flair. Hard-working and tireless were the adjectives used, not creative and innovative. That has changed, and England's game now is much more well-rounded but no less robust. But the team lacks a real playmaker and the defense is iffy at times.

* Quick Quote: "We will go into the World Cup as one of the half-dozen teams with a genuine chance of going all the way."--Glenn Hoddle.

* Forecast: Has ability to reach semifinals but probably will stumble before then.

ROMANIA

* World Cup Record: Played 17, won six, lost eight, tied three, goals for 26, goals against 29.

* Best Finish: Quarterfinalist, 1994.

* 1994 Showing: Eliminated by Sweden in the quarterfinals.

* Coach: Anghel Iordanescu. After five years and two World Cups in charge, he leaves after this tournament to become the national coach of Greece.

* Players to Watch: Dan Petrescu, Adrian Ilie, Gheorghe Popescu, Gheorghe Hagi, Viorel Moldovan.

* In Brief: This is the last hurrah for Gheorghe Hagi and an entire generation of Romanian players. Reaching the quarterfinals in 1994 was their high point, but they were unbeaten in qualifying for '98, so there might still be a flame alive amid the embers.

* Quick Quote: "I want to finish the job started four years ago with what was called Romania's dream team."--Anghel Iordanescu.

* Forecast: Should finish second in the group and advance, but not beyond the second round.

TUNISIA

* World Cup Record: Played three, won one, lost one, tied one, goals for 3, goals against 2.

* Best Finish: First round, 1978.

* 1994 Showing: Did not qualify.

* Coach: Henry Kasperczak. He helped Poland to a third-place finish in the 1974 World Cup and has been coaching in Africa for five years, the last four in Tunisia.

* Players to Watch: Ali Boumnijel, Sami Trabelsi, Adel Sellimi, Ben Slimane.

* In Brief: This is likely to be a short and bitter tournament for the Tunisians, who in 1978 became the first African nation to win a World Cup game when they defeated Mexico in Rosario, Argentina. This team is not as talented as that one; however, it does not respond well to pressure and all signs point to a first-round exit.

* Quick Quote: "The so-called smaller teams are going to cause surprises, and we could be one of them."--Henry Kasperczak.

* Forecast: Three games and out.

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