wyart lane's guide to 
the world cup 2002

This article originally appeared in 
MEHSTG Vol. 2 Issue 26 (April 2002)

Featured are some of the rejected mascots for the countries, 
drawn by Ian Gland.

Group A
FRANCE : - World and European Champions. Will be favourites for this tournament, but are temperamental and a long way from home. Might lose it in the heat of the Asian sun. Dodgy keeper. Arrogance might get the best of them.

ONE TO WATCH : - It can only be ZIDANE, the most expensive player in the world.  And after his goal in the Champions' League Final, is it any surprise.

Gary Garlic

SENEGAL : - The dark horses (not their national nickname) who have done pretty well in the African Nations Cup. Will be wanting to do well against fellow French speakers as they have a French coach. Might give a scare, but will not progress.

ONE TO WATCH : - Striker DIOUF is the one who catches the eye.

URUGUAY : - Traditionally, they give other teams the boot quite literally, but this group of players have come through together from the squad who won the World Under-19 championships a few years ago.  Having dumped Daniel Fonseca, there is no reliable scorer, but they have a sound defence and it would be difficult to imagine a Uruguay team being otherwise.   Struggled to qualify, but might go through if they win their game with Denmark.
ONE TO WATCH : - Although out of action because of a passport scandal, Alvaro RECOBA could justify his potential if he gets the chance.
DENMARK : - Wide age range in the squad as the manager has introduced some very young players alongside the older hands. They are fairly tight, but this tournament might have come a bit early for them. Capable of scoring from midfield, their threat will be down the flanks with Gronkjaer capable of giving anyone a run for their money.

ONE TO WATCH : - Christopher POULSEN is a young midfielder who has broken into the side and is highly rated by coach Brian Laudrup.



Group B
SLOVENIA : - Surprise package in Euro 2000 and knocked Romania out in the play-offs, with a tight defence and an enterprising midfield. Former Sampdoria defender Katanec is in charge and he has moulded a nice footballing side, despite having a Portsmouth player in their squad. Could go through if they play to their potential.

ONE TO WATCH : - Anyone with the initials ZZ would be well known, but this one - Zlatko ZAHOVIC - is a talented player, who nearly came to Spurs a few years back.

Slov the Snail

SPAIN : - As always, they qualified for the finals with no problem, but the perennial under-achievers might not get much further than the quarter finals. They should do as they have a squad packed with talent, but the sum is not always as good as the parts. Youngsters have been phased in to help out the older boys in the squad.

ONE TO WATCH : - The goalscoring machine that is Raul GONZALES. Never looked back since moving across Madrid from Atletico to Real and he is sheer class.

SOUTH AFRICA : - Not quite the side that qualified for the last World Cup, with some players now plying their trade at less attractive clubs like Charlton and Watford. Struggled for goals in qualifying and the forwards have to make their own goals, with only Fortune as a real creator. The sqaud consists of a great number of midfielders and only three forwards, so expect the middle men to break to support those up field.  Have grown together and might be more able to cope with a big competition, but will be vying for the second place with three decent sides.  

ONE TO WATCH : - Celta Vigo's want-away forward Benni McCARTHY now needs to show what he can do.

PARAGUAY : - Apart from the goalscoring keeper Chilavert, Paraguay have few stars. Knocked out by a golden goal in France, the defence have stayed together and will be tighter for that. Up front, Santa Cruz of Bayern Munich will be a handful and midfielder Acuna will be the main creator. Having avoided defeat by Brazil and Argentina in the qualifiers, they are a tough proposition.

ONE TO WATCH : - A keeper who scores from free-kick and penalties must be the star of the side and CHILAVERT will want to prove to the world that he is.



Group C
TURKEY : - A group of players who have done well to get where they are today - in their first World Cup finals since 1954. As A side who had to beat Austria in the play-offs to get to the finals, they are a compact team, who play for each other. However, when things go against them, they tend to play for themselves. Should reach the second stage, although they are light up front.

ONE TO WATCH : - Young midfielder Yildiray BASTURK could make his mark on this tournament with his powerful runs.

BRAZIL : - As always will be regarded as a favourite, but more for what they have done in the past than what they might have produced of late. Another struggler to qualify under manager Big Phil Scolari, they have the skill, but have not been meshing as a team. Don't expect it to be like the gold and blue of the past, nor Ronaldo to feature too strongly this time around.

ONE TO WATCH : - It can only be RIVALDO, an exquisitely skilled player, who can produce the unexpected.


Nobby Nut

COSTA RICA : - A long qualification route through CONCACAF means that the players are well used to playing together and their top players are at the age where this will be their last chance to impress on the world stage. Captain Reynaldo Parks will miss out with a knee injury, but will be replaced by the marvellously named Pablo Chinchilla.  Speedy up front and adaptable in the middle, they are a side worth watching, but away from home are not at their best.

ONE TO WATCH : - Hernan MEDFORD is a veteran, but still packs a punch in attack.



CHINA : - A new country to the World Cup finals and one the FIFA people were delighted to see qualify. The spending power of their fans in a neighbouring Asian country will help the economies of the hosts. Little is expected from them apart from honest endeavour and the use of the tournament as a learning experience under old WC-hardened manager Bora Milutinovic.

ONE TO WATCH : - Former Spurs trialist Fan ZHIYI is the captain and mainstay of the national side at centre half.




Group D
PORTUGAL : - Did well at Euro 2000, but spoiled their excellent play by ugly scenes when a golden goal penalty put them out. Flair side with bags of skill, but they work hard too. Watch out for the changing positions from the basic 4-4-2 formation in a "total football" style. Conceicao and Rui Costa are a joy to behold, amongst a side that have come through together from the youth set up.

ONE TO WATCH : - Can only be the second most costly player in the world - Luis FIGO. A real world star and one who can turn a game in an instant, as long as he gets 100% fit.


POLAND : - Led by Jerzy Engel, the Poles have been transformed into a good footballing unit. There is enough talent in the squad to go forward from this group and maybe reach the quarter finals. Naturalised Nigerian Olisadebe has provided the goals, but they have a well drilled defence too.

ONE TO WATCH : - Keeper Jerzy DUDEK has really impressed since his move to England.

Tel E. Graf Pole

SOUTH KOREA : - Not having won a match on their previous appearances in the finals, the track record is not good. In this group, it could be unlikely that they do any better against experienced opponents, even with former Holland manager Guus Hiddink in charge.

ONE TO WATCH : - Perugia based Jung-Hwan AHN is excellent on his day and I like to think he will have at least one day in his own country.

Danny the Dead Dog

USA : - Squeaked through to Japan in the last qualifying place from CONCACAF, but have done well since. Coach Bruce Arena has introduced some younger players to the squad and there is a good mix of strengths and experience. Might not make the next round though.

ONE TO WATCH : - Amongst all the old heads Landon DONOVAN could make his burst onto the scene, after impressing at the Olympics.

Uncle Stan


Group E
REPUBLIC OF IRELAND : - A side in the mould of their manager, Mick McCarthy. He believes in strong defence and hard work from all areas of the team. There is a major reliance on Quinn and Keane up front, with some goals from midfield, but not enough. Will qualify for the next round, where they might meet their match.

ONE TO WATCH : - With Roy going home in a sulk, it is left to Robbie KEANE to take on the mantle of Irish hopes.


GERMANY : - Not qualifying automatically was a crime in their home country, but got in through the play-offs. Rudi Voller will have to find the right mix in the side, that has stuttered of late, now further hindered by a spate of injuries to crucial members of the squad. They are always likely to get to the later stages and they have a solid system that players can slip in and out of. Have the benefit of being in one of the easier groups, but will need to find some cohesion in their play to get beyond the second stage. Problem may lay in scoring.

ONE TO WATCH : - Without Effenberg and Deisler, there is a chance for BALLACK to dominate and take the German side forward.

CAMEROON : - A talented side who retained their African Nations Cup earlier this year. Play with a fluidity that is nice to watch, but they do lack the system to prevent their weaknesses being exploited by European sides. Explosive on attack (especially with young Eto'o), they have defensive frailties that teams like Germany will capitalise on.

ONE TO WATCH : - Explosive is the only word to describe Patrick MBOMA, the Sunderland forward. Interesting to see how he and club-mate Quinn do in this competition.

SAUDI ARABIA : - Asian qualifier, but not expected to do much more than make up the numbers. They have been lacking new blood and some participants from 1994 will still be in the side, giving experience, but they will be eight years older. Fast on the break, this will be their main weapon.

ONE TO WATCH : - Asian player of the year Nawaf Al TEMYAT might over-shadow Sami Al Jaber as the best man in their side, despite suffering a long knee injury at the turn of the year.


Group F


ARGENTINA : - Another of the fancied teams to triumph, but can't even beat Wales !!  Good all round strength and good strikers in Batigol and Crespo.  Should play a better style of football than they are remembered for in England and should come through this group comfortably.  Good mix of established internationals and some youngsters coming through.

ONE TO WATCH : - Lazio's CRESPO has grown over the last few years into a striker to match Batistuta of a few years back.

NIGERIA : - Having sacked their coach after the unsuccessful African Nations Cup, they will need to get sorted out quickly as the summer is not far away.  Very skillful players in their squad, but they have to develop their team-play or they will not get far.  Some of the bigger names have been omitted form the squad, so there could be some dissent among the ranks.  A threat to all the teams in this group and hopefully, England will know enough about their stars to cope.

ONE TO WATCH : - JayJay OKOCHA should be the Super Eagles man of tournament, if he is in the right mood.

ENGLAND : - Qualified by the skin of their teeth despite the 5-1 thrashing of Germany. We will just have to hope that like Spurs that result was not a one off.  Good youthful squad that might not be in their prime until 2006, but should give a good account of themselves.  Tough group and might not get beyond it, as someone will take a point off them.  Also, pre-tournament injuries after a long season at home are starting to hit hard.

ONE TO WATCH : - It has to be Mr. Posh, despite all his haircuts and shortcomings. If fully recovered from his broken metatarsal, BECKHAM will make the team tick.

Sven The Swede

SWEDEN : - Many familiar faces in this squad to all who follow British football. They have some players up their sleeve, but with a couple having exiled themselves from the squad because of disagreements with the coaches, they might lack a bit of experience at the very top level.  Plenty of fight in the squad ... mainly between Mellberg and Ljungberg !!

ONE TO WATCH : - Henrik LARSSON will be the main man for the Swedes and could score the goals to take them forward.


Group G
ECUADOR : - The first time they have got to the finals and they will be out to make the most of it. Unlikely to progress further, but their attacking style might provide problems for Mexico and Croatia.  SCBC's Delgardo will be will important to them if he can get fit, but Hibernian's De La Cruz will help prove that they are a strong and fit side who should not be under-estimated.  Will definitely miss the high altitude that they usually play their games at.

ONE TO WATCH : - Alex AGUINAGA plays his football in Mexico and good midfield performances might make him unpopular on his return.


ITALY : - Another side who will always be rated highly.  However, they have struggled to get a pattern that suits them and with Del Piero off form, there could be a team that is more workmanlike than artistic.  If Vieri is fit, he will add potency to the strike-force, which is a bit lightweight otherwise.  A place in the semis at least for the Azzurri.

ONE TO WATCH : - Roma's main man Francesco TOTTI is the one who will make or break the Italian challenge this time.  A talented midfielder, he is who the whole country looks to, especially to see if he has overcome his thigh injury.

MEXICO : - Experienced World Cup campaigners and they have a good record in qualifying.  They have veteran defender Suarez and the talent of Espanyol striker Palencia, but the belief that manager Aguirre has instilled in them may be their greatest strength.  They play with an attacking 4-4-2 formation that might leave them short at the back on occasion.

ONE TO WATCH : - Based in Spain, Cuauhtemoc BLANCO will need to do more than be remembered for his hop with the ball between his feet if his country are to impress.

CROATIA : - A third place last tournament was the first time in a major competition for the Croatians, but this time they might be a little long in the tooth to repeat that feat.  Jarni, Prosinecki, Suker and Boksic are still there and the need for fresh players breaking into the squad is necessary.  The Kovac brothers in defence will tie up the opposition strikers, but midfield legs might not last the pace in the Asian heat and humidity.

ONE TO WATCH : - Surgery has robbed the squad of Juventus' Igor Tudor, but keeper Stipe PLETIKOSA could be the major player for the Croats and might make the difference between the second stage and the quarter-finals.


Group H
TUNISIA : - Midfielder Beya's lob from the halfway line put them through to WC 2002 and was one of 28 goals scored in 10 games in qualifying, but their defence might be found out.  Even though many players are based abroad, the team have little top level experience.  The squad came together at the 1996 Olympics and have evolved as a group, with some youthful additions.  Their play reflects this, as they are the top team in Africa right now.

ONE TO WATCH : - Kahled BADRA, a rugged defender, might be prominent as he could have a lot to do !!  Can be utilised at set-pieces and has attracted AC Milan's attention recently.

Tommy Tuna

JAPAN : - Home advantage might help the little nation in their preparation, but come the matches they will not find it as easy.  Their best hope will be on Belgium not playing to their best, but it will be interesting to see how well the side have moved on since 1998.  Based around the Youth squad of the 1999 World Youth Championship, there is vigour and hope in equal amounts in this tournament, but they lack physical strength.

ONE TO WATCH : - The superstar of Japan is Hidetoshi NAKATA of Parma, who is the playmaker and pin up of the team.

BELGIUM : - A strange blend over the years. Belgium have done well with a good all-round team, but they have failed on the bigger stage.  They are lacking in invention since Scifo hung up his boots, but Wilmots drives them on from midfield and Sonck is a highly rated forward.  Should go through in one of the weaker groups.

ONE TO WATCH : - With Emile Mpenza's groin pulling him out of the squad, Wesley SONCK will want to show why his goalscoring qualities are so sought after.


RUSSIA : - Some players are well known from previous campaigns, like Onkopno, but newer names like forwards Beschastnykh and the 19-year-old Izmailov are likely to take centre stage.  Playing abroad, Karpin and Mostovoi will have good experience with home based Khohklov adding to the side in midfield and keeper Ruslan Nigmatullin looking to show his talents to the watching global audience.  Coach Romantsev will hope it all gels at the right time to get through this stage.

ONE TO WATCH : - Yegor TITOV, the midfielder eyed by Spurs, is the mainstay of the side and can produce the killer pass.

For Wyart's World Cup Diary, click here.

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