World Cup Update
by Gerry Brown
Stupid hooligans. They're stealing the spotlight from what so far has been a very exciting World Cup. True, the U.S. flamed out early but that wasn't entirely unexpected. Not many thought it would be as bad as it was but even fewer expected them to advance to the second round this time. Let's focus on the positives.
How 'bout them Super Eagles? Nigeria, though not exactly a dark horse with their '96 Olympic championship, has exceeded expectations. As the sole African team to advance to the knockout round, the eyes of an entire continent will be on them.
Likewise, Mexico became the only CONCACAF team to advance when Luis "El Matador" Hernandez scored a dramatic goal in the 95th minute to lift Mexico to a tie with the Netherlands.
The Norwegians waged some dramatics of their own with a come-from-behind 2–1 win over defending champs Brazil. Going into the crucial Group A match, Norway knew they needed a win to advance. Morocco, who was in line to advance barring a Norwegian miracle, just had to beat Scotland. The Moroccans, who dispatched the Scots 3–0, had to feel pretty comfortable until the miracle struck in the game's 89th minute, when the referee in the Brazil–Norway match called a phantom foul and awarded Norway a penalty kick. Norway converted and Brazil lost its first World Cup game since 1990.
Heading into the second round I suggest you put the U.S. debacle behind you and concentrate on what should be a thrilling two weeks. Load up on snacks and drinks. Many questions will be answered, and on July 12 a king of soccer will be crowned.
Things to look for in round two and beyond...
- Brazil will get back to business. Don't let that let down against Norway fool you, they are still the best team in the tournament.
- France will be challenged. Now that they're out of the soft Group C, the French will have their hands full against the remaining teams. They can still win it all, but we'll get to see if they're as good as they looked in the first round.
- More hooliganism. England has advanced, and unfortunately, that means more trouble is likely in France. On the bright side, the French police are getting plenty of overtime.
- A new champion. You heard it here. Brazil will not repeat regardless of what is said above. Possible suitors include Germany, France and Italy. Keep one eye on Nigeria and Yugoslavia too.
—Gerry Brown is an editor at Information Please.
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