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Scouting Report: Group A

Artists at Work

by Grant Wahl

Posted: Tues June 9th

Group B | Group C | Group D
Group E | Group F | Group G | Group H

Sports Illustrated It may be like comparing two Monet renderings of the same scene, but Brazil's attack is even more talented than its offense of four years ago. Though it lost World Cup '94 MVP Romário to a calf injury, World Player of the Year Ronaldo, a striker, and running mate Edmundo are still amply supported by onrushing defender Roberto Carlos, whose free-kick sorcery is unparalleled. While those three hope to lead the way to the first repeat championship since the Brazilian teams' of 1958 and '62, the defense has been fallible in recent matches. After losing to the U.S. 1-0 in Los Angeles in February, Brazil fell to Argentina by the same score in Rio last month. The two South American antagonists could be headed for a semifinal rematch in France, and for Brazil the pressure to win—and win with style—might be too much. "It's like fighting with a drunk," midfielder Leonardo has said of his country's crushing expectations. "If we lose it's ridiculous, and if we win it's cowardice."

  Norway's Tore Andre Flo
An inviting target up front, Norway's 6'4" Flo (9) will play alongside a brother and a cousin.    (Clive Brunskill/Allsport)
After Norway stunned Brazil 4-2 in Oslo last year, coach Egil Olsen announced that Brazil's midfield was "as organized as garbage" and crowed that the world champs would be unbeatable—but only if he were their coach. Bold Egil will put his team where his mouth is when the two sides meet on June 23 in Marseilles. Unbeaten in its qualifying matches, Norway is counting on 11 players from the English Premier League, including 6'4" striker Tore André Flo (nickname: Flonaldo), who scored twice in the victory over Brazil. The Norwegians' soft spot is goalkeeper: Frode Grodås spent his club season on the bench for England's Tottenham Hotspur.

Led by Spanish-based midfielders Mustapha Hadji and Noureddine Naybet, Morocco should improve on its 0-3 performance of '94, though the Atlas Lions' offense is still too static to move them beyond the first round. Scotland will be able to blame its eighth first-round exit in eight tries on slow, mechanical players (forward Kevin Gallacher is the best of a thin lot) or bad luck: For the third time, the Scots have drawn Brazil in their group.

Group B | Group C | Group D
Group E | Group F | Group G | Group H

Issue date: June 15, 1998

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