SI Vault
Alexander Wolff
June 20, 1994
Twenty-two of the 24 teams in the final World Cup draw had to negotiate a qualifying competition that encompassed 141 national teams and 491 matches over 20 months. Here's a look at those 22 survivors, along with the two countries FIFA exempted from that daunting gantlet: the defending champion, Germany, and the host, the United States.
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June 20, 1994

Scouting Reports

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Easily the most identifiable Colombian is 32-year-old midfielder Carlos Valderrama, the two-time South American Player of the Year, who says his aerobatic blond afro is not that unusual on the Caribbean coast, where he was born and raised. Up front, Adolfo Valencia joins the explosive Faustino Asprilla, who excels not only in the air but also on the ground, turning a cartwheel after every goal he scores. "Together these three constitute one of the best attacks in the tournament," says Peruvian coach Miguel Company.

King Carol was the first general secretary of Romania's soccer federation, and he personally chose the players for his country's team in the first World Cup competition, in Uruguay in 1930. The sport has been important in Romania ever since, so much so that after the team suffered a 5-2 loss to the Czechs and Slovaks late in the qualifying for this World Cup, coach Cornel Dinu got the boot. His replacement, former national team star Anghel Iordanescu, took over a squad led by creative midfielder Gheorghe Hagi, who is known as the Maradona of the Carpathians.

The Carpathians part of that moniker is a misnomer, for Hagi hails from the Black Sea port town of Constanta, but the Maradona comparison fits: Hagi has a low center of gravity, a knack for dribbling in close quarters, a powerful left foot and the same uniform number (10) as the Argentine star. Alas, he also has a Maradonan temper. In Spain, where Hagi played for Real Madrid, he had run-ins with referees and defenders alike, and in a recent exhibition against Northern Ireland, after being upended by an opponent, Hagi was ejected and suspended for spitting in the player's face. Hagi's team is similarly temperamental: One moment the Romanians arc fluid dazzlers, playing a Latin style; the next they'll make a Transylvanian transformation that has them either ranting or disinterested.

When Switzerland's English coach, Roy Hodgson, decreed in March that he would prohibit his players from having sex from the time they arrive in North America, on June 7, until their stateside business is concluded, a cynic might have added that the Swiss are so passionless that it's hardly necessary to proscribe the world's other most popular sport. For morale's sake Hodgson has since relaxed the ban, permitting conjugal visits of wives and girlfriends in hotel rooms after the opening match, against the U.S. on June 18, and after the final group match, against Colombia on the 26th. When it heard the news, the Swiss tabloid Blick roared, ROY'S BOYS CAN DO IT TWICE.

The best of Roy's Boys is Stephane Chapuisat, a leftfooted striker who dazzles as a dribbler. He plays professionally in Germany and wasn't around in January when the Swiss handed the U.S. a 1-1 tie by inadvertently knocking the ball into their own goal. The mantle of being the one team in this group that the U.S. is supposed to beat should give the Swiss that much more motivation—and perhaps something to celibate...celebrate.


Not since the two numskulls in Hume Alone has there been a criminal element as inept as the crew that abducted Edevair Souza de Faria at gunpoint in Rio last month and demanded a $7 million ransom. Faria is the 62-year-old father of Romario, the incomparable striker for Brazil, which is hell-bent on winning an unprecedented fourth World Cup. With Romario's psyche at risk, 300 million eyes were quickly on the lookout, and within a week Faria was rescued by police.

It has been 24 years since Pelé led samba-dancing Brazil to its third championship, and on the foot of 5'6" Romario rests its best opportunity for a fourth. He is the team spark plug who scored both goals and just missed another pair in a crucial 2-0 qualifying win over Uruguay in September. But Romario, 28, is not known for his diplomacy: He has called Pelé "mentally retarded." And he has only grudgingly consented to line up alongside the spindly Bebeto, 30, an elegant playmaker with a delicate touch around the net.

Coach Carlos Alberto Parreira has deftly blended the glorious attacking style of the "60s with a newer, more nimble defense. And Brazilians like the results—a poll revealed that two thirds of them believe that the Cup will be theirs.

Roger Milla was invited to join Cameroon's national team four years ago at the request of president Paul Biya, even though Milla was 38 and apparently past his prime. During three weeks of Cup competition, though, he scored four goals, and he launched into a shimmy after each one that made your average NFL sack dance look about as funky as a slow waltz. The Indomitable Lions touched oil similar demonstrations of joy back home by reaching the quarterfinals, the furthest any African nation has ever advanced. Naming Milla to the 1990 team remains the last popular thing Biya has done. So Milla, now 42, has again come out of retirement—some say at presidential insistence—only this time his presence has become controversial. As the team's administrative director, he's technically in charge of coach Henri Michel, who hasn't concealed his ambivalence over having Milla back.

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