Yet amid all the excitement last week, Vieri reverted to form. When one of the Italian scribes asked the Terminator to describe his goals, he paused. "I saw an opening and hit the ball into the net," he declared. His jaw was set His face was blank. The journalists nodded knowingly and began scribbling.
Let's Go to the Videotape
When Nigeria beat Bulgaria 1-0 last Friday, and underachieving Spain tied Paraguay 0-0, Nigeria surprisingly became the third team to clinch the top spot in its first-round group. ( Brazil was the first and France the second.) Much of the credit for the Super Eagles' two victories should go to their eccentric coach, Bora Milutinovic, who made light of pre-Cup rumors of his impending dismissal by turning Nigeria's bickering contingent into something out of European Vacation.
It all started with Milutinovic's omnipresent video camera, which he uses to document what he calls "the life." Whenever Nigeria takes the field for pregame warmups, Milutinovic whips out the camera and films the scene like a touriste on the Champs-Elys�es. On the team bus he can be spotted filming Nigeria's adoring crowds out the window, and he often concludes interviews by turning his camera on journalists and asking them questions.
"One day when I quit coaching, I want me and my family to remember everything," says Milutinovic, who was the 1994 U.S. World Cup coach. "This is the life."
Just before Nigeria's critical opening match against Spain, Milutinovic showed his team a homemade videotape that included personal messages from the players' friends and relatives. The Super Eagles won the game and saved their coach's job, though Milutinovic conceded last week that he had thought he would be fired after Nigeria's three straight defeats in friend-lies before the Cup. Not so, countered Nigerian soccer federation chairman Abdulmumini Aminu, whose appearance in a Bora film would surely qualify as an homage to Fellini.
"I supported Bora all the time," Aminu said with a straight face last week. "I think he's a great guy."