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Viva ITALIA
Grant Wahl
May 27, 2002
32 TEAMS will clash in Japan and South Korea for soccer's ultimate prize. Here's how we see the field—and why the Italians will have reason to celebrate
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May 27, 2002

Viva Italia

32 TEAMS will clash in Japan and South Korea for soccer's ultimate prize. Here's how we see the field—and why the Italians will have reason to celebrate

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GROUP A

DENMARK
Midfielder Stig Inge Tofting rides a Harley with a group of bikers, several of whom are now in jail. "They were my friends before they got in trouble," he says, "so I don't see why I should stop being their friend." When Tofting isn't Stig-matizing foes with his crunching tackles, his teammates attack in waves.

FRANCE
Midfield wizard Zinedine Zidane will rank among the top five players in history if the defending world and Euro champs hoist the Cup trophy. But an over-reliance on past-their-prime regulars Youri Djorkaeff, Christophe Dugarry and Frank Leboeuf will keep that from happening.

SENEGAL
Striker El Hadji Diouf, 21, the African player of the year, is a devotee of Tupac Shakur. Considering his weak supporting cast, Diouf's theme song should be the late rapper's Me Against the World.

URUGUAY
Only Brazil, Germany and Italy have won more World Cups than two-time champ Uruguay, but coach Victor Pua's boringly defensive (some would say dirty) team won't survive this group.

GROUP B

PARAGUAY
Irascible goalkeeper Jose Luis Chilavert can win matches with his saves and his free kicks, but his one-game Cup suspension—after he spit in the face of Brazil's Roberto Carlos last year-will keep Paraguay from advancing.

SLOVENIA
What are the odds that striker Zlatko Zahovic will become the second straight player with the initials ZZ (following Zinedine Zidane) to lord over the World Cup? Better than you might think. Zahovic's buzz reached a fever pitch after his three goals at Euro 2000. Look for him to lead the Cup's smallest country (pop. 1.9 million) to the second round.

SOUTH AFRICA
"Results aren't that important to me," says coach Jomo Sono. "We're building for the long term." Good thing, because the short term doesn't look good for Bafana Bafana.

SPAIN
Why does mononymous striker Raul become synonymous with choke artist as soon as he dons the Spanish colors? Perhaps because he was anonymous during Spain's first-round washout at World Cup '98, then missed a key penalty kick in Euro 2000. "I haven't shown the best of me with the national team," says Raul. "I desperately want to change that." Don't count on it.

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