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THE THREAT posed by those booming, swerving free-kicks was already quite formidable and it will not help Scotland's sense of well-being that Roberto Carlos will be able to apply his special talents even more effectively today with the new World Cup ball. The manufacturers, Adidas, say that the softer-feel, enhanced grip of the "Tricolore" should enable the Brazilian defender to impart more spin, while its new foam structure will lend even more power to a left foot that can already send a ball hurtling towards goal at 100mph. However the good news for Colin Hendry and his fellow defenders is that the ball will feel softer to head while goalkeepers will be able to get a firmer grip on it.

TELEVISION SET sales in the major European countries appearing at the World Cup have increased sharply in recent months. Sales of new and top- of-the-range sets in Germany, France and Italy had all increased sharply as the World Cup approaches, according to Jean Dumas, European market development chief at electronics firm.

EVERY COMPETING nation feels the pressure of satisfying the towering expectations of those watching at home. For England's group rivals, Romania, there is the added burden of knowing their Prime Minister has put money on them reaching the semi-finals. Radu Vasile has also promised to hand out bonuses to players for "good results". However, money and the Romanian squad is a touchy subject at the moment. Last week they refused to speak to the media after branding their remarks about player wealth as "hostile."

JUSTIN CURRIE of the rock group Del Amitri, who penned Scotland's World Cup song, will be pounds 10,000 richer should they beat Brazil and Roberto Carlos help their cause with an own goal. The guitarist has wagered pounds 50 on the 200-1 double with bookmakers William Hill who quote Scotland at 8-1 to win today's opener and Brazil as 11-4 World Cup favourites.

BRIAN MOORE has already decided what his last words will be when the final whistle blows on the World Cup final and the curtain falls on a distinguished 31-year career in television sport. The voice of ITV football will adapt the immortal words of Kenneth Wolstenholme and sign off with: "They think it's all over - and for me it certainly is." On the eve of his last assignment, Moore said: "Why try and beat it? It was the ultimate line for a commentator and everything is definitely Second Division after that."