Football / World Cup USA '94: Missed match fuels rumours about Romario

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(First Edition)

ROMARIO failed to take part in a training match on Thursday, increasing speculation that the Brazilian striker was injured.

Lidio Toledo, the Brazilian team doctor had said that Romario would play in the practice match. However, Romario, who came off before half-time in Brazil's match against El Salvador last Sunday after complaining of muscle pains, trained on his own, limiting himself to some light running.

Toledo and Romario left the training ground without answering any questions, but the Brazilians insisted that Romario would play in the match against Russia on Monday. 'It was just a precaution,' their coach Carlos Alberto Parreira said.

Pavel Sadyrin, the Russian coach, said he was confident that his team could win the match in San Francisco. 'Brazil is a soccer superpower. But they are not unbeatable,' he said. 'We can't beat Brazil in technique, but they can be beaten through better teamwork.

'This is the most difficult group in the tournament, but I think we can be at least second. In contrast to Brazil, we are not immediately aiming for the World Cup. Our goal for now is the second round.'

Asked about Romario and Bebeto, he said: 'They don't have only Romario and Bebeto. They have 11 Romarios and Bebetos.'

Chris Waddle also thought Brazil could be beaten but, surprisingly, he tipped Colombia to win the World Cup. 'The conditions here suit them,' he said. 'The pitches are in good shape and made for their passing game.

'They have three quite light forwards with speed and, of course, Valderrama in midfield. Colombia have never won anything but if they go to the semi-finals, they could be dangerous because they have players experienced in Italy and other countries.'

Waddle said that he thought the United States stood little chance of beating Colombia or Romania. 'They have got to get a good result against Switzerland for the public to get behind them.'

The Saudi Arabian squad have finally arrived in Washington, five days later than they had been expected. They were supposed to have trained at Georgetown University on Thursday, but the session was cancelled at short notice.

A Fifa official said: 'They change their plans very rapidly. We just don't know what to expect right now.'

Certainly nobody had expected the way the Saudis would fly from Atlantic City. They landed in a jet belonging to George Steinbrenner, the owner of the New York Yankees baseball team.

Football fans in Congo will be able to watch the World Cup on television after the country paid its pounds 30,000 debt to the Union of National Radio and Television Organisations of Africa.

In neighbouring Zaire, the government has promised that the national television and radio networks, which have been out of order for the past month, will have been repaired in time for the start of the tournament.