World Cup 1998: Group A

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BRAZIL

Previous appearances: 15 (Brazil are only nation to have taken part in finals of every World Cup)

Honours: Winners 1958, 1962, 1970, 1994. Runners-up 1950

Record: P73, W49, D13, L11

1 Taffarel Atletico Mineiro

2 Cafu Roma

3 Aldair Roma

4 Junior Baiano Flamengo

5 Cesar Sampaio Yokohama Flugels

6 Roberto Carlos Real Madrid

7 Giovanni Barcelona

8 Dunga Jubilo Iwata

9 Ronaldo Internazionale

10 Rivaldo Barcelona

11 Emerson Ferreira Bayer Leverkusen

12 Carlos Germano Vasco da Gama

13 Ze Carlos Sao Paulo

14 Goncalves Botafogo

15 Andre Cruz Milan

16 Ze Roberto Flamengo

17 Doriva Porto

18 Leonardo Milan

19 Denilson Sao Paulo

20 Bebeto Botafogo

21 Edmundo Fiorentina

22 Dida Cruzeiro

Coach: Mario Zagallo

WATCH OUT FOR...

Brazil's formidable wing-back is already well known for bending unstoppable free-kicks past helpless goalkeepers. Late last season, for Real Madrid, he even started trying to score direct from left-wing corners. Encouraged by a superb goal blasted in during open play from a seemingly impossible angle near the flag, he started trying his luck from corner kicks, hitting the ball hard and high, dipping and swerving towards the far post. He has not, as far as we know, succeeded yet, but he will. Soon...

`Watch out for' text by Rupert Metcalf

SCOTLAND

Previous appearances: 7 (1954, 1958, 1974, 1978, 1982, 1986, 1990)

Honours: None

Record: P20, W4, D6, L10

1 Jim Leighton Aberdeen

2 Jackie McNamara Celtic

3 Tommy Boyd Celtic

4 Colin Calderwood Tottenham

5 Colin Hendry Blackburn Rovers

6 Tosh McKinlay Celtic

7 Kevin Gallacher Blackburn Rovers

8 Craig Burley Celtic

9 Gordon Durie Rangers

10 Darren Jackson Celtic

11 John Collins Monaco

12 Neil Sullivan Wimbledon

13 Simon Donnelly Celtic

14 Paul Lambert Celtic

15 Scott Gemmill Nottingham Forest

16 David Weir Hearts

17 Billy McKinlay Blackburn Rovers

18 Matt Elliott Leicester City

19 Derek Whyte Aberdeen

20 Scott Booth Borussia Dortmund

21 Jonathan Gould Celtic

22 Christian Dailly Derby County

Coach: Craig Brown

WATCH OUT FOR...

Scotland's veteran goalkeeper - at 39 the oldest player in the tournament - is going to his fourth World Cup. In 1990 the Scots were within nine minutes of qualifying for the second round for the first time when Leighton spilled a soft shot from Brazil's Alemao. He managed to block Careca's follow-up but could not prevent Muller scoring to send Scotland home. If Leighton manages to surprise the football world and keep a clean sheet against the same opposition on Wednesday, expect to see his ugly, gap- toothed smile on the back pages of almost every newspaper the following day.

NORWAY

Previous appearances: 2 (1938, 1994)

Honours: None

Record: P4, W1, D1, L2

1 Frode Grodas Tottenham Hotspur

2 Gunnar Halle Leeds Utd

3 Ronny Johnsen Manchester Utd

4 Henning Berg Manchester Utd

5 Stig Inge Bjornebye Liverpool

6 Stale Solbakken Aalborg

7 Erik Mykland Panathinaikos

8 Oyvind Leonhardsen Liverpool

9 Tore Andre Flo Chelsea

10 Kjetil Rekdal Hertha Berlin

11 Jahn Ivar Jakobsen Rosenborg

12 Thomas Myhre Everton

13 Espen Baardsen Tottenham

14 Vegard Heggem Rosenborg

15 Dan Eggen Celta Vigo

16 Jostein Flo Stomsgodset

17 Havard Flo Werder Bremen

18 Egil Ostenstad Southampton

19 Erik Hoftun Rosenborg

20 Ole Gunnar Solskjaer Man Utd

21 Vidar Riseth Linz ASK

22 Roar Strand Rosenborg

Coach: Egil Olsen

WATCH OUT FOR...

When he played in England for Sheffield United, the gangling Jostein Flo was used mostly as a traditional English-style target man. Not so by Norway, whose coach, Egil Olsen, has employed him on the flanks. Jostein's younger brother, (Tore Andre Flo of Chelsea, occupies the centre-forward berth). The theory is that opponents usually put their shortest defenders on the flanks, so that long balls aimed towards Jostein's head will hopefully cause havoc. When the ball is played on the ground, his limitations are exposed. It rarely is, though...

MOROCCO

Previous appearances: 3 (1970, 1986, 1994)

Honours: None

Record: P10, W1, D3, L6

1 Abdelkader El Brazi FAR Rabat

2 Abdelilah Saber Sporting Lisbon

3 Abdelkrim El Hadrioui Benfica

4 Youssef Rossi Stade Rennes

5 Smahi Triki Lausanne

6 Noureddine Naybet La Coruna

7 Moustafa Hadji La Coruna

8 Said Chiba Compostela

9 Abdeljilil Hadda Club Africain

10 Abderrahim Ouakili 1860 Munich

11 Ali El Khattabi Heerenveen

12 Driss Benzekri RS Settat

13 Rachid Nekrouz Bari

14 Salaheddine Bassir La Coruna

15 Lahcen Abrami Wydad Casablanca

16 Rachid Azzouzi Cologne

17 Gharib Amzine Mulhouse

18 Youssef Chippo Porto

19 Jamal Sellami Raja Casablanca

20 Tahare El Khalej Benfica

21 Rachid Rokki SCMM Mohammedia

22 Mustapha Chadili Raja Casablanca

Coach: Henri Michel

WATCH OUT FOR...

One of the most successful of Morocco's exports to European football, this 25-year-old playmaker has just helped Porto win the Portuguese title. He has won 20 caps, possesses a sweet left-foot, and is tipped to become one of the best midfielders in Africa. The challenges that lie in wait at France 98 will give him the chance to prove his worth.

BEING thrown in with Brazil has sorted the pessimists from the optimists in the Scottish, Norwegian and Moroccan camps. The gloomy perspective is that the chances of progress are halved. The positive approach says that if all three lose to the holders one will still advance by coming first among unequals.

Scotland, as everyone from John o' Groats to Jedburgh is sick of hearing, have never ventured beyond the first phase. Neither have Norway. That leaves Morocco - who made it through from England's group in 1986 - as the only one of Brazil's rivals not confronting a psychological barrier.

The world champions look unexpectedly vulnerable. Although warm-up matches can be a poor guide, defeat by Argentina in a Rio derby exposed them as a collection of individuals rather than a unified force. Zico's appointment as Mario Zagallo's adviser, reputedly imposed on the coach, was a sign of unrest, and the loss of Romario a real blow.

That said, Ronaldo's scoring ability has never been dependent on a particular partner and could gloss over any weaknesses for the time being. Denilson annd Rivaldo also have the talent to turn the tighest contest. Brazil last went out with the makeweights in 1966 and ought to be strong enough to head the section if not retain the trophy.

So who goes with them and who goes home? The crucial fixture is likely to be Scotland's meeting with Norway. Even if Craig Brown's team have not created one of the great upsets in the opening game, victory in Bordeaux would surely create an irresistible momentum for their last match, against Morocco.

Norway, loaded with Premiership artisans, could actually be more "British" than the Scots, who are schooled in keeping the ball rather than launching it. Egil Olsen has achieved emphatic results with what he calls "penetrative play". Brown, however, will look to Colin Hendry to negate their aerial power and build a platform for a narrow win.

Morocco showed against England and France that they will more than match the Europeans for technique. And the Frenchman Henri Michel, taking his third finals with a different team, is a sound strategist. Yet they lacked the physical and mental toughness to apply their skills at USA 94 and fared modestly at the African Nations' Cup, so they may reach the final match still without a point.

If that happens, and Scotland and Norway cancel each other out as Olsen's side and the Irish did in a grim struggle four years ago, the last round of games could be dramatic indeed.

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