World Cup: Analysis of today's action

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The Independent Online
ARGENTINA v JAPAN (Toulouse, 1.30pm)

FERNANDO REDONDO was shorn from Daniel Passarella's squad for refusing to have his hair trimmed. Whether the Argentine crop of 98 are a cut above the rest remains to be seen. The autocratic Passarella was not amused to discover that one of his players, as yet unnamed, tested positive for a banned substance at the start of the week. He kept the gates of Argentina's headquarters locked for two days. One name not among the list of suspects was Diego Maradona, deemed surplus to national requirements for the first time in four World Cups. The blue and white No 10 shirt has been more than adequately filled by Ariel Ortega. Japan, on the World Cup stage for the first time, are likely to be spellbound by Argentina's new wizard of the dribble. According to Osvaldo Ardiles, however, the debutants have a potential rabbit to pull out of their own hat: their playmaker Hidetoshi Nakata.

Probable teams: Argentina: Roa; Vivas, Sensini, Ayala; Zanetti, Almeyda, Veron, Ortega, Simeone; Batistuta, Lopez.

Japan: Kawaguchi; Narahashi, Akita, Ihara, Nakanishi, Soma; Yamaguchi, Nakata, Nanami; Jo, Nakayama.

YUGOSLAVIA v IRAN (St Etienne, 4.30pm)

IRAN'S World Cup mission is simple. "A win over the United States would be perfect," Tomislav Ivic said - before a 7-1 defeat against Roma last month cost him his job. Jahal Talebi, hastily installed as coach on 23 May, has another four days to prepare for the Group F meeting with the United States in Lyons but he can ill-afford a further morale-draining hammering today. The sight of the one-time Villan Savo Milosevic, now a Real Zaragoza player, in the opposition line-up would hardly strike fear into Talebi's heart. Yugoslavia, though, will certainly have the Real thing in their forward line: Predrag Mijatovic, whose goal won the European Cup for Real Madrid last month. Iran boast Bundesliga boys up front, in Ali Daei and Khodadad Azizi, but if they are to emulate the World Cup shock they caused in Cordoba in 1978 - a 1-1 draw against Ally MacLeod's Scotland - it is likely to be at the expense of the United States rather than Yugoslavia.

Probable teams: Iran: Nakisa; Khakpour, Peyravani, Ostadasadli; Hamedani, Bagheri, Estili, Mahdavikia, Minavand; Daei, Azizi.

Yugoslavia: Kralj; Mirkovic, Djukic, Mihajlovic, Djorovic; Brnovic, Stojkovic, Jugovic, Savicevic; Mijatovic, Milosevic.

JAMAICA v CROATIA (Lens, 8pm)

THE omens do not look good for Slaven Bilic. After a season of misery by the Mersey he finds himself confronted by Goodison in the World Cup. Croatia's Evertonian could be excused for hoping Goodison - Ian Goodison, that is - loses his relegation battle and is demoted to bench duty for the Reggae Boyz. Bilic, if he recovers from a muscle strain, is certain to be reminded of his home from home, given the Premiership presence in the Jamaican squad. Rene Simoes, Jamaica's Brazilian coach, has Frank Sinclair (awaiting a test on a groin strain), Robbie Earle, Marcus Gayle, Deon Burton and Darryl Powell in his ranks. He has the Nationwide Leaguers Fitzroy Simpson and Paul Hall too. Whether Simoes has the resources to upset the Euro 96 quarter-finalists is doubtful, however. Croatia have Zvonimir Boban and Robert Prosinecki to pull the midfield strings and Davor Suker with a point to prove up front after an indifferent season with Real Madrid.

Probable teams: Croatia: Ladic; Stimac, Juric, Bilic; Jarni, Soldo, Prosinecki, Simic; Boban, Stanic, Suker.

Jamaica: Barrett; Goodison, Brown, Dixon; Gardner, Cargill, Simpson, Whitmore, Sinclair; Hall, Burton.

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