June 10 Match Previews
Portugal v Poland - Live on ESPN2 at 7:25 a.m. ET
Tunisia v Belgium - Live on ESPN2 at 4:55 a.m. ET
June 9, 2002
Portugal v Poland
Jeonju World Cup Stadium (Capacity: 42,477 )
Group D – Jeonju, Korea - 8:30 p.m. local time
Live on ESPN2 at 7:25 a.m. ET
After losing their Group D openers, this becomes an elimination match for Portugal and Poland. The teams combined for one loss in 20 qualifying matches – both won their qualifying groups – but both are now one loss away from the end of this World Cup.
The pressure in this match will be on the highly-rated Portuguese, who entered the tournament as FIFA’s fifth-ranked team and one of the favorites to take home the title. After falling to the U.S. in the opener, Portugal badly needs a win before facing the hosts Korea in their final group match.
After posting seven wins and only one loss to along with two ties in 2001, Portugal has struggled this year, losing twice, drawing twice and only posting one win – a 2-0 victory over an unimpressive China on May 19. Portugal needs inspired performances from their offensive stars Rui Costa and Luis Figo, both of whom were held in check against the U.S. Poland qualified for the 2002 World Cup before any other UEFA team (other than the defending champs), but since cruising through qualifying, the Polish have posted less than stellar results in 2002. After opening the year with wins against Minnows N. Ireland and Faroe Irelands, Poland lost at home to Japan (0-2 in Lodz) and Romania (1-2 in Bydgoszcz). Poland topped Estonia 1-0 in Warsaw, before kicking off the World Cup with a 2-0 loss to Korea. The team is led by its Liverpool goalkeeper Jerzy Dudek and forward Emmanuel Olisadebe. The Nigerian-born striker was the leading scorer in qualifying with eight goals.
Oddly enough, the last goal that Poland scored in a World Cup competition came against Portugal in 1986. Wlodimierz Smolarek scored the game’s only goal in a 1-0 Poland win. Poland will likely need more than one goal against a team as talented as Portugal. Portugal boast Rui Costa, Luis Figo, Nuno Gomes, Joao Pinto, Sergio Conceicao and more.
2002 World Cup qualifying: Won UEFA Group 5 (6-1-3; 21 GF, 11 GA)
World Cup final appearances: 6 – 1938 (11th), 1974 (3rd), 1978 (5th), 1982 (3rd), 1986 (14th), 2002
Overall Record in WC: 13-8-5
Manager: Jerzy Engel (POL)
2002 World Cup qualifying: Won UEFA Group 2 (7-0-3; 33 GF, 7 GA)
World Cup Finals Appearances: 3 – 1966 (3rd), 1986 (17th), 2002
Overall Record in WC: 6-4-0
Manager: Antonio Olivera
Tunisia v Belgium
Big Eye Stadium (Capacity: 43,000)
Group H – Oita, Japan – 6 p.m. local time
Live on ESPN2 at 4:55 a.m. ET
Tunisia have never won a FIFA World Cup match against a European team, and not many expect that to change when they face Belgium on Monday.
Belgium is coming off an exciting 2-2 draw with Japan in their opener. After playing a scoreless first half, Belgium and Japan combined for perhaps the most exciting 18 minutes of the tournament. The European side went ahead in the 57th minute through a Marc Wilmots’ overhead volley, before Japan answered with two goals to take a 2-1 lead. Belgium’s Peter Van Der Heyden ended the scoring with an equalizer in the 75th minute.
A win against Tunisia would set up an intense finish for Belgium against Russia, the group’s only winner in the opening round.
Tunisia, who surprisingly are in their second straight World Cup, were topped 2-0 by Russia in the opener, and need to salvage a result against a strong Belgium team to avoid elimination with one group match to play.
The Tunisians had a rough run up to the World Cup, as coach Henri Michel quit in March and shortly thereafter goalkeeper Chokri El Quaer retired due to injury. Just prior to his retirement, Michel led Tunisia to a scoreless draw with Korea.
At the 1998 World Cup, Tunisia recorded one draw and two losses, drawing 1-1 with Romania and losing 1-0 to Colombia and 2-0 to England. Their only goal of that tournament came from the penalty spot.
Belgium is appearing in their sixth straight World Cup, a streak matched only by world powers Argentina, Brazil, Germany, Italy and Spain. Interestingly, Belgium is the only squad to actually qualify for six consecutive World Cups (discounting hosts and defending champs). Belgium has finished in the top 13 in nine of their previous 10 World Cup appearances (1998 – 19th place).
Wilmots led the team in scoring during qualifying with eight goals, including a stretch where he scored in five straight games.
2002 World Cup qualifying: Finished second in UEFA “Group 6” (5-1-2; 25 GF, 6 GA); defeated Czech Republic in home-and-home playoff 2-0 on aggregate score.
World Cup final appearances: 11 – 1930 (11th), 1934 (15th), 1938 (13th), 1954 (12th), 1970 (10th), 1982 (10th), 1986 (4th), 1990 (11th), 1994 (11th), 1998 (19th), 2002
Overall Record in WC: 9-16-8
Manager: Robert Waseige (BEL)
FIFA Ranking: 29th
2002 World Cup qualifying: Won Africa “Group 4” (6-0-2; 23 GF, 4 GA)
World Cup final appearances: 3 – 1978 (13th), 1998 (26th), 2002
Overall Record in WC: 1-4-2
Managers: Ammar Souyah, Khemaies Laabidi