France v Uruguay
Busan Asian Stadium (capacity: 55,982)
Group A – Busan, Korea – 8:30 p.m. local time
U.S. Television Information: Live on ESPN2 at 7:25 a.m. ET
After France’s shocking opening defeat to Senegal and Denmark’s 2-1 win over Uruguay, this match suddenly turned into an elimination game between two of the most unlikely teams - the last team to qualify for the World Cup (Uruguay) and the defending champions.
France was stunned by Senegal in the opening game of the tournament, giving France no margin for error in their two remaining group games. Star French midfielder Zinedine Zidane trained on Monday and may play against Uruguay after sitting out the opener. Youri Djorkaeff is another key member of the French midfield who may miss the match, as he suffered a groin injury after starting in the opener.
The French defense must improve over their opening game performance, and will be tested by Uruguay’s Sebastian Abreu and Alvaro Recoba.
The French defense has been under much criticism since the loss to Senegal. But it will be up to France’s offense to improve as well, after the famed French attack was shutout. The French did hit the goalposts twice in the match, but it will be up to Thierry Henry and David Trezeguet to light up the scoreboard against a team that only surrendered 13 goals in 18 qualifiers (while scoring only 19 times).
FIFA Ranking: Tied 20th
2002 World Cup qualifying: Finished fifth in CONMEBOL Final Group (7-5-6; 19 GF, 13 GA); defeated Australia in home-and-home playoff 3-1 on aggregate
World Cup final appearances: 10 – 1930 (1st), 1950 (1st), 1954 (4th), 1962 (12th), 1966 (7th), 1970 (4th), 1974 (13th), 1986 (16th), 990 (16th), 2002
Overall Record in WC: 15-14-8
Manager: Victor Pua (URU)
Championship Honors: 1930 & 1950 World Cup champions; 1916, 1917, 1920, 1923, 1924, 1926, 1935, 1942, 1956, 1959, 1967, 1987, & 1995 Copa America champions (13 times)
FIFA Ranking: 1st
2002 World Cup qualifying: Qualified as defending champion
World Cup final appearances: 11 – 1930 (7th), 1934 (9th), 1938 (6th), 1954 (11th), 1958 (3rd), 1966 (13th), 1978 (12th), 1982 (4th), 1986 (3rd), 1998 (1st), 2002
Overall Record in WC: 21-14-6
Manager: Roger Lemerre (FRA)
Championship Honors: 1984 Olympic champions; 1998 World Cup champions; 1984 & 2000 European Cup champions; 2001
Confederations Cup champions
Cameroon v Saudi Arabia
Saitama Stadium (capacity: 63,700)
Group E – Saitama, Japan - 6p.m. local time
U.S. Television Information: Live on ESPN2 at 4:55 a.m. ET
Cameroon would appear to be preparing for a walkover against Saudi Arabia, after seeing Germany hammer them 8-0 in their opener. But they aren't expecting the Saudia Arabian squad to lie down for them.
“The worst thing you can do is underestimate any team - that would be dangerous," Cameroon coach Winfried Schafer said. “I know they will try to play much better and more aggressively against us, but my team will do everything to fight and win this game.”
Cameroon, back-to-back winners of the African Nations Cup and the 2000 Olympic winners, are the only African nation to advance to the tournament quarterfinals, doing so in Italy in 1990. In their opener, Cameroon drew 1-1 with Ireland, dominating Ireland for a half and only scoring once, before seeing Ireland and Matt Holland level the score in the second half. Germany and Ireland played to a 1-1 draw on Wednesday night, so a Cameroon win would put them level at the top of the group with Germany.
Saudi Arabia had the worst match of any team in the opening round –giving up four goals on either side of halftime. A surprise 12th-place finisher in the 1994 World Cup, the Saudi Arabians need to take great strides after their disappointing opener. But Saudi will have the difficult task of trying to take those strides against a talented Cameroon side.
FIFA Ranking: 18th (tied)
2002 World Cup qualifying: Won Africa “Group 1” (6-1-1; 14 GF, 4 GA)
World Cup final appearances: 5 – 1982 (17th), 1990 (7th), 1994 (22nd), 1998 (25th), 2002
Overall Record in WC: 3-5-6
Manager: Robert Corfu (FRA)
Championship Honors: 2000 Olympic champions; 1984, 1988 & 2000 African Nations Cup champions
FIFA Ranking: 34th
2002 World Cup qualifying: Won Asia “Group 1” (5-1-2; 17 GF, 8 GA)
World Cup final appearances: 3 – 1994 (12th), 1998 (28th), 2002
Overall Record in WC: 2-4-1
Championship Honors: 1984, 1988 & 1996 Asian Cup champions
Denmark v Senegal
Daegu World Cup Stadium (capacity: 68,014 )
Group A – Daegu – 3:30 p.m. local time
U.S. Television Information: Live on ESPN2 at 2:25 a.m. ET
The world will be watching to see if Senegal’s result against France was a fluke, or a signal from an up-and-coming soccer nation. After the World Cup Draw, not many figured that this match would be for the top spot in Group A, but Senegal pulled off one of the biggest World Cup upsets, changing the face of the group.
While Senegal was shocking the tournament in the first round, Denmark looked very impressive in a 2-1 win over Uruguay. Jon Dahl Tomasson tallied twice in the victory. Tomasson will definitely get the attention of a Senegal defense that shut down the explosive France offense. Aside from Tomasson, Senegal will have to worry about Denmark striker by Ebbe Sand, whose nine goals in qualifying were second in Europe.
Senegal is paced by 21 players who play professionally in France, and their names are already etched in the World Cup history books, not to mention Senegal lore. The story of this game – and the rest fo the World Cup – will be if Senegal can repeat that historic performance. Part of that question could be answered in Daegu on Thursday.
FIFA Ranking: 20th (tied)
2002 World Cup qualifying: Won UEFA “Group 3” (6-0-4; 22 GF, 6 GA)
World Cup final appearances: 3 – 1986 (9th), 1998 (8th), 2002
Overall Record in WC: 5-3-1
Manager: Morten Olsen (DEN)
Championship Honors: 1992 European Cup champions; 1995 Confederations Cup champions
FIFA Ranking: 43rd
2002 World Cup qualifying: Won Africa “Group 3” (4-1-3; 14 GF, 2 GA)
World Cup final appearances: 1 – 2002
Overall Record in WC: First appearance
Manager: Bruno Metsu (SEN)