China vs. Costa Rica
Gwangju World Cup Stadium (capacity: )
Group C – Gwangju, Korea – 3:30 p.m. local time
U.S. Television Information: Live on ESPN2 at 2:25 a.m. ET
China, one of four nations playing in their first World Cup, are known more for their coach than for any of their players. Bora Milutinovic, the “miracle worker” who has guided four teams to the second round of the World Cup, will need to work some more of his magic to get this team to the second round. China’s first trip to the World Cup figures to be short one, but they will be playing in front a huge following – more than 40,000 fans are expected to trek to Korea to cheer on the Chinese. China’s biggest accomplishment prior to qualification was three third place finishes at the Asian Cup Championship (1984, 1988, & 2000).
Costa Rica qualified for their second World Cup by winning CONCACAF with a record 23 points. The looked hot in 2002, but have hit a run of bad form coming into Korea. Costa Rica figures to battle with Turkey for the second spot behind Brazil, but with Brazil’s questionable play in qualifying, Costa Rica could end up in a fight for the top spot. Paolo Wanchope and Rolando Fonseca will be looked to for offense – each led Costa Rica with four goals and five goals, respectively, in final round qualifying. In 1990, Costa Rica became the first Central American country to advance past the first round.
2002 World Cup qualifying: Won Asia “Group 2” (6-1-1; 13 GF, 2 GA)
World Cup final appearances: 1 – 2002
Overall Record in WC: First appearance
Manager: Bora Milutinovic (SER)
2002 World Cup qualifying: Finished first in CONCACAF Final Group (7-1-2; 17 GF, 7 GA)
World Cup final appearances: 2 – 1990 (13th), 2002
Overall Record in WC: 2-2-0
Manager: Alexander Guimares (CRC)
Japan vs. Belgium
Saitama, Japan - Saitamna Stadium (capacity: 63,700)
Group H - Saitama, Japan – 6 p.m. local time
U.S. Television Information: Live on ESPN2 at 4:55 a.m. ET
These two teams met just three years ago in Japan, playing to a scoreless draw. The co-hosts expect a lot from this team, made up of many players from their 2000 Olympic Team that lost in penalties in the quarterfinals to the U.S. team. The most well-known of the group is Hidetoshi Nakata, who plays in Serie A with Parma. The Japanese impressed in last year’s FIFA Confederations Cup – where they advanced to the finals and lost to France. Japan also won the Asian Cup in October 2000. Each country to host the World Cup has advanced to the second round that same year … Japan will be looking to continue that streak, and the draw seems to be a favorable one.
Belgium may be one of the world’s most overlooked teams. The Red Devils, as they are known, are 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 advanved to the semifinals of the 1986 World Cup in Mexico, where they were eliminated 2-0 by Argentina, with Maradona scoring both goals. Marc Wilmots led the team in scoring during qualifying with eight goals, including a stretch where he scored in five straight games.
In a group that also includes Tunisia and Russia, Belgium and Japan must like their chances of advancing. The route to Round Two starts on June 4 in Saitama for these two squads.
2002 World Cup qualifying: Qualified as co-host
World Cup final appearances: 2 – 1998 (31st), 2002
Overall Record in WC: 0-3-0
Manager: Philippe Troussier (FRA)
Championship Honors: 1992 & 2000 Asian Cup champions
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: 9-16-7
Manager: Robert Waseige (BEL)
Korea Republic vs. Poland
Busan AsianStadium (capacity: 55,982)
Group D – Busan, Korea – 8:30 p.m. local time
U.S. Television Information: Live on ESPN2 at 7:25 a.m. ET
The U.S. will definitely play close attention to this group match, and the outcome could have an effect on the USA’s possible advancement to the Round of 16. Korea is trying to continue an impressive streak of every host nation advancing out of group play. The co-hosts have looked extremely dangerous of late, drawing with England and then getting a little unlucky in a 3-2 loss to France. Against European teams this year, Korea has posted a 1-1-2 record. The Korea defense has always been solid, and recently the offense has followed suit. In the first four months of 2002 the Koreans posted seven shutouts in 11 total matches.
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). In their final send-off match, Poland topped Estonia 1-0 in Warsaw. 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. The teams didn’t qualify for Euro 2000.
2002 World Cup qualifying: Qualified as a host country
World Cup final appearances: 6 – 1954 (16th), 1986 (20th), 1990 (22nd), 1994 (20th), 1998 (30th), 2002
Overall Record in WC: 0-10-4
Manager: Guus Hiddink (NED)
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: 13-7-5
Manager: Jerzy Engel (POL)