Sunday, June 02, 2002

Senegal upset buoys Americans

AP Sports Writer

        SEOUL, South Korea — If this is going to be a World Cup of upsets, the United States wants in.

        “It was a great day for soccer to see an African team like Senegal beat France,” defender Jeff Agoos said Saturday, a day after the African team's 1-0 win over the defending champion in the tournament's opener.

        On Wednesday, the Americans will be on the field for their opener, against Portugal in Suwon, South Korea. The U.S. team is a 6-1 underdog against the Portuguese, according to the British bookmaker Ladbrokes, and a 250-1 shot to win the tournament.

        Senegal had been an 8-1 underdog against the French.

        “You play that game over several times and you may not have the same result,” said U.S. coach Bruce Arena, who watched from a third-row seat at Seoul World Cup Stadium.

        Arena and four staff members attended the game, played about a 20-minute drive from where the U.S. team is preparing for its opener against Portugal on Wednesday. He signed autographs for fans on his first foray from the hotel that wasn't for practice or the team's trip to the demilitarized zone.

        Back at the hotel, about eight players gathered and watched the game together.

        “The effort Senegal put forth was enormous,” defender Gregg Berhalter said. “They stayed organized and they believed in themselves.”

        U.S. assistant coach Glenn Myernick said Senegal's victory was a sign of how the soccer world has gotten smaller.

        “It's not who you are,” he said. “It's what you do.”

        Myernick is the coach in charge of scouting Portugal. After the U.S. team arrived in Seoul a week ago, he traveled to Macau the next morning for Portugal's last World Cup warmup, taking airplanes, taxis, buses and ferries to get there and back.

        His analysis of what went wrong for France was simple: “You make mistakes in the wrong area of the field and you pay for them.”

        Portugal arrived at the World Cup on Thursday night after 10 days of training in the heat and humidity of Macau, its former colony. Portuguese goalkeeper Ricardo Pereira sounded cautious about the American team.

        “The U.S. team has grown a lot in all aspects: its athleticism, its tactical know-how and its competitiveness,” he said.

        Portuguese defender Abel Xavier will miss the game because of a thigh injury sustained Wednesday during the team's last training session in Macau. Midfielder Paulo Sousa also has a thigh injury and is not likely to play, Portugal team physician Dr. Henrique Jones said.

        Notes: Arena said he will probably finalize the lineup for the Portugal game in his mind Sunday. He said once he decides, he will tell Brad Friedel and Kasey Keller, his top two goalkeepers, which one is starting. ... After skipping Thursday's practice with minor injuries, Keller and MFs Claudio Reyna and John O'Brien all practiced Saturday. ... Reyna and O'Brien had a hairy time this week: They both got crew cuts. ... Tony Sanneh turned 31 Saturday.


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