THE U.S. TEAM

PROBABLE STARTERS

TONY MEOLA: Goalkeeper. Height: 6-1. Weight: 205. Age: 20. Hometown: Kearny, N.J. College: Virginia. One soccer expert said Meola will face 100 shots in Italy and if he stops 70, a top European club will offer a lucrative contract. Stepped into the U.S. lineup last fall during the final qualifying round and registered four shutouts.

MIKE WINDISCHMANN: Defender, 6-0, 175, 24, Glendale, N.Y., Adelphi. Captain and most experienced player in U.S. history with 50 appearances against international opponents. Started career as a left back and now is a consistent sweeper. Scored a goal against Argentina in 1988 Olympics.

STEVE TRITTSCHUH: Defender, 6-0, 175, 24, Granite City, Ill., Southern Illinois. Used primarily at the front of the U.S. defense or as a marker on the opponent's top offensive player. Played every minute in last year's eight qualifying matches. Particularly strong in the air.

DESMOND ARMSTRONG: Defender, 6-0, 175, 25, Washington, D.C., Maryland. Graduated from Howard High School in Columbia, Md. Played in the Olympic Festival in 1983-85-87 and the 1988 Olympics. Missed most of last season after breaking a leg in an indoor game. Has been very consistent during this spring's exhibition schedule.

JOHN STOLLMEYER: Midfielder, 5-9, 175, 27, Annandale, Va., Indiana. Jefferson High School graduate. Was the youngest player (16) on the 19-and-under national team in 1979 and now is the oldest on the World Cup team. Known for his physical play and tenacity, he also is a scoring threat from 25 yards with strength in both feet.

PAUL CALIGIURI: Midfielder, 5-10, 172, 25, Diamond Bar, Calif., UCLA. Played for 1988 Olympic team. Scored the winning goal against Trinidad and Tobago last fall that sent the U.S. to the Cup finals. Played three years in West Germany's Second Division.

TAB RAMOS: Midfielder, 5-7, 140, 23, Hillside, N.J., N.C. State. Born in Montevideo, Uruguay, he's the team's most creative player. Often shows his Latin style with exciting bursts through the middle. A member of the national under-20 team when he was 15.

JOHN HARKES: Midfielder, 5-11, 165, 22, Kearny, N.J., Virginia. Collegiate player of the year and three-time all-American. Started all eight qualifying matches. Not as flashy as Ramos, he creates scoring chances with delicate footwork and hard work.

ERIC WYNALDA: Forward, 6-1, 172, 20, Westlake, Calif., San Diego State. Joined squad late last year and has had a major impact with impressive dribbling and scoring ability. Scored three goals in four-game span this spring. Started every game last summer for developmental team.

BRUCE MURRAY: Forward, 6-1, 170, 24, Germantown, Md., Clemson. Churchill High School graduate. Most experienced offensive player, with booming shots from inside 20 yards. Strong in the air and physical one-on-one player. Tied for third on all-time U.S. list with seven international goals.

PETER VERMES: Forward, 6-0, 175, 23, Delran, N.J., Rutgers. First American to play First Division in Hungarian and Dutch leagues. Missed many games last year while with FC Volendam in the Netherlands. Has developed into the U.S.'s best all-around attacker in the last six months.

RESERVES

KASEY KELLER: Goalkeeper, 6-2, 165, 20, Lacey, Wash., Portland, Ore. Led under-20 team to fourth-place finish in last year's world championships.

DAVID VANOLE: Goalkeeper, 6-2, 225, 27, Manhattan Beach, Calif., UCLA. Started in 1988 Olympics and three of first four qualifying matches last year.

JIMMY BANKS: Defender, 5-8, 145, 25, Milwaukee, Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Quick back needed to protect wings.

JOHN DOYLE: Defender, 6-3, 185, 23, Fremont, Calif., San Francisco. Excellent player in the air.

PAUL KRUMPE: Defender, 5-11, 170, 26, Redondo Beach, Calif., UCLA. One of the team's best two-way players.

MARCELO BALBOA: Defender, 6-1, 160, 22, Cerritos, Calif., San Diego State. Excellent speed and footwork.

NEIL COVONE: Midfielder, 5-8, 135, 20, Hialeah, Fla., Wake Forest. Gansler's captain on under-20 team.

CHRIS HENDERSON: Midfielder, 5-8, 140, 19, Everett, Wash., UCLA. Team's youngest player. Great potential.

BRIAN BLISS: Midfielder, 5-8, 150, 25, Rochester, N.Y., Southern Connecticut. Former starter who is best on wings.

CHRIS SULLIVAN: Forward, 6-0, 165, 25, Redwood City, Calif., Tampa. Accustomed to European style after playing in France and Hungary.

ERIC EICHMANN: Forward, 5-10, 160, 24, Margate, Fla., Clemson. Good passer, but slow by international standards.

BOB GANSLER: Has endured much criticism in the last six months despite qualifying for finals. Led under-20 team to fourth place in last year's world championships. Captain and defender on Olympic team in 1964-68.

GROUP A

AUSTRIA CUP APPEARANCE: 6th.

BEST FINISH:

Semifinals in 1934, 1954.

COACH:

Josef Hickersberger.

PLAYERS TO WATCH:

F Toni Polster, F Gerhard Rodax, MF Manfred Zsak.

ANALYSIS:

Playing in a mediocre group, the Austrians have a good chance to advance. Polster (32 goals for Seville) and Rodax (35 for Admira Wacker) are excellent attackers, but they will need support from an average defense.

CZECHOSLOVAKIA

CUP APPEARANCE:

8th.

BEST FINISH:

Runner-up in 1934, 1962.

COACH:

Josef Venglos.

PLAYERS TO WATCH:

D Frantisek Straka, D Jan Kocian, F Milan Luhovy.

ANALYSIS:

No one knows what to expect from the Czechs, a world power many years ago. They may try to defeat the United States and earn ties with Austria and Italy to advance. Expect a long-passing, counterattacking style.

ITALY

CUP APPEARANCE:

11th.

BEST FINISH:

Champion in 1934, 1938, 1982.

COACH:

Azeglio Vicini.

PLAYERS TO WATCH:

F Roberto Baggio, D Franco Baresi, G Walter Zenga.

ANALYSIS:

The pressure is on the Italians to win the Cup for a record fourth time. They should have no problem advancing to the second round, but there is concern after a sloppy outing last week in a scoreless tie against Greece.

UNITED STATES

CUP APPEARANCE:

4th.

BEST FINISH:

Semifinals in 1930.

COACH:

Bob Gansler.

PLAYERS TO WATCH:

G Tony Meola, F Peter Vermes, MF Tab Ramos.

ANALYSIS:

Team's average age is 23. It struggled to qualify by finishing second in a weak region. Goals have not come easily. Some say the Americans will lose three in a row and not score. Advancing to the second round is the goal. GROUP B

ARGENTINA

CUP APPEARANCE:

10th.

BEST FINISH:

Champions in 1978, 1986.

COACH:

Carlos Bilardo.

PLAYERS TO WATCH:

MF Diego Maradona, MF Jorge Burruchaga, D Oscar Ruggeri.

ANALYSIS:

Champions in two of the last three World Cup tournaments, Argentina is expected to make a semifinal appearance again. The key is Maradona, the star of 1986. If he regains his drive, his team may have a shot at another title.

CAMEROON

CUP APPEARANCE:

2nd.

BEST FINISH:

First round in 1982.

COACH:

Valeri Nepomniashi.

PLAYERS TO WATCH:

G Joseph-Antoine Bell, F Francois Oman-Buyick, MF Eugene Ekeke.

ANALYSIS:

In its first appearance in 1982, it tied three games. This year, Cameroon could be the first sub-Saharan team to advance to the second round if it beats Romania. Bell is exceptional and Ekeke is a dangerous attacker.

ROMANIA

CUP APPEARANCE:

5th.

BEST FINISH:

Never out of the first round.

COACH:

Emerich Jenei.

PLAYERS TO WATCH:

MF Gheorghe Hagi, F Gavrila Balint, G Silviu Lung.

ANALYSIS:

Balint, who scored the winning goal against Denmark to lift the team to the finals, and Florin Raducioiu must provide the scoring punch because the defense only is adequate. Lung is 34 and near the end of his career.

SOVIET UNION

CUP APPEARANCE:

7th.

BEST FINISH:

Quarterfinals three times.

COACH:

Valeri Lobanovsky.

PLAYERS TO WATCH:

F Oleg Protasov, MF Alexander Zavarov, G Rinat Dasayev.

ANALYSIS:

Gold medal winners and European championship runners-up in 1988, the Soviets have enough talent to challenge. However, they suffered a major blow when star MF Alexei Mikhailichenko injured his shoulder recently.

GROUP C

BRAZIL

CUP APPEARANCE:

14th.

BEST FINISH:

Champions in 1958, 1962, 1970.

COACH:

Sebastiao Lazaroni.

PLAYERS TO WATCH:

D Branco, F Careca, F Bobeto.

ANALYSIS:

Some say this is the best Brazilian team since Pele retired and that's why it is one of the favorites. Although it lacks a superstar, Brazil has speed, creativity and superb skill at every position. Fs Muller and Romario add depth to a dangerous attack.

COSTA RICA

CUP APPEARANCE:

1st.

BEST FINISH:

NA.

COACH:

Bora Milutinovic.

PLAYERS TO WATCH:

G Luis Conejo, MF Juan Cayasso, F Hernan Medford.

ANALYSIS:

The North American champion is not expected to last long, posing few problems to opponents. Milutinovic, a Yugoslavian, guided Mexico to the 1986 quarterfinals. This team is looking to learn and avoid embarrassing scores.

SCOTLAND

CUP APPEARANCE:

7th.

BEST FINISH:

Never out of the first round.

COACH:

Andy Roxburgh.

PLAYERS TO WATCH:

F Mo Johnston, F Ally McCoist, MF Paul McStay.

ANALYSIS:

This is the fifth straight time Scotland has been in the finals, but it probably will need a win or tie against Sweden or Brazil to advance. G Jim Leighton is steady, while Johnston, McCoist and Alan McInally provide a decent attack.

SWEDEN

CUP APPEARANCE:

8th.

BEST FINISH:

Semifinals in 1950.

COACH:

Olle Nordin.

PLAYERS TO WATCH:

D Glenn Hysen, D Peter Larsson, F Mats Magnusson.

ANALYSIS:

Sweden is not exciting, but its midfield and defense are good enough to get it to the second round. The key is the offense, which has struggled at times.

GROUP D

COLOMBIA

CUP APPEARANCE:

2nd.

BEST FINISH:

First round in 1962.

COACH:

Francisco Maturana.

PLAYERS TO WATCH:

G Rene Higuita, MF Carlos Valderrama, D Andres Escobar.

ANALYSIS:

Colombia, which finished a surprising third in the 1987 Copa America, has a shot at the second round, but that probably is it. Higuita, or "El Loco," is one of the world's most exciting players, with long runs into the attacking zone.

UNITED ARAB EMIRATES

CUP APPEARANCE:

1st.

BEST FINISH:

NA.

COACH:

Carlos Alberto.

PLAYERS TO WATCH:

G Abdel Mubarak, G Muhsin Musabeh, MF Abdul Razaq Ibrahim.

ANALYSIS:

UAE has its third head coach since qualifying last fall. The small nation is satisfied with the achievement and nothing is expected in Italy except to learn and avoid big losses.

WEST GERMANY

CUP APPEARANCE:

10th.

BEST FINISH:

Champions in 1954, 1974.

COACH:

Franz Beckenbauer.

PLAYERS TO WATCH:

F Rudi Voeller, MF Lothar Matthaeus, MF Thomas Haessler.

ANALYSIS:

Don't be surprised if West Germany is in the final for the third straight time. The Germans are stronger than their previous two teams, with depth at every position. Earlier this week, Beckenbauer used all reserves and still dominated in a 1-0 victory over Denmark.

YUGOSLAVIA

CUP APPEARANCE:

8th.

BEST FINISH:

Semifinals in 1930.

COACH:

Ivica Osim.

PLAYERS TO WATCH:

MF Dragan Stojkovic, MF Dejan Savicevic, MF Safet Susic.

ANALYSIS:

Yugoslavia has the potential to reach the semifinals with a powerful attack and an excellent midfield. The great Pele loves this team. Explosive at times, West Germany may be in for a surprise in the first round.

GROUP E

BELGIUM

CUP APPEARANCE:

8th.

BEST FINISH:

Semifinals in 1986.

COACH:

Guy Thys.

PLAYERS TO WATCH:

MF Enzo Scifo, F Marc Van der Linden, F Mark Degryse.

ANALYSIS:

The Belgians were the surprise of 1986 with a berth in the semifinals. Although they don't appear as strong, Degryse is an excellent striker and the return of Scifo could be beneficial.

SOUTH KOREA

CUP APPEARANCE:

3rd.

BEST FINISH:

Never out of the first round.

COACH:

Lee Hoe Taik.

PLAYERS TO WATCH:

F Lee Tae Ho, MF Chung Hae Won, F Kim Ju Sung.

ANALYSIS:

One of the best teams ever from Asia, but a difficult group is an obstacle to advancing. Kim Ju Sung is a two-time Asian player of the year. Koreans used speed and experience to outscore opponents, 30-1, in qualifying matches.

SPAIN

CUP APPEARANCE:

8th.

BEST FINISH:

Semifinals in 1950.

COACH:

Luis Suarez.

PLAYERS TO WATCH:

MF Michel, F Emilio Butragueno, MF Rafael Martin Vasquez.

ANALYSIS:

The group favorite and a threat to go a long way, Spain is led by many players from Real Madrid, the country's best pro team. G Andoni Zubizarreta is good, the defense is decent and the midfield is superb.

URUGUAY

CUP APPEARANCE:

9th.

BEST FINISH:

Champions in 1930, 1950.

COACH:

Oscar Tabarez.

PLAYERS TO WATCH:

F Ruben Sosa, MF Enzo Francescoli, G Fernando Alves.

ANALYSIS:

Sosa, who scored five goals in the final qualifying round, needs a big performance to boost a team that is considered a darkhorse for the semifinals. Uruguay defeated England, 2-1, at Wembley Stadium last week.

GROUP F

EGYPT

CUP APPEARANCE:

2nd.

BEST FINISH:

First round in 1934.

COACH:

Mahmoud el Gohary.

PLAYERS TO WATCH:

F Abdel Kass, F Hussam Hassan.

ANALYSIS:

Pity the Egyptians, who are stuck in a group with volatile and talented teams. With limited firepower and key injuries, their only option may be to slow things down and hope for a tie.

ENGLAND

CUP APPEARANCE:

9th.

BEST FINISH:

Champion in 1966.

COACH:

Bobby Robson.

PLAYERS TO WATCH:

F Gary Lineker, F John Barnes, G Peter Shilton.

ANALYSIS:

The English, who had a 17-game win streak snapped by Uruguay, have been clicking lately and probably will return to the quarterfinals. Shilton, 40, is a legend and forwards Lineker, Barnes and Peter Beardsley are excellent.

IRELAND

CUP APPEARANCE:

1st.

BEST FINISH:

NA.

COACH:

Jack Charlton.

PLAYERS TO WATCH:

F John Aldridge, F Niall Quinn, G Pat Bonner.

ANALYSIS:

The Irish could pose problems for England and Netherlands, the group favorites. A big win over Egypt and a tie in one of the other two matches could get them to the second round. Aldridge, a veteran attacker, needs to score.

NETHERLANDS

CUP APPEARANCE:

5th.

BEST FINISH:

Runner-up in 1974, 1978.

COACH:

Leo Beenhakker.

PLAYERS TO WATCH:

F Marco Van Basten, MF Ruud Gullit, D Frank Rijkaard.

ANALYSIS:

The Dutch have awesome talent and could win their first championship. Van Basten, two-time European player of the year, only is matched as an attacker by Maradona. The key is how effective Gullit is after three knee operations in the last year.