ARGENTINA

COACH: Alfio Basile (resident of Argentina; hired 1991).

PLAYERS TO WATCH

MF DIEGO MARADONA: One of all-time greats, playing in fourth Cup.

F CLAUDIO CANIGGIA: Deadly scorer returning from drug suspension.

F GABRIEL BATISTUTA: World-class scoring threat.

WORLD CUP HISTORY: 11th appearance (24-15-9 record). Champion in 1978, '86. Runner-up in '90.

STRENGTHS: This team knows what it takes to win in World Cup, having made an appearance in championship game three of past four tournaments. Caniggia's return boosts attack and Maradona provides leadership and inspiration.

WEAKNESSES: Without Maradona, no one's quite sure who's running the show. MFs Diego Simeone and Fernando Redondo must step up. G Sergio Goycochea is coming off lackluster pro season.

OUTLOOK: Quarterfinals are certain, semifinals possible.

OF NOTE: Said Batistuta: "Scoring a goal is just the best feeling for a striker. But it's hard to describe -- orgasmic, I guess."

BELGIUM

COACH: Paul Van Himst (Belgium; hired 1991).

PLAYERS TO WATCH

G MICHEL PREUD'HOMME: One of world's best goalkeepers.

MF ENZO SCIFO: Maestro of midfield.

F JOSIP WEBER: High-scoring Croat received citizenship this year and has made immediate impact.

WORLD CUP HISTORY: Ninth appearance (7-14-4).

STRENGTHS: With gifted Scifo, midfield will provide spark. Preud'Homme, 35, can still perform at international level.

WEAKNESSES: If Belgium ever had a superstar at striker, it perhaps could rise to next level and challenge for world title. The hope lies with Weber and F Marc Wilmots.

OUTLOOK: The quarterfinals are realistic goal for one of Europe's stablest squads.

OF NOTE: Van Himst was voted country's best-dressed man, receiving the highest score on an applause meter during a late-night fashion show. His prize? A trip to Istanbul and a clothes voucher worth $1,340.

BOLIVIA

COACH: Xavier Azkargorta (Spain; hired 1993).

PLAYERS TO WATCH

F MARCO ETCHEVERRY: Playmaker and goal scorer slowed by knee injury.

MF ERWIN SANCHEZ: Nickname is "Platini," after former French star.

MF MILTON MELGAR: Team leader and captain, superb passer.

WORLD CUP HISTORY: Third appearance (0-3-0).

STRENGTHS: Bolivia is sure to entertain with an offensive-minded style that is capable of disrupting favored Germany and Spain. Many players know each other well, having developed their skills at famed Tahuichi Academy in Santa Cruz, Bolivia.

WEAKNESSES: Etcheverry's sore knee could pose problems and keep him out of opener vs. Germany. Forty-four years between appearances, squad's lack of Cup experience could be a factor.

OUTLOOK: Beating South Korea is essential to getting to the second round.

OF NOTE: When he's not enjoying his hero status in Bolivia, Azkargorta -- a Basque from Spain -- is a medical doctor, psychologist and journalist.

BRAZIL

COACH: Carlos Alberto Parreira (Brazil; hired 1991).

PLAYERS TO WATCH

F ROMARIO: Temperamental superstar capable of taking over game.

F BEBETO: Former South American player of year.

D JORGINHO: World's best right back loves to attack.

WORLD CUP HISTORY: 15th appearance (44-11-11). Champion in 1958, '62, '70.

STRENGTHS: No team can match individual flair, style and grace. Abundance of forwards, including 17-year-old Ronaldo, means goals shouldn't be hard to come by.

WEAKNESSES: Rai, brother of Brazilian legend Socrates, is supposed to orchestrate attack, but he's coming off miserable season in France. Goalkeeping never has been a strength.

OUTLOOK: After disappointing play in 1990, fourth world title is within grasp.

OF NOTE: Brazil is only team to play in every Cup tournament and only one to win title far from home (1958 in Sweden). Every other champion has won a Cup held on its own side of the Atlantic.

BULGARIA

COACH: Dimitar Penev (Bulgaria; hired 1990).

PLAYERS TO WATCH

F HRISTO STOICHKOV: Striker extraordinaire -- with a temper.

F EMIL KOSTADINOV: Scored two goals in berth-clinching win over France.

G BORIS MIKHAILOV: Regular with national team since 1984.

WORLD CUP HISTORY: Sixth appearance (0-10-6).

STRENGTHS: High-powered attack was responsible for knocking out heavily favored France in qualifying round. Stoichkov has emerged as one of world's top scoring threats.

WEAKNESSES: Past Cups have not been kind: 16 matches, no wins. Starting forward Lubislav Penev, the coach's nephew, is being treated for testicular cancer and won't play.

OUTLOOK: Finally, a win -- and maybe a trip to second round.

OF NOTE: After team qualified with win in France, Premier Lyuben Berov went to Sofia's airport at 5 a.m. to meet team plane. However, only two players were aboard; the others missed the flight after a night of celebrating in Paris.

CAMEROON

COACH: Henri Michel (France; hired Jan. 1994).

PLAYERS TO WATCH

F FRANCOIS OMAM-BIYIK: In 1990, scored historic goal vs. defending champion Argentina.

G JOSEPH-ANTOINE BELL: At age 39, he'll finally play in World Cup.

F ROGER MILLA: 1990 star is back, out of retirement at age 42.

WORLD CUP HISTORY: Third appearance (3-2-3).

STRENGTHS: Skillful lineup is confident it can repeat 1990's improbable run to quarterfinals. Many players have gained valuable experience in European leagues.

WEAKNESSES: Veteran team is prone to defensive letdowns and disorganized play. Instability of national government and soccer federation hampered preparations.

OUTLOOK: The Indomitable Lions won't catch anyone by surprise this time, but talent will get them to second round.

OF NOTE: Bell is nicknamed "Mandela" for serving as players' representative when federation withheld paychecks and bonuses. Federation offices are without electricity and phones for not paying bills.

COLOMBIA

COACH: Francisco Maturana (Colombia; hired 1992).

PLAYERS TO WATCH

MF CARLOS VALDERRAMA: Leader of high-scoring charge.

F FAUSTINO ASPRILLA: Dynamic, world-class scorer.

F ADOLFO VALENCIA: Another Asprilla.

WORLD CUP HISTORY: Third appearance (1-4-2).

STRENGTHS: World Cup's best attack could carry this team a long way. Valderrama and MF Freddy Rincon are creators, Asprilla and Valencia finishers. G Oscar Cordoba has been pleasant surprise, succeeding Rene Higuita.

WEAKNESSES: Defense will need production from attack to relieve pressure. Team could have problems with physical Europeans.

OUTLOOK: South America's rising power has its eyes on semifinals.

OF NOTE: Said Rincon: "We believe the ball deserves to be treated well, with respect. When we play, we like to put on a show. Winning is a bonus."

GERMANY

COACH: Berti Vogts (Germany; hired 1991).

PLAYERS TO WATCH

D LOTHAR MATTHAUS: Captain of 1990 squad shifts from midfield to sweeper.

F JURGEN KLINSMANN: Hard worker with acute scoring touch.

MF THOMAS HASSLER: 5-foot-5 star who specializes in pinpoint free kicks.

WORLD CUP HISTORY: 13th appearance (39-14-15). Champion in 1954, '74, '90. Runner-up in '66, '82 and '86.

STRENGTHS: No one can match efficiency and discipline and few can match talent. MF Andreas Moller is dangerous attacking midfielder who supports forwards. F Rudi Voller, 34, has come out of retirement to boost attack.

WEAKNESSES: The stylish South Americans could find defensive holes. Is Matthaus comfortable in the back?

OUTLOOK: The final is a good bet.

OF NOTE: Germany will try to become first country to win consecutive titles since Brazil in 1958-62 and first to appear in four straight championship games.

GREECE

COACH: Alkis Panagoulias (Greece/U.S.; hired 1992).

PLAYERS TO WATCH

D STELIOS MANOLAS: Sweeper brings stability to defense.

F NIKOS MACHLAS: At 21, rising star with a scoring touch.

MF NIKOS TSIANTAKIS: Creative player on the left side.

WORLD CUP HISTORY: First appearance.

STRENGTHS: Tough-willed squad was one of surprises of European qualifying. Solid defense, anchored by Manolas, should keep it close. Machlas will finish chances.

WEAKNESSES: Greeks are simply overmatched at most positions. International inexperience is a big factor.

OUTLOOK: Prospects of advancing to second round aren't good.

OF NOTE: Panagoulias, the only U.S. citizen coaching a team in this World Cup, coached NASL's RFK Stadium-based Team America in the early 1980s and the U.S. Olympic team in 1984. When not in Greece, he lives in Vienna, Va.

IRELAND

COACH: Jack Charlton (England; hired 1986).

PLAYERS TO WATCH

D DENIS IRWIN: One of best defenders in the English League.

D PAUL McGRATH: Fierce defender has overcome eight knee operations.

MF ROY KEANE: Best young player on veteran squad.

WORLD CUP HISTORY: Second appearance (0-1-4).

STRENGTHS: Ireland compensates for lack of technical skill by working relentlessly for entire game. Defense won't allow many goals, but attack won't score many either.

WEAKNESSES: Age has caught up with Irish, who might wear down in the summer heat and humidity. Knee injury to striker Niall Quinn hurts aerial attack.

OUTLOOK: Recent exhibition wins have revitalized hopes for second round.

OF NOTE: Most players are from England, but are eligible for Ireland because of family roots. Charlton played for England's 1966 World Cup champion team.

ITALY

COACH: Arrigo Sacchi (Italy; hired 1992).

PLAYERS TO WATCH

F ROBERTO BAGGIO: 1993 world player of the year.

D PAOLO MALDINI: Best left back in the world.

D FRANCO BARESI: Veteran sweeper anchors defense.

WORLD CUP HISTORY: 13th appearance (31-11-12); Champion in 1934, '38, '82. Runner-up in '70.

STRENGTHS: It starts in the back with Baresi and Maldini, moves to a decent midfield and ends with gifted Baggio, the key to Italy's success. F Giuseppe Signori is nice complement on frontline.

WEAKNESSES: If Baggio is neutralized, who steps up? Outside MF Stefano Eranio is out with leg injury.

OUTLOOK: Many questions still unanswered, but semifinals in sight.

OF NOTE: Seven of the 22 players are from AC Milan, the world club champion. Sacchi left Milan in 1992 to take over national team and brought a more offensive-minded philosophy.

MEXICO

COACH: Miguel Mejia Baron (Mexico; hired 1993).

PLAYERS TO WATCH

F LUIS GARCIA: Excellent scorer who plays pro in Spain.

G JORGE CAMPOS: Flamboyant player who often strays far out of goal.

D RAMON RAMIREZ: Outstanding left back who excels on attack.

WORLD CUP HISTORY: 10th appearance (6-17-6).

STRENGTHS: As first team to qualify, Mexico has had more than a year to prepare. Thousands of fans in this country will provide support. When offense is clicking, team is hard to stop.

WEAKNESSES: Team seems to have peaked after great results in 1993.

OUTLOOK: If it can survive difficult first-round group, quarterfinals are possible.

OF NOTE: At 1986 World Cup, Baron was a Mexico assistant under present U.S. Coach Bora Milutinovic. Before becoming a coach, Baron had a dental practice.

MOROCCO

COACH: Abdellah Blinda (Morocco; hired 1993).

PLAYERS TO WATCH

F MOHAMED CHAOUCH: French League veteran had five goals in qualifying.

MF MUSTAPHA HADJI: 22-year-old is rising star in France.

MF RACHID DAOUDI: Usually shadows opponent's top striker.

WORLD CUP HISTORY: Third appearance (1-3-3).

STRENGTHS: With many players competing in European leagues and strong tradition behind it, Morocco has upset capabilities. Hadji, who also was eligible to play for France, brings a youthful lift.

WEAKNESSES: Lineup doesn't appear as strong as in previous Cup appearances.

OUTLOOK: Could provide early surprise.

OF NOTE: In 1970, Morocco became first African team to play in World Cup. In 1986, it became first African team to win a first-round group, finishing ahead of England, Poland and Portugal.

NETHERLANDS

COACH: Dick Advocaat (Netherlands; hired 1992).

PLAYERS TO WATCH

D RONALD KOEMAN: Known for his booming free kicks.

F DENNIS BERGKAMP: The next in a long line of great Dutch attackers.

MF WIM JONK: Playmaking star from Italian League.

WORLD CUP HISTORY: Sixth appearance (8-6-6). Runner-up in 1974, '78.

STRENGTHS: In terms of talent, Dutch are equal to Germany, Brazil and Argentina, and their offense can score goals in bunches. Koeman is one of steadiest defenders in the world and Bergkamp could emerge as star of the tournament.

WEAKNESSES: F Marco Van Basten, a two-time world player of the year, will miss tournament because of ankle problems. And sudden departure of superstar MF Ruud Gullit earlier this month doesn't help squad's already-fragile psyche.

OUTLOOK: A trip to final is possible -- but so is another premature exit.

OF NOTE: Dutch legend Johan Cruyff, who played for Washington Diplomats in the NASL, was supposed to take over as coach after team qualified. But federation wouldn't meet his contract demands, and Advocaat remained.

NIGERIA

COACH: Clemens Westerhof (Netherlands; hired 1990).

PLAYERS TO WATCH

F RASHIDI YEKINI: Powerful striker, Africa's top player.

MF AUSTIN OKOCHA: Gifted 20-year-old playmaker.

MF SUNDAY OLISEH: 19-year-old with brilliant future.

WORLD CUP HISTORY: First appearance.

STRENGTHS: This is a powerful, fast and talented team that is capable of overwhelming many opponents. Free-spirited approach and desire to attack should produce some high-scoring games.

WEAKNESSES: When they go on their frenzied attacks, they sometimes forget about defense. Inexperience could be a factor.

OUTLOOK: The Cameroon of '94, with hopes of going even further.

OF NOTE: Although this is their first World Cup berth, the Nigerians have been a power on the youth level since 1985, when they won the under-16 world title. They also finished second in the 1989 under-20 world tournament.

NORWAY

COACH: Egil Olsen (Norway; hired 1990).

PLAYERS TO WATCH

G ERIK THORSTVEDT: One of world's best who's been with team for 12 years.

F JOSTEIN FLO: 6-5 striker who specializes in headers on goal.

D RUNE BRATSETH: One of top sweepers in German League.

WORLD CUP HISTORY: Second appearance (0-1-0), first since 1938.

STRENGTHS: With many British-based professionals, the style is distinctly English (long passes, aerial attack), which could frustrate technical opponents.

WEAKNESSES: Injuries to key players have weakened lineup. Players aren't accustomed to playing in oppressive heat.

OUTLOOK: Strong first-round group and undesirable weather could spell trouble.

OF NOTE: When asked by Soccer America magazine whether Norway will entertain action-hungry U.S. fans, Olsen replied: "No. We will win."

ROMANIA

COACH: Anghel Iordanescu (Romania; hired 1993).

PLAYERS TO WATCH

MF GHEORGHE HAGI: Highlighted 1990 World Cup with nifty runs and passes.

F FLORIN RADUCIOIU: Improved his game with AC Milan.

MF ILIE DUMITRESCU: Rapidly becoming a star in Europe.

WORLD CUP HISTORY: Sixth appearance (3-6-3).

STRENGTHS: The Romanians are loaded with talent, particularly on offense. Hagi is leader of a lethal attack that has been clicking in exhibitions this year.

WEAKNESSES: Have reputation for losing composure. Defense has holes.

OUTLOOK: This could be one of 1994's surprise teams.

OF NOTE: The Romanian federation rejected an offer to eat unlimited free pizza during the Cup, courtesy of Hagi's cousin, who owns a restaurant chain in California. "Pizza is a top performer's biggest foe," team doctor said.

RUSSIA

COACH: Pavel Sadyrin (Russia; hired 1992).

PLAYERS TO WATCH

F SERGEI YURAN: Hard-working scorer who plays in Portugal.

D VICTOR ONOPKO: Former Russian player of the year.

G DIMITRI KHARIN: Outstanding player from English League.

WORLD CUP HISTORY: First appearance (Soviet Union made seven appearances, 15-10-6).

STRENGTHS: If Kharin -- who played for Sadyrin on Red Army team a few years ago -- doesn't play well, Stanislav Cherchesov from German League is available. The younger players are talented and will need to respond to pressure.

WEAKNESSES: Lineup depleted by absence of many top players who refuse to play for Sadyrin.

OUTLOOK: Missing players, bad morale could doom once-promising hopes.

OF NOTE: Commenting on the player revolt against him, Sadyrin said: "In all of the civilized world, the players do not appoint the coach -- the coach appoints the players."

SAUDI ARABIA

COACH: Jorge Solari (Argentina; hired March 1994).

PLAYERS TO WATCH

F MAJED ABDULLAH: "Desert Pele" is spectacular.

G MOHAMMED AL DEAYEA: Star in final qualifying round.

MF KHALID AL MUWALLID: Playmaker with scoring touch.

WORLD CUP HISTORY: First appearance.

STRENGTHS: Excellent goalkeeper, good team speed, brilliance of Abdullah, motivation to earn generous bonuses.

WEAKNESSES: Average age is 22. With exception of Abdullah, team is overmatched at most positions.

OUTLOOK: Outside chance at second round.

OF NOTE: Earlier this year, after he had fired another coach, King Fahd asked Argentina President Carlos Menem for a candidate. Menem suggested one of his countrymen, Solari, who played in 1966 World Cup.

SOUTH KOREA

COACH: Kim Ho (South Korea; hired 1990).

PLAYERS TO WATCH

MF KIM JU SUNG: Two-time Asian player of the year.

F HWANG SUN HONG: Striker with aerial precision.

MF KO JONG WOON: Speedy winger who can score.

WORLD CUP HISTORY: Fourth appearance (0-7-1).

STRENGTHS: Excellent technical skill and superstar Kim gives Asia's most consistent team hopes of victory. Young players are talented and quick.

WEAKNESSES: Defense has been criticized for lack of concentration and coherence, leading to late-game goals.

OUTLOOK: Spain and Bolivia must beware of first-round surprise.

OF NOTE: When Iraq's last-second goal tied Japan and provided South Korea with Asia's last berth (instead of Japan), hundreds of Koreans called Iraqi embassy in Seoul to express gratitude.

SPAIN

COACH: Javier Clemente (Spain; hired 1992).

PLAYERS TO WATCH

F JULIO SALINAS: Scored seven goals in eight qualifying games.

G ANDONI ZUBIZARRETA: Team's all-time leader in games played.

MF JULEN GUERRERO: 20-year-old sensation.

WORLD CUP HISTORY: Ninth appearance (13-12-7).

STRENGTHS: Nucleus of squad from four-time Spanish League champion FC Barcelona. Despite his age, Guerrero will be counted on to kick-start attack.

WEAKNESSES: Young squad will show inexperience at times. Zubizarreta will miss opener vs. South Korea because of suspension dating to final qualifying game.

OUTLOOK: A tough bunch to figure out, but second round likely.

OF NOTE: Despite being national team's top scoring threat, Salinas rarely starts for his club, Barcelona, because of other international stars such as Romario of Brazil and Hristo Stoichkov of Bulgaria.

SWEDEN

COACH: Tommy Svensson (Sweden; hired 1991).

PLAYERS TO WATCH

F MARTIN DAHLIN: Emerged on world scene in past year.

F THOMAS BROLIN: Reliable scorer out of Italian League.

G THOMAS RAVELLI: Most experienced goalie in World Cup.

WORLD CUP HISTORY: Ninth appearance (11-14-6). Runner-up in 1958.

STRENGTHS: Dahlin and Brolin provide lethal attack. Ravelli is unspectacular but consistently solid. MF Henrik Larsson provides spark.

WEAKNESSES: In addition to defensive questions, there's pressure to erase memories of first-round elimination in 1990.

OUTLOOK: Second place in group most likely scenario.

OF NOTE: Sweden has done well as a host to major competitions. In 1958, it advanced to World Cup final before losing to Brazil. In 1992, it went to semifinals in European championships.

SWITZERLAND

COACH: Roy Hodgson (England; hired 1992).

PLAYERS TO WATCH

F STEPHANE CHAPUISAT: Dynamic player -- and only 24.

F ADRIAN KNUP: World-class scorer in German League.

MF CIRIACO SFORZA: Fills playmaking role.

WORLD CUP HISTORY: Seventh appearance (5-11-2).

STRENGTHS: Multi-faceted attack charged by German-based professionals. Despite long absence from Cup, players are confident after beating and tying Italy in qualifying.

WEAKNESSES: Defense can be solved when pressured.

OUTLOOK: Opener vs. United States is key match.

OF NOTE: Said Hodgson, of Swiss's first berth since 1966: "Nearly 30 years of absence from the top level will be difficult to hide. But we're all allowed to dream and we do have a glimmer of hope."

UNITED STATES

COACH: Bora Milutinovic (Yugoslavia/Mexico; hired 1991).

PLAYERS TO WATCH

D THOMAS DOOLEY: Team's most valuable and most versatile player.

MF TAB RAMOS: Brings creative flair to attack.

MF-D JOHN HARKES: Hard-working veteran of English League.

WORLD CUP HISTORY: Fifth appearance (3-7-0).

STRENGTHS: Foreign-based professionals provide big lift and home-field advantage shouldn't be underestimated. Dooley stabilizes defense and provides offensive push.

WEAKNESSES: They're plagued at times by porous defense that has been allowing too many good scoring opportunities. Have not won World Cup match since 1950.

OUTLOOK: A win over Switzerland in the opener should mean second-round berth.

OF NOTE: Three players are from the University of Virginia: GK Tony Meola, Harkes and 20-year-old MF Claudio Reyna, the youngest member of the squad who left Charlottesville in January. Five players are from UCLA.