The first round of World Cup '94 is over. Eight of the world's best soccer teams have gone home. The ones that remain are the elite.

ITALY vs. NIGERIA

WHEN:

Tuesday, 1 p.m.

WHERE:

Foxboro Stadium, Foxboro, Mass.

TV:

ESPN, WMDO-48, Univision.

RADIO:

WMDO-1540.

KEY PLAYERS:

Nigeria F Daniel Amokachi, Italy F Roberto Baggio.

NIGERIA WILL WIN IF ...

it continues to play a hard-charging game that puts heavy pressure on opposing defenses. The pre-tournament star on the attack was F Rashidi Yekini, but Amokachi has provided a boost with his play. The danger with the Nigerians is their international inexperience -- which is rapidly disappearing -- and their oft-shaky defense.

ITALY WILL WIN IF ...

Baggio finally rises to the occasion and the bruised defense can hold off the mighty Nigerian attack. Baggio, the 1993 world player of the year, has been quiet, slowed by tight marking. F Guiseppe Signori needs to give an inspiring performance. Sweeper Franco Baresi, the defensive leader, is out with a knee injury and G Gianluca Pagliuca is on suspension; Luca Marchegiani will start.

OF NOTE:

Nigeria defender Mike Emenalo should feel right at home in Massachusetts; he was a star at Boston University in the mid-1980s before pursuing a professional career in Belgium.

THE PICK:

Changing of the guard. Nigeria, 2-1.

SPAIN vs. SWITZERLAND

WHEN:

Today, 4:25 p.m.

WHERE:

RFK Stadium, Washington.

TV:

ESPN, WMDO-48, Univision.

RADIO:

WMDO-1540.

KEY PLAYERS:

Spain F Julio Salinas, Switzerland MF Alain Sutter.

SPAIN WILL WIN IF ...

it plays like it did against Germany and like it did in the second half against Bolivia. There's always the fear it could slip into a rut like it did against South Korea, blowing a two-goal lead in the final six minutes. Salinas hasn't been much of a presence on the attack, but quick wing Juan Goicoechea has, creating dangerous rushes on the right side.

SWITZERLAND WILL WIN IF ...

its German-based professionals -- Sutter, Fs Stephane Chapuisat and Adrian Knup and MF Ciriaco Sforza -- continue to click. Their second-half performance against Romania in the Silverdome was outstanding and they did everything right except finish chances against the United States.

OF NOTE:

Switzerland, making its first Cup appearance in 28 years, hasn't advanced past the second round since 1938.

THE PICK:

Sutter and Sforza star. Switzerland, 2-1, in overtime.

GERMANY vs. BELGIUM

WHEN:

Today, 1 p.m.

WHERE:

Soldier Field, Chicago.

TV:

WJLA-7, WJZ-13, WMDO-48, Univision.

RADIO:

WMDO-1540.

KEY PLAYERS:

Germany MF Andreas Moller, Belgium F Josip Weber.

GERMANY WILL WIN IF ...

it shakes off the indifferent play that resulted in unimpressive results in the first round. The Germans did just enough to win twice and earn a tie with Spain. Moller, whom many thought would be a star in this tournament, has been invisible, MF Stefan Effenberg was kicked off the team and there are questions as to whether this team has the hunger for another title. F Jurgen Klinsmann needs support on the attack.

BELGIUM WILL WIN IF ...

it finally finds a scoring touch after three performances filled with opportunities but only two goals. South Korea proved the German defense can be cracked. MF Enzo Scifo will create chances, but Weber, Marc Degryse and Marc Wilmots have to hit the back of the net. Michel Preud'homme has been the best goalkeeper in the tournament and he's sure to get tested again.

OF NOTE:

Germany is getting accustomed to Chicagoland, having trained in the suburbs for almost a month and having played two of its three first-round games at Soldier Field. It also played there once during the U.S. Cup '93 tournament.

THE PICK:

Methodical defending champions find form. Germany, 3-1.

U.S. vs. BRAZIL

WHEN:

Monday, 3:30 p.m.

WHERE:

Stanford Stadium, Palo Alto, Calif.

TV:

WJLA-7, WJZ-13, WMDO-48, Univision.

RADIO:

WTEM-570, WMDO-1540.

KEY PLAYERS:

Brazil MF Rai, U.S. G Tony Meola.

BRAZIL WILL WIN IF ...

the attack finds holes in the U.S. defense and creates scoring chances for Fs Romario and Bebeto. The team had difficulty penetrating the penalty area during a 1-1 tie with Sweden Tuesday, as the Swedes clogged the middle of the field and effectively counterattacked. Rai, the maestro in midfield, needs to dictate the pace and intensify the pressure on the U.S. defense. Brazil's backs, weakened by injuries, must contain the quick Americans (Ernie Stewart, Cobi Jones) in the open field.

THE U.S. WILL WIN IF ...

Meola plays the game of his life, someone takes advantage of one of the few mistakes the usually astute Brazilians make and the defense holds up as it did against attack-minded Colombia. The best chance for an upset may come in the form of a penalty-kick tiebreaker, which is used when the game is tied after regulation and a 30-minute overtime. If it reaches that point, it could go either way. The loss of hard-working MF John Harkes to a one-game suspension for yellow cards hurts.

OF NOTE:

Not only will the match be played on America's Independence Day, but this is the sixth anniversary of the day the World Cup was awarded to the United States.

THE PICK:

No miracle, but no rout either. Brazil, 2-0.

NETHERLANDS vs. IRELAND

WHEN:

Monday, noon.

WHERE:

Florida Citrus Bowl, Orlando, Fla.

TV:

ESPN, WMDO-48, Univision.

RADIO:

WMDO-1540.

KEY PLAYERS:

Netherlands F Bryan Roy, Ireland D Paul McGrath.

THE NETHERLANDS WILL WIN IF ...

it finally plays to its full potential and puts together a complete performance. It finished first in its round-robin group but wasn't very impressive, especially in escaping an upset against Saudi Arabia and losing to Belgium. The speedy Roy and Marc Overmar needs to create on the wing and set up chances for Fs Dennis Bergkamp and Peter van Vossen. MF Jan Wouters must sit out because of two yellow cards in the first round.

IRELAND WILL WIN IF ...

it continues to show the spirit, determination and teamwork that makes up for its lack of technical skill. Coach Jack Charlton's players also must contain the dangerous Dutch players on the flanks. If the game comes down to a penalty-kick tiebreaker, G Pat Bonner will be in a familiar situation, having sent the Irish to the quarterfinals in 1990 with a grand performance against Romania in the round of 16.

OF NOTE:

In the teams' previous meeting in a May exhibition, visiting Ireland stunned the Netherlands.

THE PICK:

Luck of the Irish. Ireland wins on penalty kicks.

ARGENTINA vs. ROMANIA

WHEN:

Sunday, 4:30 p.m.

WHERE:

Rose Bowl, Pasadena, Calif.

TV:

ESPN, WMDO-48, Univision.

RADIO:

WMDO-1540.

KEY PLAYERS:

Romania MF Gheorghe Hagi, Argentina MF Fernando Redondo.

ROMANIA WILL WIN IF ...

Hagi -- arguably the tournament's best midfielder -- runs the show to precision and sets up more opportunities for Fs Florin Raducioiu and Ilie Dumitrescu. Hagi also has a dangerous shot. G Florian Prunea, who was outstanding in the two victories, must beware of Argentina's multidimensional attack.

ARGENTINA WILL WIN IF ...

it can overcome the shocking suspension to legendary Diego Maradona and find alternative midfield leadership. Without Maradona in the lineup last year, the team seemed directionless and unable to sustain a consistent attack. The heat is on Fs Gabriel Batistuta and Claudio Caniggia, who left in the first half of Thursday's loss to Bulgaria because of a recurring toe injury.

OF NOTE:

In the past four World Cups, Argentina is 8-3-3 in elimination-round games. In 1990, it advanced to the final with a 1-0 win over Brazil and on penalty-kick tiebreakers over Yugoslavia and Italy.

THE PICK:

Don't cry for Argentina; it wins 3-2.

MEXICO vs. BULGARIA

WHEN:

Tuesday, 4:30 p.m.

WHERE:

Giants Stadium, East Rutherford, N.J.

TV:

ESPN, WMDO-48, Univision.

RADIO:

WMDO-1540.

KEY PLAYERS:

Mexico F Luis Garcia, Bulgaria MF-F Hristo Stoichkov.

MEXICO WILL WIN IF ...

Garcia continues to dazzle on the attack and colorful G Jorge Campos keeps his composure and doesn't make any risky runs against the attack-ready Bulgarians. This could be the day F Luis Roberto Alves breaks through offensively. MF Ignacio Ambriz and outside back Ramon Ramirez are the sparkplugs. A steamy afternoon at the Meadowlands could work to the Mexicans' benefit.

BULGARIA WILL WIN IF ...

Stoichkov continues to prove why he's considered one of the world's top players. He scored on a pair of penalty kicks against Greece and put his team ahead against Argentina Thursday. He has a nice complement of players: F Emil Kostadinov and MFs Krasimir Balakov and Iordan Letchkov. Missing because of suspension will be Ds Trifon Ivanov and Tzanko Tzvetanov and MF Zlatko Iankov.

OF NOTE:

Before winning its final two first-round matches, Bulgaria had gone 0-11-6 in World Cup play. However, this isn't its first trip to the second round; in 1986, it advanced with two ties.

THE PICK:

One goal will do it. Mexico, 1-0.

SAUDI ARABIA vs. SWEDEN

WHEN:

Sunday, 1 p.m.

WHERE:

Cotton Bowl, Dallas.

TV:

WJLA-7, WJZ-13, WMDO-48, Univision.

RADIO:

WMDO-1540.

KEY PLAYERS:

Sweden MF Jonas Thern, Saudi Arabia MF Saeed Al Owairan.

SWEDEN WILL WIN IF ...

it prevents the Saudis from going on one of those open-field adventures that took care of Belgium. The well-coached Swedes should control the ball for long stretches, led by Thern and MF-F Tomas Brolin. That leaves the scoring to Fs Martin Dahlin, who missed the Brazil game because of yellow cards, and Kennet Andersson, a tall presence who scored against the Brazilians. G Thomas Ravelli provides the experience and defensive leadership.

SAUDI ARABIA WILL WIN IF ...

it is able to open up the field and counterattack, get another big performance from G Mohammed Al Deayea and create space for the crafty Owairan to operate. The Saudis scored first in each of their first-round matches, an accomplishment that put pressure on the opposition. Another edge will be the midway kickoff, with the temperature expected to hit 100 degrees. Will the "Desert Pele," 35-year-old Majed Abdullah, provide veteran leadership to this very young squad?

OF NOTE:

The last Asian team to advance past the first round was North Korea in 1966. Sweden hasn't been to the quarterfinals since 1958.

THE PICK:

The desert dance continues. Saudi Arabia in a penalty-kick tiebreaker.

FIRST ROUND SUPERLATIVES

First-round darling:

Saudi Arabia. Who would've thought two wins in Cup debut?

First-round flop:

Colombia. A favorite falls apart.

Out of its league:

Greece. Clearly the weakest team.

Most impressive:

Brazil. On the road to title game.

Most uninspired:

Germany. Sleepwalked through Group C.

Best recovery:

Bulgaria. Wins twice after 3-0 loss in opener.

Toughest group:

What else? "Group of Death," a k a Group E.

Easiest group:

Group C. As expected, Germany, Spain advance.

Most athletic goal celebration:

Ireland's Ray Houghton, who executed a running forward flip after giving Ireland the lead against Italy.

Strangest goal celebration:

Nigeria's Daniel Amokachi, who after scoring against Greece, got down on his hands and knees, crawled a few yards, then lifted his leg like a dog.

Best goal:

Saudi Arabia's Saeed Al Owairan, who dashed 60 yards through the Belgian defense before lifting the ball past the goalkeeper.

Best near goal:

American Marcelo Balboa's stunning bicycle kick that sailed fractionally wide of the Colombian net.

Top overall performer:

Romania midfielder Gheorghe Hagi.

Top goalkeeper:

Belgium veteran Michel Preud'homme.

Top individual performance:

Russia's Oleg Salenko, who scored Cup-record five goals in 6-1 win over Cameroon.

Most inspired performance:

Italy's Giuseppe Signori against Norway.

Most pleasant U.S. surprise:

Defender Alexi Lalas, who marked three of the world's top forwards -- Asprilla, Switzerland's Stephane Chapuisat and Romania's Florin Raducioiu. None scored.

Best matches:

Italy-Mexico, Italy-Ireland, Romania-Colombia, Saudi Arabia-Netherlands.

Scoreless matches:

Bolivia-South Korea, Ireland-Norway.

Best TV commentator:

Andres "Gooooaaaaalllll" Cantor.

Best sign:

At Soldier Field, "Bolivia Loves Ditka."

Biggest on-field disappointments:

Colombia's Faustino Asprilla, Carlos Valderrama, Freddy Rincon, Adolfo Valencia; Italy's Roberto Baggio.

Biggest off-field disappointment:

Diego Maradona.

FIRST ROUND GOALS SCORED

SIX GOALS

Oleg Salenko, Russia

FOUR GOALS

Jurgen Klinsmann, Germany

THREE GOALS

Gabriel Batistuta, Argentina; Martin Dahlin, Sweden; Romario, Brazil; Hristo Stoichkov, Bulgaria

TWO GOALS

Fuad Amin, Saudi Arabia; Daniel Amokachi, Nigeria; Georges Bregy, Switzerland; Jose Luis Perez Caminero, Spain; Claudio Caniggia, Argentina; Luis Garcia, Mexico; Juan Antonio Goicoechea, Spain; Gheorghe Hagi, Romania; Hong Myung Bo, South Korea; Florin Raducioiu, Romania; Adolfo Valencia, Colombia

ONE GOAL

Philippe Albert, Belgium; John Aldridge, Ireland; Kennet Andersson, Sweden; Sami Al Jaber, Saudi Arabia; Emmanuel Amunike, Nigeria; Dino Baggio, Italy; Marcelino Bernal, Mexico; Daniel Borimirov, Bulgaria; Bebeto, Brazil; Dennis Bergkamp, Netherlands; Tomas Brolin, Sweden; Stephane Chapuisat, Switzerland; Mohammed Chaouch, Morocco; Marc Degryse, Belgium; David Embe, Cameroon; Herman Gaviria, Colombia; Finidi George, Nigeria; Josep Guardiola, Spain; Ray Houghton, Ireland; Hwang Sun Hong, South Korea; Wim Jonk, Netherlands; Adrian Knup, Switzerland; Yordan Letchkov, Bulgaria; Roger Ljung, Sweden; Harold Lozano, Colombia; Diego Maradona, Argentina; Daniele Massaro, Italy; Roger Milla, Cameroon; Hassan Nader, Morocco; Francoise Omam-Biyick, Cameroon; Saeed Al Owairan, Saudi Arabia; Daniel Petrescu, Romania; Dmitry Radchenko, Russia; Rai, Brazil; Karlheinz Riedle, Germany; Kjetil Rekdal, Norway; Bryan Roy, Netherlands; Julio Salinas, Spain; Erwin Sanchez, Bolivia; Marcio Santos, Brazil; Seo Jung Won, South Korea; Samson Siasia, Nigeria; Nasko Sirakov, Bulgaria; Ernie Stewart, United States; Alain Sutter, Switzerland; Gaston Taument, Netherlands; Eric Wynalda, United States; Rashidi Yekini, Nigeria

OWN GOALS

Andres Escobar, Colombia (vs. United States)