By Times staff writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published June 21, 2002
Call it a landmark moment in American soccer.
For perhaps the first time, the coach of the United States was asked -- in all seriousness -- if his players believed they could win the World Cup.
There were no giggles from the back of the room.
"We are thinking about winning this game (today)," Bruce Arena said. "That is our whole focus right now."
Later, he was asked -- in all seriousness -- whom he would rather play in the semifinals.
"You are asking the coach of the United States, "Who do you have a preference to play in the semifinals of the World Cup?"' Arena said, smirking.
"Uh, we'll play anybody. We couldn't care less, if we make it to the semifinals of the World Cup."
NOW IT CAN BE TOLD: Mexican President Vicente Fox called the White House before the teams' second-round game Monday and asked if President Bush would like to meet at a neutral site near the border to watch the middle-of-the-night game.
Bush had his staff tell Fox he wouldn't be able to make it.
He would be sleeping.
PELE PRAISE: After watching all 56 games, Pele pinpointed two standouts from each team. The man who led Brazil to three of its four titles had kind words for Landon Donovan and John O'Brien.
"Donovan has played very well," Pele said. "And O'Brien has showed me he is an excellent player."
CIRCA 1986: Karl-Heinz Rummenigge looks at the current German team and sees shades of 1986.
"It has the same desire, and it's also very fit," the former German great said. "We couldn't compare in soccer skill to Brazil, Argentina and France.
"But we beat host Mexico, then France in the semifinal and went to the final. I think this team can do the same."
The 1986 team went to Mexico without much hope and returned as runner-up after losing the final 3-2 to Diego Maradona and Argentina.
Rummenigge and Germany's current coach, Rudi Voeller, scored in that game.
Voeller's team also left home with few predicting a berth in the quarterfinals.
"Now we have a big opportunity," Rummenigge said. "And the team must try to use it."
SCOT TO REF: Hugh Dallas of Scotland will referee the game. He officiated one game in the first round, Portugal's 4-0 victory over Poland.
U.S. REF CHOSEN: Brian Hall, the only American referee at the World Cup, was one of 16 picked to staff the final games, a first for a U.S. referee.
That doesn't guarantee Hall, an MLS referee, will be assigned a game. But being chosen from an original group of 36 is an honor just the same, he said.
"I hope that part of my performance sends a message to the rest of the world that American referees are on par with the referees in some of the top leagues in the world," he said.
Hall officiated first-round matches between Italy and Ecuador and England and Nigeria.
PREDICTION: German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder predicted a 2-0 German victory and said he will travel to Japan if Germany reaches the final.
"The chances of beating the United States are good," he said.