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World Cup Draw...


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BUSAN, South Korea -- The United States was grouped with co-host South Korea, Poland and Portugal for next year's World Cup.

The first World Cup staged in Asia will be held May 31-June 30 in South Korea and Japan. The Americans will play their first game on June 5 vs. Portugal in Suwon, South Korea.

"Overall, we will have a chance to advance," U.S. coach Bruce Arena said Saturday after the Americans did not draw any soccer super powers. "We have no complaints. The draw gives us some optimism."

The Americans are 5-10-3 vs. their Group D opponents, but have never faced any of the three in World Cup play.

"We can't complain too much," U.S. captain Claudio Reyna said from Scotland, where he plays for Glasgow Rangers. "It could have been a lot worse.

In Saturday's draw for soccer's championship tournament, defending champion France was joined by Denmark, Uruguay and Senegal in Group A. France and Senegal, a former French colony appearing in its first World Cup, will play in the opener in Seoul.

Japan, the other co-host, also did not draw any dominant teams, as often happens in the draw for soccer's most prestigious event. Japan got Russia, Belgium and Tunisia in Group H.

The top two teams in each of the eight groups advance to the second round.

The most intriguing division was Group F, featuring Argentina, England, Sweden and Nigeria. The Argentines and English have a long-standing rivalry, while a Swede, Sven-Goran Eriksson, coaches England. Nigeria traditionally is the most powerful African nation.

"If you want to make a tough group, this is the one," Sweden coach Tommy Soderberg said.

The other groupings were:

Group B (in South Korea) -- Spain, Slovenia, Paraguay, South Africa.

Group C (in South Korea) -- Brazil, Turkey, China, Costa Rica.

Group E (in Japan) -- Germany, Ireland, Saudi Arabia, Cameroon.

Group G (in Japan) -- Italy, Croatia, Ecuador, Mexico.

The Americans finished last in France '98 but advanced to the 2002 World Cup out of North America, Central America and the Caribbean with one final-round qualifier remaining.

They will play all of their first-round games in South Korea. On June 10, they face the co-host South Koreans in Daegu. They will conclude group play on June 14 vs. Poland in Daejeon.

"Any group would be difficult. I like the group," said Arena, whose team plays an exhibition game with the Koreans on Dec. 9 in Seogwipo, South Korea. "Obviously we're opening against one of the top teams in the world, then we have the host country and then Poland."

China, making its World Cup debut, is coached by Bora Milutinovic, who led the Americans to the second round of the 1994 tournament, which was held in the United States. The Chinese will open with Costa Rica, which edged out the U.S. team in CONCACAF qualifying this year. Milutinovic coached Costa Rica to the second round in 1990.

German coach Rudi Voeller found his team in "a medium tough group. I'm sure we'll make it (out of the group), but we have to keep our feet on the ground, if you look at the past two years."

The Germans struggled just to qualify for the tournament, yet were given a No. 1 seed.

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