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U.S. players realize the importance of Sunday's game against Romania: A tie clinches advancement for the first time since 1930 and means they'll avoid Brazil or Germany in the second round.

``If you play Brazil or Germany, chances are you'll be knocked out,' midfielder Tab Ramos said after practice Thursday.Ramos, who serves in the informal role of team mathematician, filled his room with World Cup charts four years ago in Italy, plotting out all the possibilities. On Thursday, he reduced everything to a small piece of paper that folded neatly into the pocket of his red shorts.

``We almost can qualify without playing,' U.S. coach Bora Milutinovic said.

If the United States wins Sunday, it will either finish first or second in Group A, depending on how Switzerland does against Colombia. A tie means the Americans will finish no worse than second. A loss means the possibility of finishing third and playing one of soccer's powers. It also means the Americans might not know their site and opponent until next Thursday.

``The important thing is to be in,' Milutinovic said. ``I wouldn't worry about what position to be in.'

If the United States wins the group, it would play its second-round game at the Rose Bowl against a third-place team. If the Americans finish second, they would play at RFK Stadium in Washington, with Spain the most likely opponent. If they finish third, they'll probably play at Stanford Stadium against Brazil, but there's a 30 percent possibility they would play at Soldier Field in Chicago, with Germany the likely foe.

ON THE WAY OUT: The head coach of the Russian team, Pavel Sadyrin, will resign following his team's debacle at the World Cup, team sources said Friday.

``Sadyrin will hand in his resignation when we return to Russia,' a senior team official who demanded anonymity told The Associated Press.

``If he doesn't resign, the Russian federation is likely to replace him,' the official said after Russia lost 3-1 to Sweden on Friday and virtually lost any chance to qualify for the second round.

UNMISTAKABLE VOICE: Harry Caray has his ``Holy cow!' Marv Albert has his ``Yes.' And Andres Cantor has his ``Goooool.'

Cantor's name may not be familiar to most English-speaking sports fans, but his signature goal call during World Cup matches is as recognizable as the trademark phrases of America's more prominent broadcasters. Even ESPN, which is televising 41 World Cup matches, uses Cantor's voiceover on ``SportsCenter' highlights.

``It's not a gimmick,' said Cantor, 31. ``For me, the goal call is the culmination of all the emotion created by a big play.'

Fact is, Cantor's call is not his creation. Cantor picked it up from other South American announcers while growing up in Argentina.

But Cantor has popularized it in the United States. Americans first began to hear it when Cantor hosted Univision's 1990 World Cup coverage from Italy. Now, Cantor uses it while heading Univision's 52-match marathon schedule of the '94 World Cup.

Cantor broadcasts the games along with partner Norberto Longo from Univision's studio in Miami. In the first stage of the tournament, Cantor must work up to three games per day.

FOOTING THE BILL: Just in time for the World Cup, adidas is rolling out a new soccer shoe with a futuristic design and a shocking price.

Casual fans are certainly not the target audience for this shoe, the Predator, with its computer-designed fins and a $150 price tag. Adidas is predicting the new technology will revolutionize soccer the way the oversized racket changed tennis.

The kicking surface of the shoe features unusual ridges made out of a new rubber compound called Pulsion.

The company says the rubber boosts the contact between ball and shoe, allowing players to impart 20 percent more spin. The shoe also has the energy-returning properties of a SuperBall, supposedly adding extra pop to every kick.

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