While fans pouring into Harvard Stadium next week will see some of the world's best soccer, they may be surprised to see it played in a style quite unlike the brand played in the United States.
Careful strategy and ball handling techniques characterize the international game, while the wide open dump-and-run style has been popularized by American professional soccer.
Although the Soviet led Olympic boycott has severely hurt the soccer competition--Czechoslovakia and East Germany were two of the top favorites--some of the teams appearing at Harvard have a legitimate shot at a medal.
And, although some of the countries competing in the tournament may seem geographically obscure to many Americans, they boast teams that can play with the best.
Each of the 16 teams who have made it this far first had to win a regional qualifying tournament last fall.
The six games played at Harvard are really part of two separate competitions. The 16 teams are divided into four groups and each squad will play every other team in its group once. The teams with the two best records in each group after the round robin competition will move on to Los Angeles for the medal competition.
Norway, Chile, France and Qatar make up group A, while Cameroon, Canada, and Iraq are along with Yugoslavia (which does not appear in Boston) make up group B.
The matches held at Harvard will be combined with ones held concurrently at Annapolis, Md. to round out the schedule.
The eight other teams--West Germany, Morocco, Brazil, Saudi Arabia, Italy, Egypt, the United States, and Costa Rica--will play all of their games on the west coast, either at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena or at Stanford University in Palo Alto.
Of the teams playing in Boston, the one with the best shot of making it to Los Angeles and carrying home a medal is France Coming off an impressive 2-0 win over Spain in June to carry off the European Nations Cup, the French are regarded as key competitors.
While the goalie who led them to that triumph could not make the Olympics because of a prior commitment to a team in France, his replacement is just as capable Number one, Albert Rust, led the team through the Olympic qualifying rounds. In six games he allowed only three goals, giving his team the edge it needed to move through the tournament undefeated and establish itself as one of the early favorites to bring home the gold.
A number of national team veterans provide stability while the younger, faster players round out the squad. One of the key team leaders is midfielder Jose Toure, who has played for France in several international competitions. He and the rest are known for their disciplined skills and flawless teamwork.
One of the surprise teams in the tournament may be Cameroon, which fought its way to the top of the international soccer scene in 1982, when it fought bitter draws with Peru, Poland and eventually champion Italy, to win the respect of the soccer world.
This year Cameroon is clearly the strongest team in Africa as it beat Nigeria 3-1 to win the African Nations Cup in March. Last fall Cameroon was undefeated in the Olympic qualifying tournament.