The France 98 football World Cup - the biggest sporting event in history - is well underway. Thanks to media saturation - comment, insider views, flashy graphics - we now know whether a Gazza-less England and a Scotland without Andy Goram are likely to pose any real threat to the Brazillian masters - most of whom were perfecting the bicycle-kick before they could mouth the word Mama ... or the mighty Germans who conduct their matches with the forethought and discipline
Here in the PC Dealer dugout, we've been busy making our own World Cup selections. We picked 11 key players in the IT industry and took them on a kebab run in Soho. Once they were fully beered-up, we asked them to predict the major goal-scorers, both within the channel and in the tournament currently taking place on its other shore.
Managing director, Computer 2000
Team: Scotland, because they won't be around for long. But once we have been knocked out, we Scots can relax and watch the rest of the finals.
Channel player: Tech Data, because now we have hooked up with it, global domination is only one step away.
Forecast: Tech Data to beat Ingram Micro in penalty shoot-out. In the individual category, Allan Mack - he has all the qualities of Paul Gascoigne but without the fitness or the intelligence.
Marketing manager, PSM
Player: Michael Owen, because he shows a huge amount of promise for someone his age. His confidence is fantastic.
Channel player: IBM and its e-commerce offerings. The excellent Wizard is just one function that makes it stand out.
Business development manager, First Stop
Player: Ronaldo - he has power, pace, control, temperament and accuracy.
Channel player: IBM - it has turned around the poor image of being too big, too slow and too corporate.
Director of marketing and communications, CHS
Player and team: Shearer and England. But I think it was a mistake to drop Gazza. The Germans are also extremely strong players.
Channel player: Datrontech. It has had its problems in the past but now seems to have got its act together. It also has a very strong management, which is crucial.
Major markets sales manager, Novell
Team: France, because you can never underestimate the home advantage.
Player: Ronaldo - to see if he really does justify his huge price tag.
Channel player: Internet products are the thing to watch out for if ISPs are to continue to make inroads without being swallowed whole by the telecoms networks.
Voice and data networks are also going to have an impact.
Channels manager, NetNames
Player: Luis Enrique of Spain - he is the most complete footballer in Europe.
Although the Spanish team have enough talent to go all the way this year, they are under none of the pressure that the favourites are having to deal with.
Channel player: NetNames. The world of domain names can be challenging, confusing and even boring. But NetNames makes the prospect of registering a domain name less daunting for even the most steadfast technophobe.
Sales director for Sun, Esteem Computers
Team: France, because they are the home nation. And Zidane, who will be trying to overcome the European Cup disappointment.
Channel player: Esteem.
Player: David Seaman - he will prove to be the crucial England player and will probably ensure a place in the second round. A good save is almost as exciting as a good goal.
Channel player: Compaq - you just don't know what the combination of Digital and Compaq will mean.
It is certainly one to watch.
Product marketing manager of desktop applications, Microsoft
Player: Michael Owen has to be my choice. He is English and the one player in my mind who has the explosive speed and talent that will unsettle any defence and give England the chance to go all the way.
Product: The next version of MS Office (referred to as Office 9 although we have not decided on a name yet) has to be my call. Without giving too much away, it is a renaissance product that will extend Office beyond the desktop and provide enormous incremental opportunities for all the channel.
Channel director, Sage
Team: Brazil, as they should be the most exciting team and particularly Ronaldo, to see if he lives up to his reputation as the most expensive footballer in the world.
Channel player: I think we will all be watching Microsoft with interest as the de facto industry standard.
Editor of PC Dealer
Team: The French are potentially the most entertaining - they may get what they deserve for the ticket fraud off the pitch as well as on it.
(I've heard that lots of Scottish fans have been inspired by Cantona and intend to corner French players and spout loud philosophy at them). The Koreans will be fun in the get-home-faster-than-Scotland stakes.
Channel player: Computer telephony has enormous potential. But will resellers use their imagination and exploit the market? It could see some large-scale casualties - just like the World Cup.
Automation firms UiPath and Automation Anywhere close out their funding rounds with $265m and $300m respectively
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