TO soccer fans worldwide, the three big surprises in the selection of the final 24 national teams to play in next year's World Cup are the absence of France, England, and Denmark.
France is the biggest shock, since it had only to tie Israel in a match Oct. 13, or tie Bulgaria in a match Nov. 17 - both of which it failed to do. For the first time since Great Britain entered World Cup competition, no team representing Britain will compete. Denmark, the European champion, also did not qualify.
The seeded teams in the six groups - the groups and their venues will be set Dec. 19 - are Argentina, Belgium, Brazil, Germany, Italy, and the United States.
Fifty-two matches will be held in nine American cities, opening June 17, 1994, in Chicago and concluding with a Rose Bowl final in Pasadena, Calif., on July 17. The US ticket allotment for all the games has been sold out, but every game will be telecast either on ESPN (41 games) or ABC (11 games). The World Cup final games attract the world's largest television audience, measured in billions of viewers.
Other finalists are: Bolivia; Bulgaria; Cameroon; Colombia; Germany (defending champion); Greece; Ireland; Mexico; Morocco; Netherlands; Nigeria; Norway; Romania; Russia; Saudi Arabia; South Korea; Spain; Sweden; and Switzerland. Matches will be played in Boston; Chicago; Dallas; Detroit; Los Angeles; New York; Orlando, Fla.; San Francisco; and Washington, D.C.