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It was an ugly performance by the United States, nearly as ugly as the clashes between fans and police in two Italian cities.

The soccer has been superb, for the most part, with West Germany putting on the best display Sunday. The Germans, one of the favorites for the World Cup, routed Yugoslavia 4-1.The Americans, probably the biggest longshot in the tournament, made their first World Cup game in 40 years a forgettable one with a 5-1 loss to Czechoslovakia. It could have been worse.

The worst performances of the day, however, were made by the English-speaking fans in Cagliari, on the island of Sardinia, and the German fans who confronted police in Milan.

Late Sunday night, on the eve of the England-Ireland game, English-speaking fans were confronted by police in Cagliari after a woman was hit on the head by a thrown bottle. Riot police wielding batons waded into the crowd, and at least three young men were taken away in police cars.

On Friday, street violence led to the arrest of 14 English fans there.

In Milan, at least seven people were injured and 20 were taken into custody, police said.

Groups of fans, apparently drunk despite a ban on alcohol sales, smashed windows of shops and cars along the street. Hundreds of riot police rushed to the area after reports of confrontations between West Germans and Yugoslavs.

Meanwhile, Verona police reported that 13 West German supporters were arrested. Charges of violence and vandalism also were filed against 55 others following several disturbances early Sunday morning along Lake Garda.

The violence away from the stadiums has taken some of the gloss off what was a spectacular opening weekend. From Cameroon's startling victory over defending champion Argentina in the opener Friday night to Romania's upset of the Soviet Union on Saturday; from West Germany's powerful play and the excitement of Brazil's 2-1 win over Sweden, it was a sensational first three days of soccer.

Except, of course, for the Americans.

"Everyone said we would lose, and we did lose," U.S. captain Michael Windischmann said. "We've got to come out in these next two games and show that we could play.

"Even though we lost, it's still a great feeling to play in the World Cup. I'm dissapointed in the results. I think we could have done better."

Czechoslovak coach Jozef Venglos also thought the Americans would put up a better fight.

"We expected a little bit more from the U.S. team," Venglos said. "At the beginning, the U.S. team played us even, but then we started to play to our potential."

And they peppered the net. Goalkeeper Tony Meola, betrayed by his defense, made some outstanding saves. But he also was caught out of position too often.