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Back to classics: Brazil vs. England

Posted: Thursday, June 20, 2002

TSUNA, Japan (AP) -- In a World Cup full of upstarts, the Brazil-England quarterfinal is a classic matchup, featuring a whirlwind attack against the tournament's best defense.

''It will be like an early final,'' Brazilian midfielder Juninho said.

The other games are three-time winner Germany vs. United States, star-studded Spain vs. South Korea and newcomer Senegal vs. Turkey.

So, with so many surprises -- including stunning upsets that sent France, Argentina and Italy home -- who knows who might advance from those games?

Brazil-England, however, is a meeting of soccer superpowers and two former champions, with the Brazilians holding a big lead in that department -- 4-1.

The two teams also have a lot to prove in the game, Friday in Shizuoka.

The Brazilians are still hurting from their 3-0 defeat to France in the final four years ago. They last won in 1994, adding to championships in 1958, '62 and '70, during the Pele era.

That '98 final was particularly upsetting for striker Ronaldo, who was sick on the morning of the game. He played but was ineffective, and then was sidelined with knee injuries.

''After two years without playing, this is without a doubt a personal victory,'' he said. ''Now I'm becoming a normal player again and scoring important goals.''

As for England, it hates being reminded that its lone title came 36 years ago when it was the host, and that it hasn't beaten Brazil in three World Cup meetings -- 3-1 and 1-0 losses and a 0-0 tie

Coach Sven-Goran Eriksson believes the time is right to end that streak.

''It is always a pleasure to see Brazil play football. If you give them the time and space, they are very good,'' he said. ''Their attacking is excellent and they have got a lot of individual skill. But maybe they are not as good at defending as they are at attacking, and hopefully we can use that.

''I guess that maybe it is the best defense in the World Cup against the best attack. It will be a big battle, but I am very optimistic.''

Brazil has scored 13 goals in four games at this World Cup, while England hasn't given up a goal in its last three.

''We are so equal, a game like this is decided on details,'' said Juninho, who knows the English game from his time with Middlesbrough in the Premier League. ''Brazilians have more technique, but we have to match them in heart and also be attentive to high balls, which they play better than we do.''

In the teams' last World Cup meeting in 1970, a 1-0 victory for Brazil, the Brazilian attack featured Pele, Tostao, Jairzinho and Rivelino. This time, it's Ronaldo, Rivaldo and Ronaldinho, the so-called ''Three Rs'' who strike fear into any defense. Ronaldo has five goals and Rivaldo four.

In 1970, Brazil had an attacking fullback in Carlos Alberto. This time it has Roberto Carlos, who has one of the hardest swerving free kicks in the game.

England went into the 1970 World Cup as defending champion with a defense built around Bobby Moore. This time it has Rio Ferdinand who, by coincidence, started his career with Moore's club, West Ham.

Although veteran goalkeeper David Seaman isn't in the same class as Gordon Banks, who made a memorable save from a Pele header in 1970, he has proved that, at age 38, there are few better goalies around.

England also has stars in captain David Beckham, another expert with long-range free kicks, and striker Michael Owen, who scored three goals in the team's 5-1 victory over Germany in Munich during the qualifying rounds.

Although Owen injured his groin during the 3-0 victory over Denmark in the last game, he is expected to play against Brazil, ready to expose weaknesses in its defense.

England also might have an advantage on the bench, and it has nothing to do with the players.

Formerly of Gremio and Palmeiras, Brazil coach Luiz Felipe Scolari doesn't have the pedigree of Eriksson, who has been successful in three European countries.

The Swede, who overcame opposition from critics who insisted England should be coached by an Englishman, led IFK Goteborg to the Swedish title, Benfica to three Portuguese crowns and Italy's Lazio to glory in the European Cup Winners and the league title.

Taking over England in January 2001, Eriksson's first five games were all victories, a national team record. The soft-spoken coach's experience could be a key against Brazil.

''I don't think they are worried about playing England,'' Beckham said. ''But then I don't think we are too worried about playing against them, either. That's the sort of confidence we must have.''



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