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 May 14, 2002 | 1208 IST

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Brazil's "Big Phil" faces absentee problems...again

Eduardo Acquarone

Brazil coach Luiz Felipe Scolari faced familiar problems on Monday as the four-times champions arrived in Spain to begin their preparations for the World Cup in Japan and South Korea.

Brazil's first training session, held on Monday evening, lasted only 45 minutes because only 13 of the 23 players named in the squad were available.

Mario Zagallo, Brazil's coach at France '98, considered 13 his lucky number but Scolari, who is known as "Big Phil", was not amused to find six of his players were still with their clubs and another four were undergoing medical testing.

Striker Ronaldo, full-backs Cafu and Junior and midfielder Emerson Ferreira were all sent to a nearby clinic to undergo what team doctor Jose Luis Runco described as routine exams to determine their level of fitness.

Scolari was even more irritated at being told that the other players would face the tests as well.

"We need to get this battery of tests out of the way quickly," he said. "None of this will get us anywhere if I can't have the complete team."

Brazil have continually faced problems with European clubs over the release of players, however four of six of the players missing on Monday play their club football in Brazil.


Defender Anderson Polga and striker Luizao play for Gremio, who face Uruguay's Nacional in the Libertadores Cup, while goalkeeper Dida and midfielder Vampeta are involved in the Copa Brasil final with Corinthians during the week.

The other absentees were Real Madrid's Roberto Carlos and Bayer Leverkusen defender Lucio who meet in Wednesday's Champions League final in Scotland.

All are expected in Barcelona on Friday, though Scolari said it would be too late for them to take part in Saturday's match against a Catalan XI.

"I'm not going to expose the athletes to a game without a training session," he said.

Brazil leave Barcelona on Sunday and then spend a week in Kuala Lumpur where they will play Malaysia in a friendly on May 25. Their opening World Cup game is against Turkey on June 3.

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