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   2 June, 2002 | 1245 IST



France get the blues

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Brazil put misery behind them

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Brazil will put four years of misery, including humiliating defeats on the pitch and a corruption scandal off it, behind them when they take the field on Monday for their opening World Cup match against Turkey.

Coach Luiz Felipe Scolari believes the players' minds will be on the future rather than the past as they begin their attempt to win a fifth world crown.

"The players are living the moment," said Scolari, who is Brazil's fourth coach since the end of the 1998 World Cup.

"These four years of difficulties will not make any difference on Monday evening."

Since finishing as runners-up to France in 1998, the four times world champions have gone through one of the worst periods in their history.

An unprecedented run of defeats left them in danger of missing out on the World Cup for the first time, and they suffered a morale-shattering elimination by nine-man Cameroon at the 2000 Sydney Olympics.

Last year, Brazil were dumped out of the Copa America by Honduras and finished fourth in the Confederations Cup following another embarrassing loss, this time to Australia.

Meanwhile, their top striker Ronaldo suffered a series of injuries which threatened to wreck his once glittering career.

Off the field, two Congressional inquiries into Brazilian soccer both concluded with devastating reports.

They accused top officials of tax evasion, illegal appropriation of funds and misuse of club and federation money. Among those accused was Ricardo Teixeira, the president of the Brazilian Football Confederation (CBF) and a member of FIFA's executive committee.


One report accused him of leading the organisation down the road to financial ruin, of mixing personal and CBF business and living in luxury at the CBF's expense. He also donated some of the CBF's money to political campaigns, the report claimed.

The investigations also uncovered a thriving trade in teenagers, who it said were lured to Europe by unscrupulous agents on the promise that they would play for a club, only to be abandoned.

Vanderlei Luxemburgo, one of Scolari's predecessors, was at the centre of the inquiries.

After being fired amid allegations that he had taken commissions on the transfer of players when he was a club coach, Luxemburgo was later found by Congressmen to have amassed a fortune of over $9 million in five years.

A commission of inquiry in the Brazilian Senate grilled Luxemburgo for five hours and told him that he his explanations over how he had become so rich had been unsatisfactory.

Having reached rock bottom in 2001, Brazil have slowly been on the up in one year under Scolari's leadership.

Scolari has refused to comment on the off-field troubles, saying only that Teixeira has always provided his staff with everything they have asked for.

Brazil start the World Cup with a seven-match unbeaten record and with Scolari slowly gaining the confidence of a previously sceptical Brazilian media.

"The players are not talking about what happened in the World Cup qualifiers," said Scolari, who guided them through the final stage of qualifying and helped them clinch their place at the tournament in the final game.

"For them, this is the start of the Cup, they want to be champions and they are not dwelling on what happened before," he said. "The Cup starts as normal for Brazil."

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