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   June 21, 2002 | 1800 IST


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Fighting spirit best ever, says Scolari

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Brian Homewood

Coach Luiz Felipe Scolari said his side had shown fighting spirit which surpassed even the great Brazilian teams before them in grinding out a 2-1 World Cup quarter-final win over England on Friday.

Four-times winners Brazil were forced to play the last 33 minutes with only 10 men after Ronaldinho, the scorer of their second goal, was sent off for a high tackle on Danny Mills.

"As a coach, I have tremendous admiration for the previous teams, for everything they have done for Brazil, but I have never seen a Brazilian team with such a strong fighting spirit, with such a vibrant approach, as this team," said Scolari.

"This is a merit of the players."

He continued: "I think this Brazil team is the ideal image of modern football. In addition to our qualities, we have fighting spirit," he said.

Ironically, Brazil, who won the Cup in 1958, 1962, 1970 and 1994, had been criticised in their first four games for depending too heavily on the individual talents of players such as Ronaldo and Rivaldo and for not being able to defend.


Scolari, however, pointed out that Friday's performance is proof that his team can adapt according to how matches pan out.

They struck back through Rivaldo late in first half injury time after Michael Owen had capitalised on a Lucio mistake to put England ahead after 23 minutes. Ronaldinho's 35-metre free kick settled it after 50 minutes.

Scolari pointed out that when, before the World Cup, he had simulated having a man sent off and practised playing with 10 men, the media had ridiculed him.

"We trained a lot with 10 players and sometimes the Brazilian media didn't understand what we were doing. This is the moment for them to understand," he said.

After taking a 2-1 lead early in the second half and then being reduced to 10 men after Ronaldinho was sent off, Scolari went back to the tactics Brazilians expect from him after he had surprised many with his attack-minded start to the competition.

His team kept possession, made time pass by taking an age over free kicks and goal kicks, fell back en masse into defence and took the ball into the corner to frustrate their opponents.

It worked perfectly and England did not get a look-in.

The game was just like watching Gremio on their way to winning the South American Libertadores Cup under Scolari's leadership in 1995 or Palmeiras four years later -- without some of the wilder excesses such as ordering ball boys to waste time by throwing spare balls on the field.

Scolari suggested Brazil as a whole could use his players' performance as an example.

"Thanks to the Brazilian people who believed in our work from the start," he said.

"I believe Brazil can achieve a lot more than we have already, not just in football but as nation."

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