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   26 May, 2002 | 1728 IST


Brazil get cracking

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Brazil still unlikely to ignite Cup

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Brazil's 4-0 win over Malaysia on Saturday extended their unbeaten run to seven games, but the four times world champions still look unlikely to set the World Cup alight.

Coach Luiz Felipe Scolari, who took over 11 months ago with the world's favourite team in danger of missing the finals for the first time, has averted disaster by securing qualification.

His team, however, still looked far from the finished article as they brushed aside their opponents from South-East Asia.

There is certainly little indication that they will play with the exuberant attacking skill which the world, perhaps unfairly, routinely expects Brazil to produce at the World Cup.

Ronaldo's joy at scoring his first international goal since returning from two years out through injury was tempered by the three clear-cut chances he missed before breaking his duck early in the second half.

He may find that the defences of Turkey, China and Costa Rica do not give him so many bites at the cherry.

His strike partner Rivaldo played his first game for a month and showed no signs of the troublesome knee injury which forced him to miss the end of Barcelona's season.

That was the good news.

The downside was that in his 63 minutes on the field, Rivaldo once again gave ammunition to the critics who argue that he saves his best for his Spanish club and turns into a lethargic, ponderous player when he wears a Brazil shirt.


The Brazilian media are already wondering whether Denilson's electric half hour after coming on as a substitute, which included a superb individual goal, has put Rivaldo's place in doubt.

Other familiar problems remained, including captain Emerson's lack of ideas in midfield and a general shortage of creativity attributed to the much-criticised 3-5-2 formation.

Even Paris St Germain's Ronaldinho, who won a place in the team with excellent performances in friendlies against Yugoslavia and Portugal, seemed out of sorts on Saturday.

Scolari, however, said that Brazil would continue to start games with his new system.

"We have been training both systems (3-5-2 and 4-4-2) so that when we have the chance or when the need arises, we can switch from one to the other," he said.

"We will continue to start with the 3-5-2 because we are more compact and it gives more freedom to the full-backs (Cafu and Roberto Carlos)."

"The reason Denilson was able to dribble around everyone and perform his tricks was because we had worn them down with the 3-5-2 in the first half."

Scolari pointed to poor finishing and a lack of marking by the strikers as Brazil's biggest weaknesses against Malaysia.

"The big difficulty was our strike rate in the first half. In the second half, we took our chances," he said.


"We also need our forwards to mark better when the opposition is trying to play the ball out of defence, to stop them getting into our half of the field."

Persuading players like Ronaldo and Rivaldo to get their hands dirty has been one of Scolari's main tasks over the last fortnight.

Brazil are looking far more solid than the team which used 60 players in World Cup qualifiers and suffered defeats to teams such as Bolivia, Honduras and Ecuador.

Scolari insists his team will reach the semifinals, at the very least, and his players have also been sounding messages of unbridled optimism.

Roberto Carlos even claimed that Brazil need only to play at 40 percent of their capabilities to beat Turkey in their opening match on June 3.

Despite the brave words, it seems that, rather like the small contingent of Brazilian fans who were banned from taking drums and horns into the Bukit Jalil stadium on Saturday, the traditional spark is definitely missing.

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