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   30 May, 2002 | 1109 IST



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Brazil, Turkey favourites in group C

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World Cup group C carries the hopes of more than a billion Chinese, but it should be Brazil's to win with Turkey likely to take second place.

Despite the view that all is not well with Brazilian soccer after a rocky qualification path, the four-time World Cup winners and their squad of household names still tower over group rivals Turkey, China and Costa Rica.

China appear at the World Cup finals for the first time, Costa Rica and Turkey for their second outing. Many in Europe would struggle to name one of their players except perhaps for Turkey's evergreen goalscorer Hakan Sukur.

But there is potential across the group and Brazil's qualification woes, which included six defeats and vulnerability in defence, have some of their rivals scenting blood.

The Brazilian squad in practise Ambitious Turkey have staked a claim to the group's second qualifying spot and pledged to give Brazil a run for their money when they open the group in the Korean city of Ulsan on June 3.

That confirms the impression of Brazil's left-back and free-kick maestro Roberto Carlos that his side will have to face revved-up opponents seeking to exploit what critics say is Brazil's most fragile team in years.

"The players of Turkey, Costa Rica and China are going to play the games of their lives when they face us because they want to beat Brazil. That proves we are still held in high esteem," he said, dismissing the chance of a Turkish upset.

"I don't want to put down our opponents but I think if we can play to 40 percent of our capabilities then we have an excellent chance of winning our first match," he said.


Brazil coach Filipe Scolari, however, admits to waking up in the middle of the night to watch videos of Turkey.

"Watching the tapes of Turkey makes me a little apprehensive," he said.

The Turks would say he is right to worry and that European-based Turkish midfielders such as Bayer Leverkusen's Yildiray Basturk and Inter Milan's Okan Buruk know the Brazilians well and can match them for skill.

"In terms of skill I think the two teams are level, but we have a stronger team spirit. Making the most of that I'm sure we will give them a good game," Yildiray said.

Turkish coach Senol Gunes says the Brazil match is not the most important and that his side will secure qualification by beating China and Costa Rica.

While the Turks talk up their chances, China coach Bora Milutinovic, wily veteran of four previous World Cup finals and a former Costa Rica coach, is playing down his side's chances but also hinting at some surprises.

"It does us no good always talking about getting to the second round because China is not a strong team. We have our own advantages, we are physically and tactically strong. If we play the way we played in the second phase of the qualifiers we are very likely to spring a few upsets," he said.

Chinese soccer authorities have set a target of one goal, one win and one draw for the World Cup campaign, leaving much to rest on the less-than-consistent strike force of Hao Haidong and Yang Chen.

But perhaps the side that knows Brazil best is Costa Rica.

Their coach Alexander Guimaraes used to be a Brazilian and became a Costa Rican citizen in 1984. He even played against Brazil in a 1-0 1990 World Cup defeat.

The Costa Rican attack looks to have teeth, with Manchester Paulo Wanchope and Rolando Fonseca both regular scorers.

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