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For Brazil, defeat is not an option

Last updated on: June 12, 2006 18:58 IST

The watching world expects them to put on a footballing show while 180 million compatriots back home are hoping for a brief escape from the daily grind of poverty, social injustice and violence.

Ronaldinho and RonaldoNo team at the World Cup carries the same weight of expectation as defending champions Brazil, who last Thursday drew 25,000 people to a German second division ground just watch them train.

Brazil's array of stars, led by the ever-grinning Ronaldinho, are tipped by just about everyone to walk off with an unprecedented sixth world title.

Anything less will be considered a major failure, especially by the Brazilian public who have had their hopes built up as never before.

While Brazil went into the last World Cup at something of a low ebb, this time everyone and his dog is jumping on the bandwagon.

The team's every move is followed by an excitable 500-strong pack of journalists. Even training sessions are broadcast live back home, complete with fever pitch commentary, and Globo television alone has nearly 200 employees at the tournament.

They include the top presenters of their morning, lunchtime, evening and late-night news programmes, which are broadcast live from Germany.

Back in Brazil, streets have been decorated with flags, banners and paintings of the players and the country will come to a complete standstill when matches are played.

FEVER PITCH

Midfielder Juninho Pernambucano admitted that Brazil's social problems turn the team into a type of escape valve during the World Cup.

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"It's an extra weight to carry around," he said. "On the other hand, its nice to be able to give some happiness to the people, who have been waiting so long for this."

But he added that the pressure to win was enormous: "In other sports, the public might accept just a good performance but in football we have to win."

He said: "Sport can help to take children off the streets but it's far from being a solution to the country's problems."

Coach Carlos Alberto Parreira, who led Brazil to their 1994 World Cup title, has the calm air of a man who has seen it all before.

"In 1994, the pressure was huge because it was 24 years since Brazil had last won the World Cup, which is an incredibly long time for us," he said.

"This time, the pressure is on us to maintain our dominance."

But even he appears amazed at the amount of coverage.

"I don't think I've ever seen 35 television cameras at a media conference," he said, surveying the room at a recent press conference.

The consequences of failure can be dire for Brazil coaches.

In 1990, Sebastiao Lazaroni slipped out of the airport by a back door, locked himself in his flat for one week and said he had been made to feel like a criminal after his side were knocked out in the second round.

Parreira prefers not to contemplate a similar fate.

"We just think about winning," he said recently. "We don't allow negative thoughts anywhere near us, they take a long by-pass. Nobody is prepared for a defeat, we are prepared to win."

Brian Homewood
Source:
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