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World Club Championship Monday, 20 December, 1999, 19:21 GMT
Vasco da Gama: Football's democrats
Vasco da Gama: No strangers to silverware
By Latin American football writer Tim Vickery

The club of Rio's Portuguese community, Vasco da Gama were named after a famed explorer, and did not take long to show their pioneering spirit.

World Club Championship
Football in Rio was the preserve of the elite until Vasco broke the mould by winning the 1923 Championship with a team that included both poor and black players.

Scandalised, Rio's major teams launched a breakaway league, and were only coaxed back with the agreement that players would have to complete a registration form before taking the field - a task beyond most of Brazil's poor at the time.

Vasco da Gama's key men
Coach: Antônio Lopes
Veteran centre-back Mauro Galvão
Edmundo, striker
Romário, striker
The other Juninho, young midfielder
Felipe, left-back or midfield
Vasco sent their squad to school to get them through the ordeal. This was the club that prepared the ground for the democratisation of Brazilian football, a process confirmed by the onset of professionalism in the 1930s.

Vasco had reacted to their ostracism by clubbing together to build the São Januário stadium, for some time the biggest in Latin America.

The current team may lack the adventurous approach of some of their predecessors, but the backs-to-the-wall spirit is very much in evidence.

Coach Antônio Lopes, a former police chief, bases his strategy on deep defence and rapid counter attacks. It has served him well.

In this spell he has been in charge for over three years - an eternity in the chaotic world of Brazilian football.

The side uses deep defence and rapid counter-attacks
Lopes' general on the field is the veteran Mauro Galvão, who directs operations from centre back. Brazil's sweeper in the 1990 World Cup, he was the peoples' choice to organise the national team's defence at France 98.

Overlooked on age grounds, Mauro Galvão's chance will not come again. Now 38, time seems finally to have caught up with the Vasco captain.

After years of immaculate service, he has looked vulnerable in recent months, and Vasco rushed him into a knee operation in an effort to get him ready for the tournament.

Edmundo is also struggling for fitness after tearing a muscle. The gifted, but hot-tempered striker is known as the Animal. His goals took Vasco to the 1997 Brazilian title, and he returned to the club in June after a predictably turbulent 18 months in Italy with Fiorentina.

He appears to have lost some of his accelaration, perhaps troubled by the four-and-a-half year jail sentence hanging over his head for his part in a road accident.

Vasco: Hoping home advantage will help their cause
The Animal recently spent a night behind bars until his lawyers got him out on appeal. Edmundo is set to be partnered by Romário, who has just rejoined the club with which he first made his name.

After injury forced him out of the last World Cup, Romário is anxious to show that even at nearly 34 he remains one of the world's top strikers.

The performance of the Romário-Edmundo combination is sure to be one of the most fascinating aspects of the tournament.

When the two have teamed up before, either for club or country, the results have been nothing short of disastrous.

Lopes will have to work hard to make sure his two loose cannons fire together. Two gifted young players will serve as the supply line for Vasco's strike duo.

Juninho, who shares his footballing name with the Middlesbrough midfielder, plays on the right side of midfield and is a player of undoubted class who has already made it through to the full Brazil team.

As has Felipe, whose elastic dribbling and precise passing catch the eye whether he starts at left back or in midfield.

This type of talent, plus resilience and home advantage, make Vasco strong candidates to claim the crown of the world's best club.

See also:

20 Dec 99 | World Club Championship
20 Dec 99 | World Club Championship
20 Dec 99 | World Club Championship
20 Dec 99 | World Club Championship
20 Dec 99 | World Club Championship
20 Dec 99 | World Club Championship
20 Dec 99 | World Club Championship
20 Dec 99 | World Club Championship
20 Dec 99 | World Club Championship
20 Dec 99 | World Club Championship
20 Dec 99 | World Club Championship
20 Dec 99 | World Club Championship
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