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Sunday, 19 November, 2000, 12:51 GMT
Brazil questions Rivaldo's role
World number one abroad, number one traitor at home
BBC World Service journalist Tim Vickery examines Rivaldo's role in the national team as Brazil stumble on towards World Cup 2002.

It is said in Brazil that if the national team are to win the World Cup, they must first hear the boos of their home crowd.

In that case the time has come to place bets on Cafu and company lifting the crown in 2002 with Rivaldo acclaimed as the tournament's outstanding player.

Juninho's 94th minute corner was the last kick of the game against Colombia in Sao Paulo.

The visitors had just had Castillo sent off, and Brazil made their numerical advantage count, Roque Junior rising unmarked to head the game's only goal.

Late action

Many in the crowd missed the goal. They were already streaming away from the Morumbi stadium, disgusted with their side's laboured and disjointed performance.

The boos began shortly after the half hour, and grew throughout the second half.

In the closing stages there was visual accompaniement; a newspaper had distributed little flags to the fans, who expressed their disappointment by hurling them through the air.

Many of the old school were appalled, but veteran columnist Jorge Trajano took a different view.

"There was nothing anti-patriotic in what they did," he wrote. "It was just a case of throwing whatever they had in their hands.

"It is the recent dispalys of the Brazil team that are anti-patriotic."

Threat or promise

Following this logic, then traitor number one is Rivaldo. His mis-struck shot was the signal for the booing to start, and thereafter there was no let up.

I need to have a think about my future with the national team

More than discontent, Rivaldo was the focal point for the fans' fury.

Revered in Europe, the Barcelona man was profoundly shaken by the experience, and hinted at a possible retirement from international football.

"I've been through many things in my career," he said soon after the final whistle, "but this was too much. It went beyond booing, they were swearing at me.

"I need to have a think about my future with the national team."

Seven year itch

Gerson, the magnificent left-footed maestro of the 1970 team, agrees that Rivaldo needs a rethink.

"But what he needs to think about is his performance on the pitch. He has complained about anything and everything, and been given what he wanted.

"He played up front, and played badly. He played further back, and played badly. Now he was given a more central role and still played badly."

Rivelino in action against Italy in the 1970 World Cup final
Rivelino, the other wonderful left foot from 1970, sneered that "Rivaldo is a player who needs four touches to give one pass."

Brazil has run out of patience. Rivaldo has been an international for seven years, without much to show.

Coach Carlos Alberto Parreira tried him out in the run-up to the 1994 World Cup, but gave up on the idea.

"He has only played one really good game for Brazil," said Parreira this week, "a friendly against Argentina last year when he scored three beautiful goals.

"He's become the team's biggest problem. It's proving very hard to find a position for him where he can be effective."

He started out at outside left, and either by his own will or through the force of public opinion, there is a chance that soon he will be left outside.

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See also:

17 Nov 00 |  World Cup 2002
Rivaldo reveals Brazilian heartache
16 Nov 00 |  World Cup 2002
Roque rescues Brazil
15 Nov 00 |  Europe
Hopes rise for Ronaldo
20 Oct 00 |  World Cup 2002
Lećo's back with Brazil
19 Oct 00 |  Champions League
Coaches heap praise on Rivaldo
08 Oct 00 |  Europe
Rivaldo quit threat
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