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Monday, 8 April, 2002, 09:29 GMT 10:29 UK
Romario's last chance
Brazil boss Scolari
Scolari may leave Romario on the World Cup sidelines
By BBC Sport Online's Tim Vickery

In a country which loves soap operas, the most gripping story of the moment is a real life drama. Brazil coach Luiz Felipe Scolari plays the part of the villain.

Hard-headed and devious, he conspires against Romario, the nation's hero, who seeks the noble aim of crowning his career by helping Brazil to a fifth world title.

Though the people are with Romario, Scolari is not alone.

There are increasingly credible rumours coming out of the Brazil camp, saying that at a meeting late last year senior players asked Scolari not to recall the veteran striker.

Romario made his move last week. He called a news conference to explain his case. Three times the proceedings were interrupted while Romario dissolved into fits of tears.

The gist of his rather bizarre message was this; he could not remember doing or saying anything against Brazil's coach or the players.

But if he had, he would like to issue a full and unconditional apology.

Brazil striker Romario
Romario captained Solari's Brazil in his first game in charge

Romario is very sorry, though he cannot remember what for.

It was a desperate last attempt. Whenever Brazil have played at home this year the cry for Romario has gone up from the terraces.

For the recent game against Yugoslavia, maintenance work on the stadium meant that the training sessions were not open to the public.

It made no difference. The construction workers shouted for Romario.

But there are no more home games, no more chances for the voice of the people to make itself heard.

Hence the fact that Romario decided to fight his own battle, armed with a battery of microphones and a tear in his eye.

Portugal deadline

On Tuesday 9 April he will know if his ploy has been successful when Scolari completes his squad for next week's trip to Portugal.

Last week the foreign-based players were called up.

Now it is the turn of those based at home, and there will be an eager wait to see how the case of the Vasco da Gama striker will be handled.

Whatever happens, Scolari runs the risk of having his position weakened.

If Romario is included, it smacks of a humiliating climbdown. But continuing to leave him out also has its dangers, especially if he once more refuses to justify the decision.

His image as the no-nonsense, straight-talking man of destiny will be badly undermined.

This is the issue which Scolari has been running away from all year.

When he was fielding experimental sides he said that Romario didn't need to be tested, and had not been excluded from his plans.

Then the line changed. He refused to answer questions on the subject.

Ocassionally he would emerge from behind his wall of silence to say that "technical and tactical reasons" were behind his moves. But he did not explain further.

Now Brazil wants to hear it straight. And giving it straight is the only chance Scolari has of shaking off his villain tag.

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