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Last Updated: Monday, 18 October, 2004, 07:44 GMT 08:44 UK
Samba stars eye 2006 success
By Tim Vickery

Brazil superstars Ronaldo (left) and Ronaldinho
The combination of Ronaldo, Kaka and Ronaldinho stands comparison with any Brazilian forward line

For a South American nation, winning the World Cup in Europe is the supreme challenge. It has only been done once, by Brazil in 1958 when the tournament was held in Sweden.

There is no doubt that Germany 2006 represents Brazil's best chance for a long time of pulling it off.

Their firepower in the final third of the field - the combination of Ronaldo, Kaka and Ronaldinho, with Adriano on the bench - stands comparison with any forward line they have ever fielded.

They are also without the problems that dogged their last two European campaigns.

Italia 90 was the first World Cup of the new age of the global market in footballers. Four years earlier just two of Brazil's players had been based in Europe. In 1990 there were 12.

It was an entirely new situation, which split the squad down the middle. No unity meant no chance of winning the title.

The problem with the France 98 team was that as reigning champions they had not needed to qualify. The lack of competitive games meant that defects in the side were not resolved.

This time, everything is different. The fact that many of their players are based abroad is no longer a problem and it no longer has the power to cause internal ruptures.

Although Brazil are world champions once more, this time they do have to go through the qualifying process and it can only do them good.

Getting through qualification in South America is no cakewalk - last time Brazil lost six of their nine away games.

The current campaign is giving coach Parreira the opportunity to construct his side under competitive conditions, and with 10 rounds gone his men are still unbeaten.

But last week's 0-0 draw at home to Colombia raises some questions. Brazil were angry at the negative approach of the visitors, Robert Carlos saying that the Colombians should be banned from football.

But all they had done was to defend with discipline and keep possession of the ball for as long as possible, as many teams will set out to do against Brazil two years from now.

Are Roberto Carlos (left) and Cafu in decline?
Are Roberto Carlos (left) and Cafu in decline?

Admittedly Kaka missed the game through suspension. His ability to crash his way through the deep defence was greatly missed.

But this is a situation that could easily repeat itself in the World Cup. Kaka is a player who picks up plenty of yellow cards.

Even more worrying for Parreira was the lack of contribution made by Cafu and Roberto Carlos. Are the great full-backs finally in decline?

If so, it is indeed a problem. Parreira admits that he lacks ready replacements.

Most worrying of all was the paucity of football through the centre of the pitch. If Brazil are currently over-blessed with attacking talent, the same cannot be said of the midfield.

They badly lack someone with the skill and authority of a Falcao or a Toninho Cerezo to set up the play.

Against Colombia there were no triangles, no quick interchange of passing to create space - just over-reliance on a flash of individual brilliance.

Brazil are qualifying for the World Cup in comfortable style. But it is also true that five of the last eight games have been drawn.

Throw in the uninspired recent 1-1 draw with Germany, and it starts to look as if they have problems making their firepower count in the more difficult games.





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