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Friday, 7 June, 2002, 01:33 GMT 02:33 UK
The biggest take on the best
Ronaldo signs autographs for fans
Ronaldo's fame far outweighs that of China's players

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It is one of the most intriguing and colourful clashes of the World Cup so far.

The biggest footballing country in the world against the biggest country in the world full stop.

Brazil take on China on the Korean island of Jeju with the world's largest population pinning their hopes of qualification on a major upset.

But there is probably more chance of winning the Chinese lottery.

Deep down, China's Serbian coach Bora Milutinovic probably thinks so too.

"It's not impossible to qualify, because nothing is impossible in football, but we have to be realistic," he said even before the tournament kicked off.

"Being drawn with Brazil means that, right from the off, the other three teams are vying for second place."

Assuming he still believes that, Milutinovic is banking on a final-match victory over Turkey.

But Chinese fans are still pinning their hopes on the element of surprise.

Most had written off China's qualification chances before a ball was even kicked.

And, with precious few of their players earning a living outside their home country, most of the Chinese squad enjoy relative anonymity.

Milutinovic, leading his fifth team at a World Cup finals, believes that may just work in his team's favour.

A colourful Chinese fan
China's fans are known as Chiumi

China's other major weapon is their fanatical support, though fewer than expected have actually made the trip to Korea.

The tiny island of Jeju, where China face Brazil on Saturday, had braced itself for an island invasion.

What they got instead was a fairly hectic package holiday booking. The Korea National Tourist Organisation predicted a total of 90,000 Chinese visitors during the World Cup.

Of those, only 65,000 were expected to attend matches, with the remaining 25,000 regular tourists.

But that figure may turn out to have been over-optimistic.

"We can hardly find any special increase in tourism during the World Cup.

"In particular, the Chinese have complained it takes too long to get a visa for Korea," said a travel agency spokesperson in Korea.

But those who have made it here have been impressive in their support.

And, after the co-hosts, China are still the best-supported team in the competition.

Known as Chiumis - or soccer worshippers - China fans are similar to Korea's Red Devils in their fanatical support.

About 6,000 Chiumis were among the 27,217 crowd in Gwangju to see China beaten 2-0 by Costa Rica.

And even more are likely to create a red carpet welcome when the team arrives in Jeju.

If they all believe hard enough, then miracles might just start to happen.


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 SQUAD PROFILES
GROUP C
  P GD PTS
BRAZIL 3 +8 9
TURKEY 3 +2 4
COSTA RICA 3 -1 4
CHINA 3 -9 0




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