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Thursday, 20 June, 2002, 12:48 GMT 13:48 UK
We are not worthy
Rivaldo leads the celebrations against Costa Rica
Brazil scored five against Costa Rica

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You grow up in England and there are certain facts you understand from the cradle - the sunshine won't last, we used to be more important and Brazilians are better footballers.

Forget the tired old rivalry with Germany. Since the thumping in Munich and drab win at Euro 2000 that particular bogey has been picked and flicked.

Teutonic efficiency and organisation hold no fear any more. It's the same with Argentina. We adopted their fall-over-like-girls tricks and victory was ours.

But the Brazilians...

I'd like to think there is a corner of Rio where men in love with football wear England shirts. I'd like to think so, but I can't.

What does English football traditionally mean to other nations? Guts, fitness, determination.

All admirable qualities, but not enough to make England top the football fan's fashion staple that is the Brazilian shirt.

To wear the yellow of Pele, Socrates and Rivaldo is garment shorthand for, "I love beautiful football."

David Beckham applauds the England fans
If this man was Brazilian, would you fear him?
It says, "I appreciate flair above fitness." It says samba, not conga. It says, "We are not worthy."

No-one in England would dream of wearing a Germany or Argentina shirt. You might as well write 'cynical' on your forehead and 'kick me' on your backside.

But Brazil? I know for a fact that there is a team in the Wimbledon and District League called Rivelino FC, who play in the Brazil kit.

They're not unusual. Dotted around the country are many FC Peles and hundreds of variants of the Croydon Flamenco sort.

Is there a Sunday league team in Sao Paulo called Rodney Marsh FC? Probably not.

But maybe it's time that all that changed. Not the Rod Marsh bit - I fear his moment has passed.

But look again at the two teams who go into battle in Shizuoka on Friday.

One of them has a porous defence, a great striker and an inspired midfielder.

The other has the best defence in the tournament, a midfielder worshipped the world over and a striker feared from Buenos Aires to Berlin.

Which one is which? Work it out.

Nervy victory

Another question for you. Would we all be so fearful of Brazil if they had played their last two matches in red and been called Paraguay?

A nervy victory over Belgium that required a deflected goal and heaps of good luck is hardly the sort of performance that says England should stand back in awe and prepare to pay their footballing respects.

We all know what Michael Owen, David Beckham and Rio Ferdinand can do. We've seen them so often in the Premiership we almost take their abilities for granted.

Yet their recent form is just as good as that of Ronaldo, Rivaldo and Lucio.

Maybe if they were called Michaldo, Davildo and, er, Rio, we might shake the inferiority complex and see them for what they are - the equals of their more exotic counterparts.

I'm not saying England will win. I'm not saying they won't.

But let's not overdo the respect. England deserve to be in the quarter-finals as much as Brazil. Their weather is better than ours - but we can match them on the pitch.


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