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Wednesday, 1 May, 2002, 13:30 GMT 14:30 UK
Brazil's missing link
Brazil line up prior to their recent friendly against Portugal
Brazil need a player to hold the team together
BBC Sport Online's Tim Vickery

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China's friendly against South Korea was shown on Brazilian TV.

Coach Luiz Felipe Scolari will have relished the opportunity to study his team's second World Cup opponents.

He will have seen a side which display some of the typical traits of coach Bora Milutinovic.

China look to score by breaking quickly down the flanks, or by using their aerial power at a set piece.

In defence they try to keep the pitch small, keeping their back four close together, making it difficult to pass through them.

Scolari could well feel that the game against China is made for his wing backs.

Cafu and Roberto Carlos could cause havoc if they can get behind the Chinese defensive line.

But who is going to supply them with the ball?

Where there was despair, now there is growing optimism.

Dunga sprays a pass at the 1994 World Cup
Dunga's probing play helped Brazil tick
Brazilians are becoming increasingly confident about their team's World Cup campaign, a feeling chiefly bolstered by the return of Ronaldo and the rise of Ronaldinho.

These two, with the ever-enigmatic Rivaldo, form Brazil's 'R' squad.

In the recent friendly against Portugal there were flashes of brilliance from the attacking trio.

But there was also a worry that the three were somewhat detached from the rest of the team.

More than anything, what Brazil lack is a midfield general - someone who in addition to winning the ball can change the rhythm of the game with a long diagonal pass.

It was the role that Dunga carried out to great effect in recent World Cups.

And the former Brazil captain is worried by the fact that his distribution skills have not been replaced.

The current midfield duo of Emerson and Gilberto Silva are good ball winners and accurate passers over short range.

But they are not to be expected to ping a 50 yard pass into the path of a rampaging Roberto Carlos.

Dunga appoints Djalminha as the only member of the current squad capable of switching the play in this way.

But the Deportivo La Coruna playmaker is notoriously wayward, and usually plays much further up the field than was the case with Dunga.

Marcos Assuncao in action for Roma
Assuncao has given up hope
Roma's Marcos Assuncao might have been a better bet.

He is not the greatest marker in the world, but his passing is swift and crisp, and Brazil have no one else in their squad capable of taking right-footed free kicks with such precision.

But his name is not being mentioned, and even the player seems to accept that his World Cup bid has run out of time.

Milutinovic has made life difficult for Brazil before.

With Costa Rica in the 1990 World Cup, USA in 1994 and with Mexico in the 1997 Copa America, his sides were only beaten by a one-goal margin.

Now he will once more seek to cancel out Brazil's strengths and highlight their weaknesses.

And Scolari will hope that his midfield has sufficient guile to pass its way through - or around - the Chinese wall.


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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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