Not since the opening game of the USA 94 campaign had Brazil beaten European opposition in a World Cup by more than a single goal.
Eight years separate the 2-0 triumphs over Russia and Belgium.
In between there were 10 matches
against European teams, nine of them tight, the other the drubbing at the
hands of France in the final four years ago.
Despite the two goal margin, the match against Belgium was one which
unmasked the World Cup favourites.
As Brazil strolled through a virtual
pre-season tournament in South Korea, many must have wondered why they had
so many problems in qualification.
Now they know.
Take out the odd flash
of individual brilliance, and the class of 2002 is eminently beatable.
Football has its own dynamic of development.
The England team, for example,
is made up of a generation who were inspired by the Italia 90 displays of
Paul Gascoigne and company.
Meanwhile, the Brazilians are stuggling with
some of the consequences of winning the 1994 World Cup.
Back then, Carlos Alberto Parreira's team were a solid, well-drilled unit who
relied heavily on the individual skill of Romario and Bebeto.
Parreira achieved an admirable balance between attack and defence because the back
line were so well protected by the central midfielders Dunga and Mauro
As a result of the 1994 win all Brazilian clubs adopted the same tactics.
They all placed two "guard dogs" to scare off the opposing strikers, but
very few had the ability on the ball of Dunga and Mauro Silva.
Dunga the 'guard dog' protected a generation of central defenders
footballers, coaches started selecting athletes to carry out the role.
The results are clear; the midfielders have forgotten how to pass.
And central defenders spoiled by years of blanket protection, have lost the art of
defending when left one-on-one against opposing strikers.
The weaknesses have become all the more apparent because Scolari has taken
the bold - and much criticised - decision to move away from 4-4-2.
The thinking behind his three centre-back formation is that Brazil press opponents back, with the strikers working hard to regain possession of the
ball close to the opposing goal.
In practise it hardly functions. Brazil seem incapable of maintaining their
"blitz" marking for long and the opposition are usually able to play their way
out of defence.
The Brazil team is then stretched out over the field. The
limitations of their midfield and the confusion in their defence are made
With the threat of England ahead of them, it will be fascinating to see how
Scolari and his men react to the game against Belgium.
expected an easy victory, and instead witnessed what was practically a moral
"Saint" Marcos in goal was Brazil's best player, and when he was
beaten the referee's whistle came to his rescue.
England would seem to carry more firepower than the Belgians.
So the question
now is this - how much confidence do the Brazil team have in their own