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Friday, 21 June, 2002, 03:27 GMT 04:27 UK

England's big test

England v Brazil | Quarter-final
Fri Jun 21 2002 | 0730 BST | Shizuoka
Live on BBC1 & Radio Five Live

England are just hours away from facing Brazil in the most eagerly-awaited game of the World Cup so far.

The two sides have not met in the World Cup since their epic encounter in the searing heat of Guadalajara in 1970 - and temperatures are likely to exceed 30C in Shizuoka.

But England will go into their most important game for 12 years - when Bobby Robson's side lost to West Germany in the semi-finals of Italia 90 - full of confidence.

Sven-Goran Eriksson's men have been lifted by the news that Michael Owen and Paul Scholes will be fit to start against the Brazilians.

And England will also have Owen Hargreaves and Darius Vassell available, with both players recovering from injuries.

Eriksson is expected to stick with the same 11 players who started against Denmark in the second round.

For Brazil, defender Lucio resumed training on Thursday and is expected to make the starting line-up.

The build-up to the game has reached fever pitch as fans in England, Brazil and across the world prepare to support their teams.

A television audience of 30m in England alone is expected to watch the eagerly-awaited game, while the global figure could reach one billion.

With the pre-tournament favourites - Italy, Argentina, France and Portugal - having crashed out, there will be no better chance for the victors of Friday's clash to go on to win the World Cup.

Despite concerns about Brazil's defence, the legendary Pele is backing his country to prevail over the ever-improving English.

"Everybody knows Brazil have big problems in defence," he told the BBC.

"But we have two or three players who can make the difference, like Ronaldo, Ronaldinho and Rivaldo."

However, England coach Eriksson is relishing the prospect of facing the four-times world champions.

He said: "The World Cup quarter-final against Brazil is a very exciting occasion. I'm looking forward to it very much. Brazil attack with lots of players.

"We will have to defend very well, but we will not win the game only by defending, we must attack as well."

The emphasis on attack will be welcomed by one football fan in the Midlands, who has placed 100,000 on England to win, the biggest ever single bet put on the national team to succeed.


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