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Wednesday, 19 June, 2002, 18:53 GMT 19:53 UK

Steve Claridge on England v Brazil

BBC World Cup pundit Steve Claridge answers your emails in our interactive forum.

With the hours counting down towards England's vital game against Brazil, BBC World Cup pundit Steve Claridge was just the man to answer your emails on the subject.

Steve talked to Andrew Simmons, and a transcript appears below.

Neil, England

You tipped Brazil at 8-1 before the tournament started. Do you think your bet will come unstuck on Friday?

I've no real idea, to be fair, I think the game could go either way. I'd be pleased to lose the bet - I don't want to change the habit of a lifetime by winning a bet, and I'd be more than thankful if they get beaten!

Russell Ballard, USA

What do England have to do to beat Brazil and who must step up?

I think England's improved performances have been mainly due to the way Trevor Sinclair has played. Everybody plays in their natural position, and I think he is the only one that there has been a question mark about, but he has adapted very well. He is a natural winger, and I think the way he plays often dictates the way England plays.

Paul McDonald, England

If you were going into this game as captain, what would you say to the team before the kick-off?

Nothing to say! Beckham isn't a shouter, he leads by example in the way he plays - and what can you say to people about this game? Nobody needs geeing up! Basically, if you're the captain, you go out there, and lead by example with your performance.

But with the amount of pressure there, there must be a way of dealing with the players?

He's played at this level before, and there's nothing you could say apart from: "go out there and do your job"! They will be primed, they'll be fit, they'll be ready, and they'll know what is expected of them.

Leon Chen, Taiwan

I think Juninho plays a more vital part in setting up Brazilian attacks than the so-called "3-Rs". Thus, England must stop him to stop Brazil. Do you agree with this?

Yes I do. I think he's the difference, compared with Argentina. When Ortega played for Argentina, both sides played pretty much the same way. But I think Juninho has taken to that role far better.

He's the link between the midfield and Ronaldo. When he gets on the ball, he'll create things. Obviously many others are good on the ball, but he's the link man between the midfield and Ronaldo, and he is a vital member of their side. If we can stop him playing, we'll stop the game being stretched, and hopefully stop them playing.

So you think the key to it is Juninho?

Maybe not the key, they've got many other players, but he is a vital member of the side.

Adam Cousins, England

How is our defence going to cope with the likes of Ronaldo, Rivaldo, Ronaldinho, Juninho and co?

There's two main things. Firstly, it isn't just our defence that has kept us so tight at the back. As a unit we have defended very, very well; from the front right the way to the back. I don't agree that we have the best defence in the World Cup; I agree we've got the best defensive team in the World Cup. We're very well-organised and difficult to break down.

England have basically got to stop the game from being stretched. Brazil have defenders who will play very, very deep, who will drag England out, and if England can keep the game very tight, and congested in midfield, I think that's the best opportunity for us then to win the ball back and break on Brazil.

Stephen Lodziak, England

Do you think Heskey has justified his continual inclusion?

Yes I do, he gives us an option, he's a big strong lad. It clearly didn't work with Vassell and Owen up-front in the first game, and in the end they didn't play well. When you're on the ball and your option are restricted, like they were against Sweden, you need a big man, and Emile gives us that.

Adam Speck, UK

I worry about Cole and Mills. I look at our defensive record in the tournament and wonder how we've been so mean. Do you share my fears for the Brazil game?

No I don't. As I said, our side is very well-tuned defensively, and very well-organised. Cole has been a revelation, absolutely magnificent. He doesn't ask anyone to cover for him - he does his job, gets tight, and he did a superb job against the Danish lad.

Mills is still learning the game, learning to be a right-back - he was a centre-half up until he went to Leeds in fact, he has been caught out of position a couple of times, his positional sense sometimes isn't all it could be, but he's eager, he's willing to learn and he's certainly getting there.

Massoud Nili, London

What will be Brazil's game-plan and how will Brazil go about breaking through the English defence which has been so firm up to now?

As I've said, Brazil will look to stretch this game. They will look to play from their 18-yard box to England's 18-yard box, whereas England would probably like to play in about a 30-yard space.

Brazil won't press; they'll play the ball around from the back and try to get England to come out. If they do that successfully they'll find gaps to run into. But if England score the first goal Brazil will face the same problem that Argentina did - England will be very difficult to break down.

John Nolan, Liverpool

I really think England can beat Brazil. I've seen all their games and their defence looks dreadful. They remind me of the 1982 team in that respect. We will score goals and we will win.

That's more of a statement than a question! In football it's very easy to blame your defence when you concede goals. Brazil are a very attacking team and they leave their defenders exposed.

Their defenders are not that bad, it's just their attacking style that sometimes makes them look that way.

Ian Rhodes, UK

What are the key battles where the game will be won and lost?

I think the midfield will be the real battleground. The three Brazilian midfielders will be very difficult to cope with when they've got the ball. But as soon as they lose possession, England can get at them.

They play five at the back, with two wing-backs, where as England play a 4-4-2. In theory, that should give us an extra man out wide, and it's important that Cole and Mills make that advantage count.

I think Sven will play it very tight from the start, and look to play a high back four. That will keep the play as congested as possible. They'll hope to nick a goal, and then play pretty much the same as they did against Argentina.

James Brooks, Croydon

How much of an effect do you think the heat will have on the outcome? They looked absolutely shattered after the Nigeria game, while it's home from home for the Brazilian boys.

I think this is the one thing that Brazil have in their favour. I think the teams are very evenly matched, but the heat could go against England. Rio Ferdinand said that the Nigeria game was the hottest he'd ever played in, and he was breathing quite heavily after the game.

I think the one real doubt in everyone's mind is how England will cope with the heat. All the players can do is make sure that they eat and drink properly and get as much fluid inside them as they can. After that it's just a case of taking things as they come.

Terry Langfield, UK

The press have been raving about David Beckham, and some of the papers I read gave him nine out of ten for the game against Denmark. I thought he was pretty mediocre. Am I missing something?

Defensively he's been okay, but we haven't had a lot from him going forward in this competition. I think that's mainly down to his fitness.

I said that if we got through the group stage I expected David Beckham to get better as the tournament went on, as you need about three full matches to get your fitness back after a long spell out.

I think we have to realise that when you break a bone, there's very little exercise you can do, and you cannot get match fitness through training. I though we saw an improved David Beckham against Denmark, and I think we'll see an even better one against Brazil.

Tommy, England

Who would you rather meet if we get through to the semi-finals, Senegal or Turkey?

I think Senegal would probably suit us more, because they do tend to switch off - particularly in dead ball situations. They're probably not as well organised as European sides, and I would rather face them than Turkey.

We're very strong from dead ball situations, and I think that's one area where the African sides are still very weak. It's an aspect of their game that we could certainly take advantage of.

Ed Smith, London

Now that Owen Hargreaves has resumed training, do you think that Sven will include him in the starting line-up at the expense of Trevor Sinclair?

No. Hargreaves is a central midfielder, and is not as effective on the left. Nor is Heskey, who showed that if you're not used to playing in that position you can be caught out. I think Sinclair has done a great job, and he should continue there.

Would Hargreaves' pace be a key factor?

I don't think he's any quicker than Sinclair, although he does have a good engine. He's youthful and full of enthusiasm, but he would still be out of position on the left. Sinclair has been a revelation, and I certainly wouldn't change things at this stage.

Lucy Oakley, England

Who will you be cheering for in the game between the USA and Germany? What a sad state of affairs, I think I'm going to hang myself...

I think Lucy is going a tad over the top there! I think it would be great if the USA went through. I have to admit that I think Germany have been unfairly criticised at times. It was a poor game against Uruguay, but I think Germany made most of the running.

They're not brilliant to watch, but they do a good job, and I would imagine that things are pretty happy in the German camp. But I'm an old romantic, and I'd like to see the USA win that one.

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