"Brazil would pick Le Tiss," read the banner draped over a wall where green, gold and blue flags at first fluttered and then, as their team swung from sombre to samba, waved rhythmically. The point was aimed at Terry Venables, of course, yet there is a myth in the making here that needs to be dispelled.
To represent the chasm between England and Brazil as a dichotomy between collective work rate and individual flair is to do the world champions a grave disservice. At Wembley, as against Sweden at Villa Park, they demonstrated that the so-called European values on which their World Cup success was founded live on under Mario Zagalo's stewardship. Southampton's favourite son, unable to find a happy medium between indolence and inspiration, would not get near their bench.
That may sound as if the "Jogo Bonito", as espoused by the watching Pele, has again been put on hold by Zagalo as Brazil approach the South American Championships in Uruguay next month. Not exactly: their second and third goals owed everything to delicacy of touch, while there was more than a hint of Rivelino about the way Juninho flighted his equalising free-kick past Tim Flowers.
But just as the strength of the Brazilian side who triumphed in Los Angeles 11 months ago lay in defence, so they proved yesterday that, contrary to much wishful thinking in the British media, there has been no sudden reversal in policy.
The beautiful gains are Roberto Carlos, a left-sided wing-back with awesome acceleration and a shot that could trouble a motorway speed trap, and Juninho, inheritor of the fabled No 10 shirt though closer in stature and style to a slimmed down Diego Maradona than to Pele. Never mind Le Tissier: the mystery is how Brazil felt they could go to USA '94 without such outstanding players.
Both are 22. Roberto Carlos already looks the finished article, whereas Juninho's lack of upper-body weight means he is occasionally brushed off the ball too easily. Yet his spirit in the face of crude intimidation by David Batty suggested a heart as big as his talent.
Edmundo, the striker Romario initially demanded be picked ahead of Bebeto last summer, appears less likely to be part of Brazil's strategy as they build towards France. Unlike his combative captain, Dunga, who personifies the Europeanisation of Brazil, physical challenges bring out a petulant streak bordering on nastiness, which could make him a liability in competitive matches.
Still, Edmundo's deft finish for the third goal brought Pele to his feet, beaming broadly and clapping vigorously. Praise indeed.
Football results, page 21Reuse content