While the figures in the Tournoi de France table shows them to be the leading team, the tournament's football told a different tale. That impression was confirmed on a humid Parisian night as Romario's 61st-minute goal brought Brazil a victory which was more comfortable than the scoreline suggests.
There were plusses for England, notably in the way Sol Campbell shackled Ronaldo as effectively as anyone has this season. They also lifted the trophy but it was appropriate that, as Alan Shearer went up to collect it, the samba drums drowned out the sound of "Football's coming home".
Brazil had paid England the compliment of fielding their strongest team and, though some of them may have been tired after Sunday's epic 3-3 draw with Italy it made for a daunting return to the Parc des Princes for David Seaman. The Arsenal goalkeeper was last seen here just over two years ago, tangled in his net after being lobbed from the half-way line by Nayim in the last minute of the European Cup-Winners' Cup final.
England were also near full strength with Paul Scholes fit to replace the suspended David Beckham and Martin Keown coming in for Gary Neville as a marking defender. The experiment only lasted 19 minutes before Leonardo bundled Keown over and the Arsenal defender landed awkwardly. He was taken straight to hospital where it was confirmed that he had suffered a broken arm.
Hoddle had had a chance to assess the change because England had already had plenty of defending to do. Brazil won seven corners in the first six minutes with England looking insecure on the flanks against Cafu and Roberto Carlos.
The best chance came, however, from a hopeful long ball, Keown could only backhead it and Gareth Southgate's miskick went straight to Ronaldo. Not the ideal person to present with a free run on goal and Southgate was grateful to Sol Campbell who got back well to tackle. Campbell underlined his form with a telling interception on Leonardo a few minutes later.
Though Brazil were the better side England had their moments. Scholes released Shearer with a marvellous outside-of-the-boot ball and Paul Gascoigne showed a couple of Brazilian- esque touches with his dribbling. There was also a neat backheel which set up Paul Ince for England's first shot, a 25-yarder which Taffarel clawed wide.
For all Brazil's pressure Seaman was not troubled until the 29th minute. Leonardo had just shot over when Romario broke through and rounded Ince to find Seaman smothering the ball as he looked to shoot. Seaman saved again from Ronaldo after Southgate had hesitated but it was an isolated break. England were defending in numbers in the centre but the Brazilians, never ones to shirk a challenge, simply redoubled their efforts to dribble through the middle.
They failed and, as Shearer and Dunga each shot over from free-kicks the game gradually lost its edge. The one moment of pre-interval excitement was somewhat unexpected as Shearer and Ronaldo tangled by the touchline and the Colombian referee showed the pair - combined value pounds 40m - a yellow card each.
Scholes and Dunga were booked for a similar contretemps soon after the break but, within a few minutes Seaman had to parry over a Roberto Carlos free-kick as the game resumed its pattern of Brazilian pressure and English defence.
Leonardo, playing on his home club ground, was the catalyst, combining well with Djalminha who had replaced the injured Denilson. Seaman made an inspired save from one Djalminha effort, which came after Cafu and Ronaldo had opened England up.
The pressure was bound to tell and, as the game entered its third segment, Brazil scored. Flavio Conceicao bypassed Gascoigne in finding Leonardo; he slipped a pass to Romario who ghosted round Gary Neville and tucked the ball past Seaman off the inside of the far post.
As the game opened up, Campbell was booked for bringing down Ronaldo and Aldair for blocking Ince as he was bursting through. Glenn Hoddle, seeking to freshen England's attack, introduced Rob Lee and Ian Wright but, if the service forward was not going to improve it would make no difference.
Lee livened things up and England did test Taffarel through a Phil Neville shot. But they never looked like overturning Brazil's superiority and the world champions indulged in a prolonged bout of keep-ball at the end to prove it. To their credit England looked suitably sheepish when they had to pose and parade with their trophy as "We are the Champions" rang out and the Brazilians looked on.
ENGLAND (3-5-3): Seaman (Arsenal); Keown (Arsenal), Southgate (Aston Villa), Campbell (Tottenham Hotspur); P Neville (Manchester United), Gascoigne (Rangers), Ince (Internazionale), Scholes (Manchester United), Le Saux (Blackburn Rovers); Sheringham (Tottenham Hotspur), Shearer (Newcastle United). Substitutes: G Neville (Manchester United) for Keown, 19; Lee (Newcastle United) for Scholes, 74; Wright (Arsenal) for Sheringham, 74.
BRAZIL (2-4-2-2): Taffarel (Atletico Mineiro); Celio Silva (Corinthians), Aldair (Roma); Cafu (Palmeiras), Flavio Conceicao (Deportivo La Coruna), Dunga (Jubilo Iwata), Roberto Carlos (Real Madrid); Leonardo (Paris St- Germain), Denilson (Sao Paulo); Ronaldo (Barcelona), Romario (Flamengo). Substitutes: Djalminha (Palmeiras) for Denilson, 20; Ze Roberto (Real Madrid) for Leonhardo, 82
Referee: J Toro Rendon (Colombia).
Babbel criticises United, page 31