FOOTBALL: Brazil in Rooster boost from crushing Hong Kong victory

BRAZIL BEGAN their year in emphatic fashion as they crushed Hong Kong 7-1 in a friendly yesterday.

The world champions put on an entertaining display in front of a crowd celebrating the first day of the Chinese New Year - the Year of the Rooster - at the Hong Kong Stadium. Brazil hardly missed Ronaldo, who was not released by Real Madrid for the game, against a side ranked 134th in the world.

Ricardo Oliveira scored twice and Lucio, Robinho, Ronaldinho and Roberto Carlos, with a stunning 25-metre shot, were also on target. Substitute Alex converted a late penalty to complete the rout and leave the Brazil coach, Carlos Alberto Parreira, a contented man.

"I'm very happy with the commitment shown by the players," Parreira said. "Even though we are five-times world champions and our technical and skill levels were much higher than Hong Kong, you still have to go out and show commitment."

Brazil led 3-0 at half-time and despite the early substitutions of captain Cafu, Ronaldinho and Roberto Carlos, they kept up the pressure on the home side until the end. "We were training while we were playing," Parreira said. "It is very difficult to get the players together and this was a big opportunity for us to train and play as a team."

Hong Kong's consolation goal came four minutes from time when the substitute Lee Sze-ming slotted home following a goalmouth scramble.

"The result highlighted the difference in class between the two sides and it was a true reflection of our position in the world," the Hong Kong coach, Lai Sun-cheung, said.

Meanwhile, Celta Vigo have refused to allow the analysis of the B sample given by the Brazilian midfielder Everton Giovanella, who tested positive for a metabolite of the banned steroid nandrolone last week.

The Spanish second division club said they would not allow the test because the coded labels on the two samples did not coincide.

"We are not opposed to a second test, but we want to make sure that everything is done properly," the Celta director, Sabino Lopez, said. "An error has been made that needs to be resolved before we can proceed with the process."

Giovanella said his conscience was clear after it was reported that a level of 3.7 nanograms per litre of 19-norandrosterone was detected in a random test carried out after a league match against Pontevedra on 19 December. The permitted limit is two nanograms.

Lopez said he was unhappy that the result of the initial test had been leaked to the media before a second analysis had been carried out. "We consider it a serious violation of the player's confidentiality that the information was leaked," he said.

"We want a proper B test to be carried out and a study of the player over the next three months, but before that we cannot consider that he has committed any doping offence."

The Athletic Bilbao midfielder Carlos Gurpegi tested positive for the same drug at the start of the 2002-03 season but has not yet received punishment after taking the case to court. The 24-year-old and his club say that they have proof that he produces the substance naturally.

Also in Spain, the Uruguay and Real Mallorca striker Fernando Correa is hoping to return to action this weekend after completing a nine-month ban for testing positive for cocaine.

"I'm hoping it's all made official in the next few hours and that I can play against Albacete," he said. Correa, who gave the test after a World Cup qualifier against Venezuela last March, was originally banned for 12 months in June, but the punishment was reduced on appeal.

The ban is due to expire at midnight on Saturday and Mallorca play Albacete on Sunday. "I'm really keen to getting back and feeling like a player once more," said the former Atletico Madrid forward. "I made a mistake and I've been through a very bad time.

"The punishment was very harsh," he added, "but it's over now and all I want to do is think about football."