Football: Return home for Michel

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The Independent Online
BRAZIL WILL become the first team to claim a place in the World Cup second round if they can maintain their 100 per-cent record against African opposition in Nantes tonight.

A win against Morocco will send Brazil through from Group A with a game to spare after they beat Scotland 2-1 while Morocco and Norway drew 2- 2 last week.

Brazil have won all 12 full internationals they have played against African teams but are well aware of the threat posed by the Atlas Lions, who raised eyebrows with a vibrant display against Norway that deserved three points.

Brazil's veteran coach Mario Zagallo, perhaps trying to dampen public expectancy for another win back home, on Sunday described Morocco as "the best team I have seen here so far''.

The match promises to be very emotional for Morocco's coach Henri Michel, the former French international who spent his entire playing career at Nantes.

"To play Brazil is always a special match... because it's fabulous. To play against Brazil is extraordinary," said Michel, the coach of the French team which knocked Brazil out of the World Cup on penalties in the 1986 quarter-finals.

Michel was also in charge when France beat Brazil in the 1984 Olympics, when Brazil's current captain Dunga was playing. Michel also played when France won a friendly in 1978. He finally came unstuck against the South Americans, however, as Cameroon's coach in the last World Cup, when his side lost 3-0 in a first-round match.

Although Brazil's overall performance against Scotland last week was far from earth-shattering, their players showed plenty of their individual skill and Zagallo has promised that they will steadily improve. He looks likely to replace Barcelona's stylish midfielder Giovanni, who was substituted at halftime against Scotland after a disappointing performance, with Leonardo, but is otherwise expected to keep the line-up unchanged.

His chief concern will be Morocco's Mustapha Hadji, who scored his second spectacular international goal this year against Norway. In February, Hadji scored with a bicycle kick as Morocco beat the eventual champions Egypt 1-0 in an African Nations' Cup game.

The two countries met for the first time in a full international in October last year. Brazil were lucky to come away with a 2-0 win in a match Michel described as a "reference point."

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