Football: Rivaldo a closed book to Page

Stephen Brenkley talks to a Welshman whose travels took in Brasilia and Barnet

WITHOUT wishing to cast aspersions in any direction, from Brazil to Barnet is about as far a journey it is possible to make in professional football in one week. Brazil, home to some of the most gloriously gifted footballers on the planet, are world champions and Barnet... well, Barnet aren't.

It is a trip that Robert Page has now made. No sooner had he marked Rivaldo in Brasilia for Wales on Tuesday night than he was contemplating Kenny Charlery at Underhill stadium for his club, Watford, in the FA Cup first round yesterday. If the central defender sensed he was passing between the sublime and the ridiculous, he refused to let on. "Kenny's got a wonderful record against us and he's always a handful," he said. But though the veteran striker scored the opening goal it was Watford who prevailed.

And for all Charlery's keen lower division wiles, which have seen him change hands seven times for a total not much above pounds 500,000, it is the pounds 12m Barcelona forward Rivaldo, not to mention his equally exotic colleagues, whom Page will remember forever.

There was the swerving, dipping, cunningly accurate 30-yard free-kick in the 37th minute from which he scored Brazil's second goal and five minutes before that there was the marvellously weighted, deceptively angled, impeccably timed little through ball which allowed Zinho to score their first.

"The pace of the game was a lot slower than in the Second Division," said Page. "International football is like that where they let you dwell on the ball. Brazil had other qualities too. They let you keep the ball in your half as though they're saying 'right let's see what you can do with it, let's see how good you are' and then you get to the halfway line. That's where they pounce on you in numbers. In the Second Division you don't have time to put your foot on the ball before some big centre forward's breathing down your collar in your own box. You don't have time to pass."

But there was more, of course there was more. "Brazil did things that you could only stand back and admire," said Page. "There are the set-pieces, the free-kicks which we knew about and now know a bit more about, but there was a period in the first half when they increased the tempo. Their running off the ball was just fabulous and some of their passing... well to be honest they could have given me a book to read all about it and I still wouldn't have been any the wiser."

Page flew out with Wales after a goalless draw with Walsall last Saturday. He and Karl Ready of Queen's Park Rangers partnered each other in central defence for the second time. Apart from a general agreement about being cautious in giving away free-kicks, they discussed how they would divide the labour. Ready would man-mark Muller and Page would keep a watchful eye on Rivaldo darting daintily about behind the the two main forwards.

"I think we did pretty well really," he said. "We were both disappointed with the first goal because it was from open play and I just didn't quite to get to Rivaldo in time. But apart from not conceding them, I don't think we could have done anything about the free-kicks. You can only learn by playing the world champions and be glad it's not like that in the Second Division every week.

"Towards the end, Rivaldo was in a bit of space well out. I was worried about his passing to the left but then he looked up and chipped the goalkeeper. Now, that doesn't happen too often in the Second Division. You just have to think 'good luck to you, mate'."

Page, aged 23, is now in his second season as captain at Watford and has won seven caps (he is a genuine Welshman from Llwynpia). He shared a room with Ready and they could also share the heart of the Wales central defence for a while yet. "The phone went while we were there and it was for Karl to say that Stewart Houston was leaving Queen's Park Rangers. It was a long way to go to hear that." And a long way back to Barnet. In every sense.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Latest in Sport
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Weekend Factory Operatives

£9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This high quality thread manufacturer is curr...

Recruitment Genius: FP&A Analyst

£40000 - £55000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A market leading acquirer and m...

Recruitment Genius: Electricians

£35000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Fully qualified electricians re...

Recruitment Genius: Customer Service and Business Support Assistant

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: By developing intimate relationships with inte...

Day In a Page

Sepp Blatter resignation: The beginning of Fifa's long road to reform?

Does Blatter's departure mean Fifa will automatically clean up its act?

Don't bet on it, says Tom Peck
Charles Kennedy: The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

Charles Kennedy was consistently a man of the centre-left, dedicated to social justice, but was also a champion of liberty and an opponent of the nanny-state, says Baroness Williams
Syria civil war: The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of this endless conflict

The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of Syria's endless civil war

Sahar Qanbar lost her mother and brother as civilians and government soldiers fought side by side after being surrounded by brutal Islamist fighters. Robert Fisk visited her
The future of songwriting: How streaming is changing everything we know about making music

The future of songwriting

How streaming is changing everything we know about making music
William Shemin and Henry Johnson: Jewish and black soldiers receive World War I Medal of Honor amid claims of discrimination

Recognition at long last

Jewish and black soldiers who fought in WWI finally receive medals after claims of discrimination
Beating obesity: The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters

Beating obesity

The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters
9 best women's festival waterproofs

Ready for rain: 9 best women's festival waterproofs

These are the macs to keep your denim dry and your hair frizz-free(ish)
Cycling World Hour Record: Nervous Sir Bradley Wiggins ready for pain as he prepares to go distance

Wiggins worried

Nervous Sir Bradley ready for pain as he prepares to attempt cycling's World Hour Record
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back
Thurston Moore interview

Thurston Moore interview

On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
In full bloom

In full bloom

Floral print womenswear
From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

From leading man to Elephant Man

Bradley Cooper is terrific