Football / World Cup Semi-Final USA '94: Romario gives Brazil their final reward: Two former champions advance to a 1970 encore as Sweden and Bulgaria fall short of their best form

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BRAZIL went forward to face Italy in a repeat of the 1970 World Cup final after being frustrated for 80 minutes here last night.

It was as much Brazil's failure to capitalise on technical superiority as Sweden's dogged defence that raised the possibility of extra time and a penalty shoot-out. But with 10 minutes left Romario got his head to a long centre from Jorghino and at last Brazil had broken through.

The discrepancy in class was so clear that Sweden did well to hang on for the opening 45 minutes when their defence, despite playing solidly, was frequently penetrated by Brazil's imaginative attacks.

In reply, Sweden could offer little more than speculative centres and attempts to get behind Brazil's defence with long passes from midfield that presented no problems for Aldair and Marcio Santos. Their anticipation had been a feature of Brazil's work in the tournament, and apart from one cross that flew through the goalmouth there was nothing to give Taffarel in Brazil's goal any serious anxiety.

His opposite number, Thomas Ravelli, had quite a different experience. In Brazil's first attack Romario tried his luck from 35 yards, the shot so startling Ravelli that he made the extraordinary decision to punch it away with both fists from in front of his face.

When Brazil were awarded a free-kick from all of 30 yards, Branco's reputation persuaded Sweden to put in a three-man defensive wall but Branco still managed to get it on target, forcing Ravelli to dive smartly in pursuit of a shot that was heading inside his left-hand post.

The interchanging of Bebeto and Romario was always a problem for Sweden's defenders, and of course Romario's talent for squirming through with the ball was very much in their minds. He almost got through only to be smothered inside the penalty area, and with almost 15 minutes played Sweden had not launched one real threatening assault. They put this right when Tomas Brolin, the only member of their team who could think about matching Brazil's technique, sent Hakan Mild away but his long shot was easily picked off by Taffarel.

Brazil increased the volume of their attacks but a tendency to over-elaborate enabled Sweden to continue their resistance on level terms. Zinho was put through by Bebeto but he shot wide, much to his own disgust, and a centre from Mazinho had Sweden's defence in a mess, the ball skipping clear off Romario's head.

Having survived Brazil's early assaults, Sweden grew a little in confidence but should have fallen behind in the 26th minute when Branco cleverly engineered an opening for Romario. But with Sweden's defence in total disarray, he tried to place his shot too carefully and Patrick Andersson scrambled the ball off the line. Even then Brazil should have scored from the move but Mazinho, following up, drove into the side-netting.

It was almost entirely Brazil against Sweden's defence, coming with wave after wave of attacks and yet failing to fully emphasise their superiority. Romario got away again, swerving left and again he shot wide.

A superb pass curled with the outside of his right foot by Dunga set Brazil going again but now Bebeto wasted the chance.

A snap shot from Mazinho almost caught Ravelli napping and yet at half-time Sweden were still hanging on, desperately, but coming out of it with a great deal of credit for their dogged resistance.

One of Brazil's few disappointments in the tournament had been the form of Rai, their elegant midfielder, who lost his place in the team to Mazinho. But he re-appeared, taking over from Mazinho at the start of the second half.

Worryingly for Brazil they were no longer creating chances, although they nearly went ahead when Dunga's dipping long shot brought a spectacular save out of Ravelli, who tipped the ball over one-handed. Dahlin broke away to cause Brazil a brief moment of anxiety and at that stage they seemed to have lost a little confidence in attack, frustrated by their failure to capitalise on territorial and technical superiority.

Sweden suffered a serious blow in the 63rd minute when Jonas Thern was sent off for a foul on Dunga. The Swedish captain appeared to take the decision philosophically, shaking hands with Dunga before strolling from the field and out of the tournament.

Brazil squandered yet another opportunity when Zinho, following up a shot from Romario that Ravelli parried but could not hold, shot wide.

SWEDEN (4-4-2): Ravelli (IFK Gothenburg); R Nilsson (Helsingborg), P Andersson (Borussia Monchengladbach), Bjorklund (IFK Gothenburg), Ljung (Galatasaray); Ingesson (PSV Eindhoven), Mild (Servette), Thern (Napoli), Brolin (Parma); Dahlin (Borussia Monchengladbach), K Andersson (Lille). Substitute: Rehn (IFK Gothenburg) for Dahlin, 67.

BRAZIL (4-4-2): Taffarel (Reggiana); Jorginho (Bayern Munich), Aldair (Roma), Marcio Santos (Bordeaux), Branco (Fluminense); Dunga (VfB Stuttgart), Mauro Silva (Deportivo La Coruna), Mazinho, Zinho (both Palmeiras); Bebeto (Deportivo La Coruna), Romario (Barcelona). Substitute: Rai (Paris St-Germain) for Mazinho, h-t.

Referee: J Torres Cadena (Colombia).

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