Football / World Cup USA '94: Brazil bring their inherent class to bear: Final Thoughts - Depleted Italians are unable to raise their game, leaving worthy winners to take their place in the game's history

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The Independent Online
THERE WAS something Carlos Alberto Parreira wanted to say, something he felt should be laid down in history. 'If we'd lost the World Cup to Italy on penalties it would have been one of the great injustices in football,' Brazil's coach said in the aftermath of the dramatic proceedings on Sunday at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena.

Parreira smiled when he said this, but he believed it unreservedly. 'We deserved to win because we were the outstanding team in the tournament,' he added. 'We showed more adventure and defended better than any of the others.'

Had Bulgaria not collapsed against Sweden in the third-place match, losing 4-0, Brazil would have completed their effort with the most goals scored, but having the fewest against gave Parreira and his advisor, Mario Zagalo, a great deal of satisfaction.

Among the memories they brought to the United States was that of Brazil's defeat by Italy at the semi-final stage of the 1982 World Cup in Spain. Brazil were the most accomplished team that year, too, but pursuit of a romantic ideal cost them dearly. Parreira and Zagalo were not involved but they thought it to be an important lesson that should be impressed upon the players. 'If you want to win the World Cup, you must work hard and always think about being ready for counter-attacks,' they lectured.

The Brazil who defeated Italy to win a record fourth World Cup were not remotely the Brazil of 1970 nor even of 1982. They had arousing qualities, often bringing their natural trickery to bear on matters, but above all they were efficient. Not one of the great Brazilian teams, but a cut above the rest.

In an earlier dispatch I suggested that an outstanding team had not arisen in World Cup '94, and the final did nothing to alter my opinion. It is shared by veteran Brazilian observers and even some of a younger generation. They were delighted with victory but not entirely with the performance. There was not enough romance in it for them. 'We were not true to ourselves,' one of them ventured.

Considering that England have only once won the World Cup and that none of the other home countries have progressed beyond the quarter-finals, you may think this to be unreasonable. You may even sense a trace of arrogance.

It is neither. What it amounts to is an acute awareness of heritage, the fluency and style for which Brazilian football is famous. Above all, the realisation that Brazil proved to be a very good team but not a great one.

The final proved that conclusively. Making most of the running, Brazil created enough chances to have won in regulation time but a total commitent to attack was not on their agenda. Caution was implicit in their strategy.

At this point I think it appropriate to recall a conversation on the eve of the final with a young man, Gus Martin, who reports on the game for a Boston newspaper and is an enthusiastic player. 'The World Cup has been so uplifting for soccer fans in this country that it will be a shame if it doesn't finish with a pageant,' he said.

Pointing out the rarity of such an occurrence, I warned against wishful thinking. It was not the way to bet, probably not what Parreira and Italy's coach, Arrigo Sacchi, had in mind. They would be trying to win the World Cup rather than leave an indelible mark on it.

If the final did not alter a general perception of the World Cup, especially how it will be remembered by Americans, there was reality to accommodate. Never quite getting things together, Italy had relied to a great degree on Roberto Baggio's goal-scoring ability.

On the day they took a risk with Baggio, who clearly was not fit, and Franco Baresi, who had not played since being injured in their second game. Sacchi used every card he had left. He set out to frustrate Brazil and surprise them with counter-attacks.

The result was that most in the audience found the contest less than thrilling. In truth it was anti- climactic, technical with plenty of excellent defending but not to American tastes.

So, for the first time in history, the World Cup final was without a goal after 90 minutes. It was the third to reach extra time, the first and last (sudden death will apply in France '98) to be settled by a penalty shoot-out. 'We gave everything we had, our conscience is clean,' Baresi, who missed the first of Italy's kicks, said. 'I am proud of my players,' Sacchi said, 'especially Baresi and Roberto Baggio.'

When Baggio missed from the spot, blazing the ball over, it was the end of Italy. Baggio turned and bent his head, disconsolate.

BRAZIL (4-4-2): Taffarel (Reggiana); Jorginho (Bayern Munich), Aldair (Roma), Marcio Santos (Bordeaux), Branco (Fluminense); Mazinho (Palmeiras), Mauro Silva (Deportivo La Coruna), Dunga (VfB Stuttgart), Zinho (Palmeiras); Romario (Barcelona), Bebeto (Deportivo La Coruna). Substitutes: Cafu (Sao Paulo) for Jorginho, 21; Viola (Corinthians) for Zinho, 105.

ITALY (4-4-2): Pagliuca (Sampdoria); Mussi (Torino), Baresi (Milan), Maldini (Milan), Benarrivo (Parma); Berti (Internazionale), Albertini (Milan), D Baggio (Parma), Donadoni (Milan); R Baggio (Juventus), Massaro (Milan). Substitutes: Apolloni (Parma) for Mussi, 34; Evani (Sampdoria) for D Baggio, 94.

Referee: S Puhl (Hungary).

----------------------------------------------------------------- KEN JONES' TEAM ----------------------------------------------------------------- Preud'homme (Belgium) Jorginho M Santos Aldair Maldini (Brazil) (Brazil) (Brazil) (Italy) Lechkov Redondo Dunga Hagi (Bulgaria) (Argentina) (Brazil) (Romania) Romario R Baggio (Brazil) (Italy) ----------------------------------------------------------------- PHIL SHAW'S TEAM ----------------------------------------------------------------- Preud'homme (Belgium) Jorginho Maldini M Santos Chamot (Brazil) (Italy) (Brazil) (Argentina) Redondo (Argentina) Albertini Hagi (Italy) (Romania) R Baggio (Italy) Romario Klinsmann (Brazil) (Germany) -----------------------------------------------------------------

(Photograph omitted)