Football / World Cup USA '94: Hopeful world awaiting a classic climax: Brazil are given edge by Romario - Two prolific forwards prepare for a final duel in the American sun as Bulgaria and Sweden depart with a whimper

Click to follow
The Independent Online
WITH almost 80 minutes played at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, considerable attention was being paid to the potential of Sweden's dogged resistance.

If the anxiety felt by a majority in the audience indicated extreme bias, it was expressed openly. 'You can see this going wrong for Brazil,' somebody said, 'Sweden could spoil the party.'

Brazil's participation in the World Cup final was desirable but their profligacy suggested it was no longer inevitable. Sweden had been outplayed but they were still there. With one breakaway they could settle it.

What makes Brazil's footballers more than usually susceptible to superstition is their history. Going back to 1950, when Uruguay defeated them to win the World Cup in Rio, there is always the spectre of past disappointments. Thus they were on dodgy ground. Only 10 minutes left and nothing to show for overwhelming technical superiority.

It was then that Brazil emphasised an important willingness to put their faith in fundamentals. Champions of direct football must have drooled over it, seeing absolute proof of their advocacy when Romario got his head to Jorginho's deep centre. 'All that clever stuff and it takes a Wimbledon-type goal to win it,' you could imagine them saying.

In consultations with Brazil's coach, Carlos Alberto Parreira, many of his compatriots have assumed a betrayal of heritage, a leaning towards the Europan method. Parreira remains undeterred by this blinkered conclusion. What he is saying is that no matter how football evolves, the fundamentals will always apply. If it takes a long ball to win then by all means go for it.

However, Sweden's goalkeeper, Thomas Ravelli, was in no doubt that it was a move of outstanding quality. 'Jorginho's centre was so good that I could not take up a good position,' he said. 'I had to stay on my line and Romario jumped up between two of our defenders.' Pleasingly clear and honest in his conclusions, Ravelli admitted that he could never imagine a Swedish victory. 'Before the game I thought we had a chance,' he said, 'but it was soon obvious that Brazil were very much better. They made so many chances that it was only a matter of time before they scored.'

There were statistics available to prove the extent of Brazil's supremacy, 29 shots and, in Parreira's mind, nine clear-cut chances. 'In every way, tactically, technically and physically, we dominated the game,' he said. 'At times some of our play was beautiful to watch but we couldn't get the ball into the net. The score does not begin to translate Brazil's superiority.'

In the exhilarating swirl of Brazil's attacks there was the promise of a memorable performance but it remained unfulfilled. 'To go through the Swedish penalty area was almost impossible,' Romario said. 'Really, we had to keep trying to go up the wings and our goal came from a move we tried several times.'

When asked about a repeat of the 1970 World Cup final against Italy, whether he thought Brazil capable of another great victory, Romario was respectful. 'We are two of the biggest powers in football,' he said. 'Italy didn't start very well but they have since proved to be a good team that can overcome problems. To win the World Cup would be a marvellous thing for our people who are suffering big economic problems. But we cannot take anything for granted.'

Sweden took their defeat well. 'There is a lot of sadness in our dressing-room,' Ravelli said, 'but if we finish with the bronze medal I think everyone will be satisfied.'

One image will linger. It is of Sweden's captain, Jonas Thern, shaking hands with Dunga after being sent off for fouling him. There was no sarcasm in the gesture. Owning up to his misdemeanour, Thern went from the game with dignity, as did Sweden from the tournament. In making life difficult for Brazil, they had raised a bleak possibility, but by comparison they did not have much going for them.

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.

(Photograph omitted)