IT TOOK just one average performance to prick the balloon of confidence that had been flying high above the Brazilian World Cup camp. Tuesday's 1-1 draw with Sweden in Detroit threw the Brazilian sporting media into a frenzy of doubt. 'Show of incompetence,' blared a banner headline in the Rio daily, O Globo. 'Brazil plays poorly and are booed,' read another headline in Rio's other major daily, Jornal do Brasil.
Analysts back home found no silver linings in Brazil's sluggish showing, no comfort in the fact that the team secured first place in Group B with the draw, and a favourable second-round game against the host nation.
'Wake Up, Parreira]' screamed a gigantic headline in the Jornal dos Sports, in an article that criticized the coach, Carlos Alberto Parreira, and the midfielders, Rai and Zinho. 'The team played poorly, had no creativity in midfield,' the paper added.
'The truth is we didn't even deserve a tie,' O Globo declared. 'Rai and Zinho were the kings of non-productivity. This game served to show us how we will behave against a team that marks our attackers well.'
However, Parreira insisted that he would not make changes in midfield. 'This wasn't a typical game for us, but we have to keep the structure we've played with all along,' he said. 'The head coach can't lose his head and make changes after every game and experiment with solutions you haven't tried yet. You don't go anywhere acting like that.'
An almost apologetic Romario said: 'It was a lot less pretty than the other times we played. But the result is the important thing.' The Barcelona striker secured a point for Brazil with a 48th-minute equaliser. He picked up a loose ball outside the Swedes' penalty area, snaked his way past two defenders and knocked it in with a toe-poke. 'It was an ugly goal,' he admitted. 'But a goal is a goal, even with your belly.'
The Swedish coach, Tommy Svensson, said: 'I'm very proud of my players. The first half was brilliant technically.' His side took the lead in the 24th minute with a splendid goal from Kennet Andersson, who lifted the ball over Taffarel with the outside of his boot from the corner of the area after collecting a fine through ball from Tomas Brolin.
Like Brazil, Sweden finished unbeaten in Group B and qualified for the second round. Andersson's goal was the first conceded by the Brazilians in the tournament. They had beaten Russia 2-0 and Cameroon 3-0 in their previous group games, both at Palo Alto, where they will play the Americans on Monday.
Parreira is not be complacent about facing the host nation. 'They are opponents we respect like all the others. If they reached the final 16, they did so on merit,' he said. 'They are very determined to win. They have two or three fast players up front.'
BRAZIL (4-4-2): Taffarel (Reggiana); Jorginho (Bayern Munich), Aldair (Roma), Marcio Santos (Bordeaux), Leonardo (Sao Paulo); Rai (Paris St-Germain), Mauro Silva (Deportivo La Coruna), Dunga (VfB Stuttgart), Zinho (Palmeiras); Bebeto (Deportivo La Coruna), Romario (Barcelona). Substitutes: Mazinho (Palmeiras) for Mauro Silva, h/t; Paulo Sergio (Bayer Leverkusen) for Rai, 83.
SWEDEN (4-4-2): Ravelli (IFK Gothenburg); R Nilsson (Helsingborg), P Andersson (Borussia Monchengladbach), Kamark (IFK Gothenburg), Ljung (Galatasaray); Larsson (Feyenoord), Thern (Napoli), Schwarz (Arsenal), Ingesson (PSV Eindhoven); K Andersson (Lille), Brolin (Parma). Substitutes: Blomqvist (IFK Gothenburg) for Larsson, 65; Mild (Servette) for Schwarz, 75.Reuse content