Football / World Cup USA '94: Romario rescues Brazil from embarrassment

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BRAZIL'S first taste of the great indoors coincided with their first signs of fallibility here yesterday. Sweden took a deserved early lead through Kennet Andersson, and it took a solo effort by Romario to reward a largely unconvincing display by the favourites.

Bebeto almost maintained their 100 per cent record with a late free- kick, which Thomas Ravelli saved at full stretch. Yet defeat would have been harsh on the Swedes, who now move on to meet the group F runners-up next Sunday, while Brazil play the United States on 4 July in the first round of the tournament's knock-out stage.

Sweden not only held Brazil; they defied history. Only once in five previous confrontations during the finals had they held Brazil, who were also favoured by conditions closer in temperature and humidity to an equatorial rainforest than the Arctic circle.

In the absence of the suspended Martin Dahlin, Sweden pushed Tomas Brolin forward to partner Kennet Andersson. When they built by working the ball up to the former's feet rather than aiming hopefully for the big target man, Sweden unsettled the Brazilians - never more so than in the 23rd minute.

Brolin, 30 yards out in the inside-right channel, chipped a diagonal pass across to the opposite side of the pitch. Kennet Andersson chested the ball down and, as Mauro Silva moved in to tackle, lobbed the ball beyond Claudio Taffarel with the outside of his right foot from just inside the box.

It was the first goal Brazil had conceded in the tournament. Sweden deserved to be ahead, and might have had a second moments later as a series of first-time passes released Brolin on the left. His low, driven cross flashed across goal, only for Leonardo to clear just as Henrik Larsson arrived to meet it.

The realisation that they might not win the section belatedly spurred Brazil. Dunga and Rai both came close to an equaliser, but Sweden were forcing them into long- distance shots and remained dangerous on the break. Indeed, they would have gone in at half-time 2-0 up had Patrik Andersson, the former Blackburn defender, not miscued an chance. from close range.

Ninety seconds after the restart, Brazil were level, with Swedish disappointment compounded by the fact that it was a relatively soft goal. After all the rigorous covering of the opening 45 minutes, both Stefan Schwarz and Larsson allowed Romario to run at their defence without so much as a nudge. The outcome was inevitable, a low shot from virtually the spot where Andersson had struck giving the Barcelona striker his third goal of the finals.

The fourth very nearly came six minutes later as Sweden strugged to keep pace with opponents looking themselves again. Romario, fed by Rai, stabbed the ball goalwards from eight yards, but this time he was thwarted by Thomas Ravelli's outstretched left foot.

Sweden, who had learned during the interval of Russia's late bid to gain an automatic second-round place, now had their work cut out to survive.

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 Gothemburg); 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 for Larsson, 65; Mild (Servette) for Schwarz, 75.

Referee: S Puhl (Hungary).