Football / World Cup USA '94: Swedes look to Brolin to halt the samba: History is on the side of Brazil as they enter their final match in Group B today. Phil Shaw reports

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THE SIZE of the task confronting Sweden tonight, as they attempt to take the point from Brazil that would book a place in the second phase, was summed up neatly by the United States' Alexi Lalas. Asked which team had impressed him, the stopper with the beatnik goatee enthused: 'Brazil's kicking ass all over the place.'

Not quite how Messrs Lineker or Venables would have put it, but certainly an accurate assessment of the impact the Brazilians have made on the early stages of the tournament. Add the fact that the Swedes have failed to beat them in five meetings in the World Cup and will be without their suspended top scorer, Martin Dahlin, and it hardly seems worth their turning up in the Pontiac Silverdome.

Brazilian ascendancy over Sweden began in 1938, when they won a third place play-off 4-2. In 1950, Sweden succumbed 7-1, although eight years later there was no disgrace in losing the final 5-2 to a team including the 17-year-old Pele.

Fast forward to 1978 and a 1-1 draw remembered most for Clive 'The Book' Thomas's decision to blow for half-time with Brazil in the act of scoring. Italia '90 paired them again, Careca meeting the challenge of the baby-faced Tomas Brolin to secure a 2-1 win.

Now the old rivals meet once more indoors near Motown, and the form of Carlos Alberto Parreira's team is already causing dancing in the street. Thousands of Brazilian-Americans celebrated Friday's 3-0 victory over Cameroon - which made them the first of the 24 finalists to reach the round of 16 - with processions of cars full of flag-waving, horn- honking fans.

Swedes are generally a less demonstrative lot, which partly explains the appeal of a fixture that, on the face of it, is a foregone conclusion. For this is truly a global pairing, a collision of continents and cultures, albeit one in which many of the players now meet regularly in the Italian and German leagues.

On the evidence of Brazil's defeats of Russia and Cameroon, Parreira is successfully incorporating facets of the European game into something worth banging the samba drums for. Tommy Svensson, Sweden's manager, may also be benefiting from his players' exposure to foreign styles, although Mario Zagalo, Brazil's No 2, still felt they would be 'predictable' compared with the Africans.

Dahlin's absence is a bitter blow. One of his three goals - a diving header against Russia - was described in a fit of hyperbole by a TV newscaster here as 'probably the best goal you'll ever see'. Svensson may switch Brolin from midfield to partner Kennet Andersson or Henrik Larsson.

A draw will suffice for Sweden. But if they lose and Cameroon beat Russia heavily, they could be on their way home by the end of the week as one of the third-placed teams.

BRAZIL (probable): Taffarel (Reggiana); Jorginho (Bayern Munich), Leonardo (Sao Paulo), Marcio Santos (Bordeaux), Aldair (Roma), Dunga (VfB Stuttgart), Mauro Silva (Deportivo La Coruna), Rai (Paris St-Germain), Zinho (Palmeiras), Bebeto (Deportivo La Coruna), Romario (Barcelona).

SWEDEN (from): Ravelli (IFK Gothenburg); Nilsson (Helsingborg), P Andersson (Borussia Monchengladbach), Bjorklund, Erlingmark (both IFK Gothenburg), Ljung (Galatasaray), Schwarz (Arsenal), Ingesson (PSV Eindhoven), Thern (Napoli), K Andersson (Lille), Larsson (Feyenoord), Brolin (Parma).