Brazil's self-belief can be matched by motivation of Turks

Juninho hopes to replace suspended Ronaldinho for four-times world champions as underdogs wrestle with striking options
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The Independent Online

It may be midsummer but darkness falls swiftly in Japan, especially when the cloud is low and there is drizzle in the air. That was the case at Omiya's unprepossessing ground yesterday but the pallid setting and dismal weather merely accentuated the glow of the men in yellow.

It may be midsummer but darkness falls swiftly in Japan, especially when the cloud is low and there is drizzle in the air. That was the case at Omiya's unprepossessing ground yesterday but the pallid setting and dismal weather merely accentuated the glow of the men in yellow.

The eye was drawn to them as to fireflies in the dark as they danced in the gloaming. From behind there came a rumble of feet and excited chatter. Then a row of hands appeared at the top of the fence, swiftly followed by a line of expectant faces. The local lads, drawn by the lure of Brazil, had finally found a vantage point, albeit an uncomfortable one.

The media were more fortunate. Not for Brazil the closed training sessions ordered by England. Bolstered by the confidence of five successive victories, and a formidable body of achievement dating back half a century, Brazil invited everyone in as they tinkered with formations and practiced set-pieces – even penalties. The underlying message was: "Look all you want. This is us. This is what we have to offer. Do you really think you can defeat us?"

Tonight's semi-final opponents, Turkey, believe they can. At least they say they do. However, their bravado was only verbal. When they trained later at Saitama, the match venue, the media were allowed only the mandatory 15 minutes' viewing.

Since this is, by the width of the Bosphorus, the biggest match in Turkey's history this may not seem surprising. But the pressure is on Brazil. They may have gone into the tournament with low expectations but reaching the semi-final is, by Brazilian standards, merely par. The domestic jury remains out on Luiz Felipe Scolari, their controversial coach. As one veteran observer noted: "They know nothing less than World Cup victory, and a stylish one at that, will satisfy their supporters."

Despite this there is a joy about Brazil's football. Scolari's reputation prompted fears that the beautiful game would be replaced by a brutal one but the jogo bonito is flourishing. As they practice, tricks are tried. The reserve goalkeeper, Dida, joins in on the wing. Luizão, having scored with a spectacular overhead kick, whips his shirt off and runs about waving it around his head, as Rivaldo did against England. He then spends several minutes trying to put his shirt and undershirt back on as the game continues around him. At one point he attempts a header with the undershirt flopping over his chest, like the hood on a back-to-front cagoule.

Occasionally Scolari, looking more like Gene Hackman every day, steps in to talk through a move and remind everyone that there is a serious match on the near horizon, and glory on the far. Juninho, scampering with a desperate edge through midfield, needs no reminding. The former Middlesbrough player is on the reserve team but hopes against hope that he, rather than Edilson, Denilson or Ricardinho, will be asked to step in for the suspended Ronaldinho.

As long as neither Ronaldo nor Marcos, who both completed the session, suffer reaction to their thigh strains this morning, that is Scolari's only concern. "My thigh is OK," said Ronaldo. He added, in a reference to his brainstorm shortly before the 1998 final, and the knee problems that partially caused it: "I'm not 100 per cent in my muscles or my knee but I'm 100 per cent in my head." Junior, having limped away after blocking a Ronaldo blast, would testify he is 100 per cent in his shooting.

What can Turkey offer against this band of luminaries? Attacking mobility and defensive solidity, having not conceded for three matches. Having only lost through a late, highly contentious, penalty when they played Brazil in the group stage they also have desire and belief.

"The difference tomorrow will be which team has the greater will to win. It will be down to which team needs it most, and that will be us," said Senol Gunes, the Turkish coach.

"Brazil didn't deserve to win the first game," he added. "Everyone knows that penalty [for a foul outside the box by Alpay Ozalan on Luizão] was a mistake." Alpay was dismissed as was, a few minutes later, Hakan Unsal. The Blackburn Rovers defender kicked the ball against Rivaldo's knees and the Brazilian pretended he was struck in the face.

Tonight might thus be a busy one for David Beckham's old friend, the referee Kim Milton Neilsen, but Senol said: "Revenge is for lesser people," he said. "We love Brazil. We have watched Brazil and cheered for them in every match." Hakan Unsal, incidentally, is likely to miss the match with a knee injury.

Senol's major decision is whether to retain Hakan Sukur, who has looked a spent force. He is likely to be retained for his talismanic qualities but may not finish, especially as he has been playing with an abdominal injury. Ilhan Mansiz, who scored a spectacular golden goal in the quarter-final against Senegal, stands by.

Having been born in Germany, Ilhan, like Yildiray Basturk and Umit Davala, has an added incentive to reach the final, but for most Turks the motivation is the chance to gain their country global recognition. Senol said: "Rio de Janeiro is famous as a breeding ground for great footballers. In the future we want the shores of the Black Sea to be known for the same reason."

Turkey are not to be dismissed lightly but if Brazil play to their potential the beach boys of the Copacabana are likely to hold off those of Agva. That would mean Yokohama, on Sunday, hosting a historic first World Cup tie between Brazil and Germany. For all the pleasure the minnows have provided at this World Cup, that would be the classic final.

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