Craig Brown: How hard work and organisation can defeat South American flare

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The Independent Online

Among the 13 million or so South Koreans chanting "Daehan Minguk" [Republic of Korea], there are many scribes, radio and television pundits, as well as fans from the UK, asking me about "the England game". Never forgetting my allegiance to my native Scotland, I invariably reply, "do you mean the Brazil game?"

Among the 13 million or so South Koreans chanting "Daehan Minguk" [Republic of Korea], there are many scribes, radio and television pundits, as well as fans from the UK, asking me about "the England game". Never forgetting my allegiance to my native Scotland, I invariably reply, "do you mean the Brazil game?"

The World Cup is now in meltdown and, despite many shock results, it is not surprising to see that both Brazil and England are still there.

It is most apparent here how success raises international prestige and boosts the morale and confidence of the people. An England victory tomorrow is destined to spark off a nationwide party not unlike that in Seoul. As cars drove past, their horns hooting, everything was out of the window – flags, scarves, banners, bodies, the highway code. Yet there were no arrests and I even witnessed dog owners, responding to loudspeaker requests to tidy up their litter, cleaning the pavements fouled by their canine charges – which inevitably were also clad in red.

Will it be the same in England? Will the unified discipline and commitment of Sven Goran Eriksson's men extend to the England support which, augmented by thousands of local Beckham worshippers, has so far been exemplary?

Revitalised after their functional performance against Nigeria, England stoked fans' hopes by disposing of Denmark with relative ease. Such is the side's collective belief, taking Brazil's scalp is a distinct possibility. So far England has the best defence in the competition, while Belgium sharesscoring honours with Germany. For good reasons, the winner of England v Brazil is a strong favourite to reach the final.

The game has had everyone here at the World Cup riveted. Aficionados looking for the game of the tournament, the final before the final, have marked this one out.

Brazil are creating a dynamic, a momentum which has seen them overcome defensive frailties and emerge as the most potent team going forward. Their system, uncharacteristically, is based on a back three of Roque Junior, Lucio and Edmilson, although the last was dropped after his indifferent performance in the opening match against Turkey. Anderson, his deputy, was equally indecisive and Edmilson celebrated his recall against Costa Rica with one of the goals of the tournament, a spectacular overhead kick from six yards.

The big and powerful back three look uncertain whether to play in a zonal defence or employ man-for-man marking, so the mobility of Michael Owen and Emile Heskey could cause them problems. It is to be hoped that Owen is fit because balls hit into the corners, over the right shoulder of Roque Junior and the left of Edmilson, could easily be won by the England strikers, especially as Cafu and Roberto Carlos try to get forward at every opportunity.

In front of the defensive trio, in the holding role is the improving youngster, Gilberto. He performs this satisfactorily but has neither the authority nor the presence of his illustrious predecessors, Mauro Silva and Dunga. He is at the base of the midfield diamond, with Juninho and Ronaldinho on the sides and Rivaldo at the apex, just behind Ronaldo. The revitalised Ronaldo has carried a goalscoring threat in every game and his performances have removed any doubts about his ability to play at the highest level after two serious knee operations.

His presence and his first full 90 minutes of the World Cup against Costa Rica have improved the performances of the team's other main attraction, Rivaldo. Although his goal in the last game against Belgium was deflected by Timmy Simons, it was his fourth in as many games. At the edge of the box he must be closed down quickly because, as he has shown on countless occasions playing for Barcelona, he can score from long-range. Nine of Brazil's 13 goals have been scored by Ronaldo and Rivaldo. Do England require any more warning?

Brazil coach, Luiz "Big Phil" Scolari, has studied tapes of England, including David Beckham's delivery at free-kicks and corners. He concedes that although England are superior tactically, he is taking no special measures to counteract Beckham.

One goal conceded in four games against the formidable offensive power of Sweden, Argentina, Nigeria and Denmark, is ample testimony to England's strengths. Improvisation, though, is where Ronaldo and Co excel. Scolari never restricts an attacker's creativity. He provides a structure for freedom, a base from which the unpredictable can happen.

This is difficult to plan against and Sven will have the problem I encountered four years ago for the opening game of the World Cup in France: how to stop the supply to Ronaldo and Rivaldo? Our method was not man-for-man marking but pressing and closing down space in midfield, so as to ensure that the delivery of the ball to their key players was always executed under pressure. Give the originators of the "Beautiful Game" time and space and you will be turned over.

Although the three R's – add Ronaldinho to the two already discussed – pass with almost telepathic understanding, they can falter when there is less time and space. A high tempo and a compact shape will be best for England because it will upset their opponents, whose confidence became carelessness against Costa Rica.

In that game, the two goals conceded could have been doubled but for some Brazilian good fortune and poor finishing. Equally, Belgium could have taken the four-times world champions into extra time. With that in mind, instead of "Daehan Minguk" ringing in my ears, soon I could have the dubious pleasure of hearing "England England!"

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