Harsh notes in samba country

Tim Vickery in Rio de Janiero finds Brazil are in total confusion
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It took Juninho just four games with Vasco da Gama to win an international recall. Announcing the squad for today's World Cup qualifier against Bolivia, the coach Wanderley Luxemburgo said that the ex-Middlesborough midfielder was "playing with joy and competence", elements strikingly absent from Brazil's campaign so far.

It took Juninho just four games with Vasco da Gama to win an international recall. Announcing the squad for today's World Cup qualifier against Bolivia, the coach Wanderley Luxemburgo said that the ex-Middlesborough midfielder was "playing with joy and competence", elements strikingly absent from Brazil's campaign so far.

With two defeats in their last three games Brazil are in fourth place in South America's table. But poor results are just the start of Luxemburgo's problems. He is at the centre of a storm so fierce that even some of his supporters are suggesting he step down.

As with many Brazilian scandals, the Luxemburgo affair began with a woman blowing the whistle - which will signal full-time on the coach's lofty ambitions should all the allegations be proved. Renata Moura Alves claims she was Luxemburgo's lover. He replies that she was a mere acquaintance, but is unable to deny that she bought land and cars on his behalf at auctions and sold them at a profit. With the deals registered in her name, Luxemburgo avoided tax, he claims unwittingly.

The sums involved are huge. This week he was ordered to pay nearly £100,000 just for 1994. His lawyers are reported to be offering a total settlement approaching £700,000. This in a country where the minimum monthly wage is a little over £50.

Moura Alves further alleges that Luxemburgo was supplementing his income by raking in commission on the buying and selling of players. She claims to have a list with the players and amounts of money involved.

Journalists have claimed that agents were having an influence in the composition of Brazil squads. Luxemburgo is known to be close to agent Sérgio Malucelli. The pair were co-owners of a bar and are currently partners in a drinks factory. According to the Brazilian press, Malucelli operates with fellow agent Juan Figger, who frequently represents players sold to Europe.

As impressive with the pen as he was in Brazil's attack back in 1970, Tostão is the country's most knowledgeable columnist. "If it is proved that the coach used the national team to carry out personal business," he wrote, "Luxemburgo should not just lose his job. He should be suspended from football."

The sponsors of the national team are known to be uncomfortable with the negative publicity. Their representatives met Ricardo Teixeira, president of the Brazilian FA, who subsequently declared that Luxemburgo's position had not been undermined by his tax problems, but proof of trafficking in players would see him dismissed. Were it not for the proximity of the Olympic tournament, taken very seriously in Brazil, results would probably already have cost Luxemburgo his job.

The coach, then, needs a convincing win today in the Maracanã against Bolivia, who have money problems of a different kind. So broke that they only completed last month's game away to Ecuador because the hosts paid their travel and hotel bill, Bolivia have just slashed the salary of their coaching staff. Their outstanding player, Juan Manuel Peña, will not travel from his club in Spain, which at least saves them an airfare. With just one narrow win in seven games, nobody expects anything from Bolivia, so Brazil are on a hiding to nothing.

Luxemburgo's nine specialist strikers have yet to score a goal in the campaign. The coach had no option but to turn to his old enemy Romário, who returns for his first full game since injury forced him out of France 98. But the veteran striker is furious. His long-standing dream was to crown his career with Olympic gold, but, attempting to disguise his relish, Luxemburgo elected not to take him to Australia.

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