Romario goals prove point to Luxemburgo

Click to follow
The Independent Football

With the first touch on his international recall Romario nearly gave a goal away. With his second he burst past a defender only to be foiled when the ball got stuck on the waterlogged pitch. And with his third he began to sink Bolivia, crisply converting a 12th-minute penalty that put Brazil on the way to a 5-0 win.

With the first touch on his international recall Romario nearly gave a goal away. With his second he burst past a defender only to be foiled when the ball got stuck on the waterlogged pitch. And with his third he began to sink Bolivia, crisply converting a 12th-minute penalty that put Brazil on the way to a 5-0 win.

After a series of poor results and off-the-field allegations, pressure was mounting on the Brazil coach, Wanderley Luxemburgo. The nine strikers he had used in the campaign had not managed a single goal and he was left with no option but to call up his old enemy Romario.

Feeling that the next World Cup is a long way off for a striker approaching 35, Romario had his heart set on rounding off his career with Olympic gold, but Luxemburgo decided not to take him to Australia.

Romario was determined to prove that he should have gone, and made his point on a rain-sodden afternoon in the Maracana. In addition to converting the penalty he shot against the woodwork twice, scored two superbly-taken late goals and would have completed the rout had the Bolivian defender Sandy not got there first to slide the ball into his own net.

Romario's determination to show that the coach was wrong led to a late flurry of goals which made the scoreboard look good for Luxemburgo, but the team struggled for long periods and were roundly booed at half- time. The Brazil defence had stayed too deep and Bolivia had been given space to play.

With Julio Cesar Baldivieso particularly impressive, the visitors recovered from conceding the early penalty and were beginning to threaten. Against a defence which is weak in the air, Brazil had failed to get in a single effective cross in the first period. It was a fault quickly corrected in the dressing-room, and moments after the restart Cafu crossed for Rivaldo to head home.

With the result no longer in doubt, it only remained for Romario to show that he is still a master of positioning himself to receive the ball, wait for the keeper to make his move and take advantage with cool finishing. The headlines belong to Romario, but much of the credit must go to Vampeta, a midfielder whose forceful running with the ball and shrewd passing were perfect for the difficult conditions. He played a crucial part in the first four goals and he seems a certainty for the 2002 World Cup.

As do Argentina. Marcelo Bielsa's side started the round four points clear at the top, but without a win in their previous two games. They were looking to regain their momentum away to Peru, for whom the match had make-or-break proportions. Hernan Crespo latched on to a poor back pass to give Argentina the lead, and Juan Sebastian Veron added a second with a vicious free-kick. Although defender Walter Samuel placed a clearance into his own net, Argentina held on.

The result of the round though was Colombia's 1-0 win in Santiago. Chile are rarely beaten at home, and had earned the right to be optimistic after last month's 3-0 win over Brazil, but the Colombia coach, Luis Augusto Garcia, is working hard to ensure that his team throw off their happy-go-lucky image.

This was their fourth consecutive clean sheet. Ivan Zamorano and Marcelo Salas were shackled by Ivan Cordoba and Mario Yepes and behind them goalkeeper Oscar Cordoba, if occasionally lacking in judgement, has superb reflexes and athleticism.

Chile lost concentration as Colombia's Juan Pablo Angel miraculously kept the ball in play. His cross looped off a defender for Jairo Castillo to score the only goal with a bicycle kick.

Comments