World Cup 98: Chile given a Brazilian master class

Brazil 4 Sampaio 11, 27, Ronaldo 45 pen, 70 Chile 1 Salas 6 9 Att: 48,500
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The Independent Online
THE FLOWING football, intricate passing and breathtaking skills were what we had come to expect in this World Cup - it is just a shame that Chile are now out of it.

The team that embarrassed England at Wembley not so long ago again showed the invention, technique and application that has made them one of the surprise packages of France 98, but they were still outclassed in every department by a Brazil side that fully justified their position as hot favourites to retain the golden statuette in two weeks' time.

Rarely can a side have played so well and lost 4-1 in the finals as Chile did, especially in the first half of an encounter that summed up the "beautiful game", a phrase made famous by Pele, Brazil's favourite son.

And the fact that Chile did not incur an even heavier defeat was largely down to the fact that the latest man to try and emulate the greatest player of all missed two golden chances which would have led to an undeserved margin of defeat for Nelson Acosta's side.

Ronaldo scored twice but hit the woodwork on two occasions, and thus failed to become the first Brazilian to hit a hat-trick in the World Cup finals since Pele did so in 1958.

But how the old master must have loved watching this current side, who are now beginning to show why they can become the most exciting Brazilian team since Pele and the class of 1970.

Even Mario Zagallo, as hard to please as any coach in world football, was happy with his side's performance, although ominously he warned that they can get even better.

"Our second-half performance was the best we have played, the way I like my teams to play," he said.

"In the first half we did not play so well but we scored three goals."

That was down to a combination of poor defending and bad luck on the part of Chile, who started the game brighter and looked capable of causing an upset - for all of ten minutes.

When Cesar Sampaio rose unmarked to head home Bebeto's free-kick, an air of inevitability began to take over. The tall midfielder scored a second goal midway through the first half after a Roberto Carlos free- kick cannoned off the wall, and then Ronaldo scored from the penalty spot after being hauled down by goalkeeper Nelson Tapia in stoppage time.

A half-time deficit of 3-0 to the defending and world champions fully justified the old mountain-climbing cliche, but Acosta's players set about the task with admirable spirit.

It simply was not enough. Brazil moved into cruise control, with Sampaio missing a simple chance to complete a hat-trick and then Ronaldo hitting the inside of Tapia's post midway through the half.

Chile hit back with a headed goal from Marcelo Salas, which was scant reward for a tireless performance alongside Ivan Zamorano.

But Brazil simply stepped up a gear and responded with another goal a minute later, Ronaldo sending Tapia the wrong way to score his third goal of the tournament.

He could have made it more in the closing minutes when he hit the bar following a wonderful move down the left, where Roberto Carlos showed throughout why he is the best left-back in the world.

When it was all over, Ronaldo hugged his Internazionale team-mate Zamorano, who did not seem too unhappy to have lost to such a team. "When you play a team that has players such as Ronaldo and Cesar Sampaio, who can score at any time, you are really up against it," he reflected. "But we are proud of the way we played."

Chile's coach, Acosta, was similarly gracious in defeat. "It was a very positive performance from my side but we met a team that is going all the way to the final," he said later.

Zagallo agreed. "It does not matter who we face in the quarter-finals; we are going to play to win. We are going all the way."

On this evidence, who would disagree?

BRAZIL (4-4-2): Taffarel (Atletico Mineiro); Cafu (Roma), Junior Baiano (Flamengo), Aldair (Roma), Carlos (Real Madrid);

Leonardo (Milan), Cesar Sampaio (Ana Sato Kogyo), Dunga (Jubilo Iwata), Rivaldo (Barcelona); Ronaldo (Internazionale), Bebeto (Botafogo). Substitutes: Denilson (Sao Paulo) for Bebeto 64, Goncalves (Botafogo) for Aldair 75.

CHILE (4-4-2): Tapia (Universidad Catolica), Fuentes (Universidad de Chile), Margas (Universidad Catolica), Reyes (Colo Colo), Ramirez (Universidad Catolica); Cornejo (Universidad Catolica), Acuna (Universidad de Chile) Sierra (Colo Colo), Aros (Universidad de Chile); Zamorano (Internazionale), Salas (Lazio). Substitutes: Vega (Metrostars) for Sierra (46), Estay (Toluca) for Ramirez (46), Mussri (Universidad de Chile) for Acuna (78).

Referee: Marc Batta (France).