BORA MILUTINOVIC, the Serbian under whose guidance the United States have exceeded all domestic expectations, was surely not the only coach watching with more than a passing interest as Sweden held Brazil 1-1 in the Pontiac Sauna-dome on Tuesday.
The result confirmed that the Americans will meet Brazil at Palo Alto on Independence Day. The favourites' performance - though it must be viewed in the context of the fact that Brazil had already qualified - offered glimpses of encouragement both to Milutinovic and those who might encounter the Brazilians later in the competition.
Sweden were the first properly organised side Brazil had met: disciplined in defence, industrious but never pedestrian in midfield, and with Tomas Brolin's skill complementing the physical presence of Kennet Andersson, less predictable up front than Ireland or Norway.
Tommy Svensson, their coach, made good use of his wide midfielders and full-backs, thus ensuring that Brazil were seldom able to reach the byline and cut the ball back for Bebeto and Romario, as they had done at will against Russia and Cameroon.
During these finals, 'wing- backs' have been as scarce as hen's teeth, as they say in these parts, probably because of the ferocious heat in most stadiums. Along with Argentina's Jose Chamot, Jorginho and Leonardo had been exceptions, but the Swedes had obviously done their homework.
Brazil were consequently forced to try and pick their way through the middle. However, like Colombia against the US, they were crowded out by sheer force of numbers, and there were signs of weakness in their own central defence.
Sweden now meet the Group F runners-up, Saudi Arabia, in Dallas. Their main problem, apart from the climate, is a pleasant one for Svensson: where, or whether, to play the three-goal Martin Dahlin in the light of Brolin's skilful linking with a midfield in which Stefan Schwarz confirmed that he is far more Arsenal's type of player than Anders Limpar ever was.
The prospects of an upset for Brazil may be remote, yet the host nation's squad appeared delighted rather than daunted by the idea of facing Pele's countrymen. On the anniversary of the greatest shock in World Cup history - England's defeat by the US in 1950 - TV news caught them whooping and hollering as only Americans can.
Mercifully, the Silverdome will not be used again during this tournament. In terms of crowd noise, the atmosphere was excellent, although of course 'soccer' does not need a roof to generate noise. The atmosphere in the literal sense was stifling.
Before long they will be restoring the synthetic turf for the synthetic sport normally played there by the Detroit Lions. The feeling of this football romantic is mutual - this venue was a pain in the grass.
BRAZIL (4-4-2): Taffarel (Reggiana); Jorginho (Bayern Munich), Aldair (Roma), Marcio Santos (Bordeaux), Leonardo (Sao Paulo); Rai (Paris St-Germain), Mauro Silva (Deportivo La Coruna), Dunga (VfB Stuttgart), Zinho (Palmeiras); Bebeto (Deportivo La Coruna), Romario (Barcelona). Substitutes: Mazinho (Palmeiras) for Mauro Silva, h/t; Paulo Sergio (Bayer Leverkusen) for Rai, 83.
SWEDEN (4-4-2): Ravelli (IFK Gothenburg); R Nilsson (Helsingborg), P Andersson (Borussia Monchengladbach), Kamark (IFK Gothenburg), Ljung (Galatasaray); Larsson (Feyenoord), Thern (Napoli), Schwarz (Arsenal), Ingesson (PSV Eindhoven); K Andersson (Lille), Brolin (Parma). Substitutes: Blomqvist (IFK Gothenburg) for Larsson, 65; Mild (Servette) for Schwarz, 75.
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