WORLD CUP: Brazil chase a hexa in Germany

Rio de Janeiro, May 10:

History could turn out to be Brazil’s most difficult opponent as they chase a record sixth World Cup crown.

With a dazzling array of attacking talents, including Ronaldinho, Ronaldo and Adriano, under the guidance of a canny coaching team that has done it all before, many feel that the World Cup is Brazil’s to lose.

And that might just offer a glimmer of hope to their rivals. Brazil have never won a World Cup when they started the tournament as strong favourites, and have never successfully defended their title in Europe.

Parallels are also starting to be drawn between the 2006 team and the celebrated 1982 side of Zico, Socrates, Falcao and Eder.

The late Tele Santana’s team were far and away the most exciting team in Spain but came unstuck because of a suspect defence.

Brazil’s opponents in Germany will hope that history can repeat itself and are sure to be targeting an ageing defensive line that features two players — Roberto Carlos and Cafu — who will have a combined age of 69.

And while keeper Dida and his replacement Julio Cesar have both forged successful careers in Italy with AC Milan and Inter respectively, they are also equally prone to occasional lapses.

Brazil’s back four also looks uncomfortable whenever it has to deal with high balls pumped into the box, something that the likes of physical Group F opponents Croatia and Australia are likely to have taken note of.

Yet identifying weaknesses and actually being able to exploit them are two different things and most of Brazil’s opponents are likely to be pre-occupied with working out how to prevent their star-laden attack running riot.

Brazil will be coached by Carlos Alberto Parreira, who guided them to their 1994 World Cup crown in the USA, and who is acutely aware that the champions have tended to do better in tournaments where they have started as outsiders.

“In 1970, 1994 and 2002 we started the tournament discredited and with people questioning us,” Parreira said in a recent interview. “Now it is time for us to start as favourites and win the title as favourites.”

Parreira has favoured a four-man defence and two holding midfielders behind the so-called ‘Magic Quartet’ of Adriano, Ronaldo, Ronaldinho and Kaka.

But just as Luiz Felipe Scolari introduced the more defensively minded Kleberson in place of Juninho during the 2002 finals, Parreira may be tempted to add a third midfielder if his creaking defence is exposed.