England pays for over-confidencePosted: Saturday June 22, 2002 7:55 AM
Updated: Saturday June 22, 2002 8:35 AM
SHIZUOKA, Japan -- For a team that supposedly can’t defend, Brazil proved pretty good impressionists during their stylish win over much-hyped England.
Written off by many before the tournament started, Scolari’s men have proved the critics wrong as they reach yet another semifinal and look a good bet to close in on a record fifth World Cup title.
For many, going into this game, England were clear favorites to win. Much was made of a rock-solid defense, marshalled by the safest and most reliable goalkeeper in the tournament, David Seaman. In contrast it was accepted that Brazil, while they had flair players like Rivaldo and Ronaldo, had problems in defense and would be caught out by England on the break. Well, if the back four’s performance Friday was anything to go by, Scolari has little to worry about.
Even when reduced to 10 men, the Brazilians were magnificent. They oozed style and pedigree with a kind of passing and movement that left England -- who enjoyed a one-man advantage for more than half an hour -- chasing shadows. Eriksson’s side was given a masterclass to such an extent barely a chance was created to threaten the South Americans’ lead.
English supporters have been magnificent throughout these finals. They’ve had to contend with all the usual hooligan scare stories despite the fact there’s been not one shred of a problem with their conduct across stadia throughout Japan. They’ve turned up in their thousands and provided magnificent vocal support but if they’re guilty of anything it’s overconfidence and a misplaced faith in their team.
While enjoying a one-nil lead -- after scoring against the run of play -- the fans mocked their Brazilian counterparts informing them they were going home with “the Argies” -- a reference to the Argentine side beaten by England earlier in the tournament.
Those same fans had fallen strangely silent by fulltime as the joyous beat of the Samba grew ever stronger.
England and its fans underestimated the four–times world champions while also overestimating their own capabilities. That England have done well at these finals is not in dispute but did English supporters seriously expect to taste victory over Brazil? This latest defeat was England’s 10th against the South Americans and they've never beaten them in the World Cup. They created little and there were long periods when they couldn’t get near the ball even for the briefest of touches as Brazil turned the screw.
Maybe a fully-fit David Beckham may have made a difference but I doubt it. I believe English fans saw their team outplayed by a side full of quality players and sadly for them, they’re the ones now booking their flights home!
World Sport reporter Patrick Snell is in Japan covering the World Cup.