Guile, guts take Brazil to finalPosted: Friday June 28, 2002 12:20 AM
By Ridge Mahoney, Soccer America
Something different has been the theme of World Cup 2002 and the final will be no different. To conclude a tournament rife with shocking results and tarnished reputations the two most successful countries square off on Sunday for the first time.
Brazil and Germany have won a combined seven world titles, nearly half of the 16 contested thus far, yet by some quirk of fate and fortune not once have they played in the final tournament.
Now they will meet in the final. Brazil secured its place by toppling a game but overmatched Turkey, 1-0, on a routinely brilliant piece of finishing by its reborn son, Ronaldo.
To score his sixth goal of this tournament and bring Brazil to the final for the third consecutive time he merely jabbed the ball with the toe of his right foot and caught keeper Recber Rustu by surprise.
The shot glanced off Rustu's left glove and squeezed just inside the post, rewarding Brazil for numerous incisive attacks that Rustu had repelled if not always held.
More than 40 minutes of play remained but the Turks could not set free their own game-breakers, Hakan Sas and Umit Davala.
Substitute Ilhan Mansiz, who had scored a superb overtime goal to knock off Senegal, again came on but misfired on his one good opportunity.
The solidity of the Brazilians didn't betray their more effervescent tendencies. Rivaldo was a forceful mix of guile and guts, winning balls in midfield as well as testing the keeper with a dipping shot from distance or serving bending cross.
Ronaldo flubbed one superb chance when Rustu couldn't handle a bouncer from Rivaldo. He fired the rebound back into the goalkeeper, who blocked and covered up.
Rustu also swatted a ball away from the feet of Edilson after the keeper had saved yet another shot.
Brazilian coach Luis Felipe Scolari, lacking the lightning acceleration of suspended catalyst Ronaldinho, deployed Gilberto Silva to shut down the center and midfield partner Edmilson often dropped back as a fifth defender to clog the middle.
Their relentless work blunted the skill and tenacity of Yildiray Basturk, who faded after a promising first half and came off second best to his Bayer Leverkusen teammate Lucio.
Left on the bench was Juninho Paulista, who had not fared well in the quarterfinal victory over England. Kleberson supported Ronaldo and Rivaldo in their attacks but he too hung back in midfield and left the adventurous play to others.
Turkish outside backs Ergun Penbe and Fatih Akyel got forward often to pump balls into the box only to see them come flying back off the heads and feet of Lucio and Roque Junior.
Their Brazilian counterparts covered vast amounts of ground to prompt raids while keeping their corners secure. Cafu and Roberto Carlos were constant threats on the dribble and racing into space.
Cafu forced Rustu into one of his best saves, a desperate right-hand stab of a low drive provided by a Ronaldo pass. So hard was the ball hit it hit the ground off Rustu's glove and bounced over the crossbar.
Roberto Carlos cut through the Turkish resistance although his shooting let him down. Several times he knifed inside the penalty area only to shoot wide or straight into Rustu's arms.
Turkey played with all of the vigor and passion it had displayed in knocking off co-host Japan and debutante Senegal in the previous two rounds. In the first half especially, its movements were purposeful and its passing was crisp. But Brazil repeatedly won balls in its defensive third and the few times Turkkey completed passes into the penalty area the decisive touches were those of defenders.
The Brazilians also used midfield fouls sparingly but shrewdly to jar the Turks out of their attacking rhythm. Except for a brief flurry in the second half, Hakan Sukur sputtered in search of service. He seldom reached balls in the air and passes on the ground were usually lost to a cluster of defenders.
Turkey's best chance resulted from a rare foray upfield by Alpay Ozalan, who headed a cross by Fatih Akyel sharply on goal. Brazilian keeper Marcos threw himself sideways to push the bouncing shot around the post. Marcos had few other anxious moments. He had to turn a deflected long-range shot over the crossbar and caused a bit of panic himself with a weak punch that didn't escape the penalty area.
Carelessness provided Turkey with a few glimmers of hope in the final minutes but Lucio won a vital tackle against Tugay and Mansiz failed to hit the target.
Turkey's plight was summed up by an astonishing sequence. After Rivaldo rode through a tackle to keep an attack alive, substitute Denilson's bold dribble drew opponents as if they were moths mesmerized by a bright light. One by one they joined the chase until a pack of four Turks pursued Denilson into a corner as the crowd of more than 61,000 roared. He eventually won a free kick, which the Turks disputed but not with any conviction.
For the second time in the tournament they had battled Brazil to the end and could find solace that only a controversial late penalty had decided the first meeting, 2-1, in the first round.
Just by getting this far they had made their first World Cup since 1954 memorable for fans around the world as well as in their country.
It will be left to the glamorous Brazilians and the resilient Germans to close out this improbable World Cup.
Ridge Mahoney is a senior editor at Soccer America magazine.