Ronaldo can make up for the '98 final fiasco.
By Simon Hooper
England may have given birth to soccer, but Brazil was the cradle of the beautiful game.
And that is why the South Americans must win a fifth world title on Sunday.
The current Selecao may still be some way short of Pele and the class of 1970 but nobody else in this tournament has been as entertaining as Ronaldo, Rivaldo, Ronaldinho and their supporting cast.
Certainly not a German side generally considered the weakest ever sent to a World Cup, which has reached the final after a dour, defensive campaign from which only goalkeeper Oliver Kahn and suspended playmaker Michael Ballack have emerged with any credit.
With every deft touch by Rivaldo, every burst of pace from Ronaldo, every Roberto Carlos freekick or rampaging forward charge by Cafu, it is clear the Brazilians still have the samba spirit in their boots.
It would be a disaster for the way soccer is played if German nihilism was to triumph over Brazilian artistry in the greatest game of all.
But Brazil is not just a sentimental favorite.
Luis Felipe Scolari may have curbed the worst excesses of pragmatism that dogged his club coaching career, but this is still a Brazilian side with a ruthless, disciplined winning streak. Midfield heavies Kleberson, brought in against England at the expense of Juninho's more traditional skills, and Gilberto Silva add a necessary touch of steel amidst the silk.
Against Turkey, England and Belgium the Brazilians have proved they can tackle and defend as well as show off. Even goalkeeper Marcos, a penalty expert should the unthinkable happen, looks a safe pair of hands.
But most of all, this team has to win to close the painful chapter that opened with defeat by France in the Stade de France four years ago.
And for Ronaldo -- who carries that burden heavier than most -- that should be motivation enough to guarantee a match-winning performance against Germany.
Oliver Kahn has allowed just one goal in the World Cup.
By Jeff Green
Defying pretournament expectations, underdog Germany will equal Brazil's record of four World Cup championships on Sunday, and don't expect a jogo bonito in the high-pressure final. The main reason is simple: goalkeeper Oliver Kahn -- the tournament's most valuable player, who should stamp his authority on the final and take home the Golden Ball award.
After a lackluster qualifying campaign, Germany entered the World Cup without two of its top offensive players in Sebastian Deisler and Mehmet Scholl, and its top defender in Jens Nowotny.
No matter -- they're in the final now after given up just a single goal in the tournament, to Ireland's Robbie Keane in a 1-1 opening-round draw. The Germans stormed out of the blocks with an 8-0 thrashing of Saudi Arabia in what would be their last truly convincing win. But in typical German fashion -- resilient defense, organization and opportunistic scoring -- they then dispatched with Paraguay, the U.S. and co-host South Korea in the knockout rounds -- all by 1-0 scores.
With Kahn in top form, that should be all it takes even against Brazil's vaunted attack. One mistake by Brazil's backline, such as that made by Lucio against England, and they will be punished by Oliver Neuville or Miroslav Klose -- the top aerial threat on perhaps the biggest team in the tournament.
Germany's game is likely to get even uglier with Jens Jeremies replacing Michael Ballack, the suspended midfield instigator who scored the winners against the U.S. and South Korea, thus putting even more emphasis on destroying rather than creating.
In keeping with the theme of this World Cup, a German victory will mark the ultimate triumph of teamwork over individual skill. A world champion in 1990, Rudi Voeller will follow in the footsteps of Franz Beckenbauer by winning the World Cup as both a player and coach.
And leave it to Kahn to sum it up himself: "I have all due respect for Ronaldo, Ronaldinho and Rivaldo, who are fantastic players, but they still have to beat me."