's complete coverage of the FIFA World Cup 2002 World Cup



  • At a Glance
  • Team Profile
  • Key Player
  • Weak Point
  • X-Factor
  • How They Qualified
  • World Cup History
  • Bottom Line
  • They may be known as the Samba Kings, but Brazil has struggled to dance to the rhythm on the pitch over the past two years. Three coaches and six qualifying defeats later, they finally managed to reach the finals.

    Wanderley Luxemburgo and Emerson Leao paid the price for Brazil's lackluster displays. Can Luiz Felipe Scolari, who also failed to impress, find his Midas touch in the finals? A whole nation is already holding its breath.

    As the countdown to the 2002 World Cup in South Korea and Japan continues,'s Pedro Pinto will take a close look at all of the nations that will contend for football's greatest prize.

    Pinto is an anchor on World Sport, the international sports show that airs live on CNN/Sports Illustrated and CNN International.

    It's hard to talk about the profile of a team that struggles to find its identity. More than 25 players took part in Brazil's qualifiers. That spells instability. Scolari has tried to cement a starting 11, but it's hard to do so when your big-name stars don't perform. Brazil, a team normally known for its creativity and artistry, has instead looked like a mediocre side that struggles to create goalscoring opportunities.

    Is there a lack of talent in the nation? Certainly not. Rivaldo is magical when inspired. Ronaldo is the best player in the world when fit; Roberto Carlos has the speed and guile to break down any defense. The question is: Who will complete the side in a balanced way? The goalkeeping situation is fickle with Marcos and Rogerio Ceni fighting for the No. 1 jersey, and the defense is shaky. Midfield is looking better, and there is a handful of strikers who are also hoping to be on the World Cup Squad: Elber, Edilson, Luizao, Marcelinho Paraiba, Ronaldinho, Mario Jardel and Marcio Amoroso.

    Rivaldo. If you saw the bicycle goal he scored for Barcelona against Valencia last season, then you know what Rivaldo can do. He can win a game all by himself, whether it be with a moment of magic, a delightful free kick or a defense-splitting run. But he has struggled to find any consistency on the Brazilian national side. The country's media even questioned why he was picked for a couple of qualifiers when he was visibly in low form. Brazil needs Rivaldo at his best to challenge for honors in Asia.

    Defense. Goalkeeping has never been Brazil's strong point, but it is again a problem because they don't have the defense to cover the position. Cafu is probably the best defender on the team. What about Roberto Carlos? Yes, he is a stellar athlete. Yes, he is lightning-fast. But his defending is sometimes suspect and he has also been known to be out of position at several key moments in a game. The problems mount in the center. Bayer Leverkusen's Lucio is very skillfull but he wanders forward too often leaving gaps at the back, and Roque Junior's sense of positioning could be better. Scolari could also pick Juan, Edmilson or Cris.

    Ronaldo. It was great to see "the phenomenon" score again for Inter Milan after two injury-plagued seasons. Forget Michael Owen; Ronaldo is the fastest striker in the world with the ball at his feet. At 25 years of age, Ronaldo is now a mature footballer and will show the world what he can do in Japan and South Korea if he is healthy. And that is a big IF. His knee problems have been well documented and sometimes he is too explosive even for his own body.

    Brazil finished third in South America's qualifying group, behind Argentina and Ecuador. The Brazilians had only lost one World Cup Qualifier ever before their campaign for 2002, where they lost six. Brazil played 18 games, winning nine, drawing three and losing six. They scored 31 goals and conceded 17.

    Brazil is the only country to appear in every World Cup finals. It won the competition a record four times ('58, 62, '70 and '94). It finished runners-up in 1950 and 1998. It has played a total of 82 World Cup games, winning 53 (more than any other nation), drawing 13 and losing 14.

    You can never say Brazil is not a contender to win the World Cup. Even with all the problems in qualifying, it is difficult to say they cannot win it all. Personally, I believe they will reach the quarterfinals, but I don't see them getting past that stage. They have dominated this competition over the decades, but football is different these days and talent alone doesn't win you titles. With that said, if Rivaldo and Ronaldo are both fit and ready, who knows?

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