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Squeaking through

Danes thrill, but Brazil wins 3-2 to reach semifinals

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Posted: Saturday September 19, 1998 03:26 PM

  Quality time: Both of Rivaldo's (center) goals put Brazil in the lead Shaun Botterill/Allsport

NANTES, France (CNN/SI) -- Brazil has not yet played a full game of the beautiful soccer its fans hoped to see at the World Cup, but Ronaldo and company keep on winning. This time, they withstood the upset-minded Danes to move into the semifinals.

With a pair of goals from Rivaldo and with Ronaldo in a new role as playmaker, Brazil edged past Denmark 3-2 on Friday and advanced to a semifinal matchup with Argentina or the Netherlands .

It shouldn't have been so difficult, but the Brazilian defense fell apart against a plucky and carefree Danish team that was happy just to reach the quarterfinals for the first time ever after outplaying Olympic champion Nigeria 4-1 in the previous round.

The Danes, with nothing to lose, pushed the Brazilians into showing glimmers of their awesome offensive potential, to the delight of 40,000 fans at Beaujoire stadium. But the underdogs came up just short.

Brazilian coach Mario Zagallo admitted to some heart-stopping moments but said he enjoyed the game, too.

"Today, I'm really tired. It's too much tension," he said.

"This was the victory of courage," he added. "This was a true World Cup game: beautiful, frank and open. All games should be like this.

"Ronaldo showed that is he is not only goals. His two plays were spectacular."

Denmark coach Bo Johansson applauded his team's showing against the defending world champion.

"I am very proud of my players' performance," Johansson said. "It was almost as good as the best team in the world. All credit to them. I didn't realize they were quite that good.

"I really think we played a world-class game. But we could not ensure we did not lose, and that's the way it goes."

Still, the Danes drew first blood, in the first of many plays that sent Zagallo's blood pressure to the stratosphere.

The game wasn't two minutes old when Dunga tripped Danish striker Peter Moller at the left of the penalty area. While the Brazilians were still setting up, Brian Laudrup took the tap, broke in and passed back to Martin Jorgensen for an easy shot and a 1-0 lead.

The goal woke up the Brazilians, who had been hearing all week about the Danes' talent for upsets -- especially after they routed favored Nigeria.

The upset seemed to fade in the 11th minute, when Ronaldo found Bebeto streaking up the middle alone and sent him away with a pinpoint pass. The 1994 Cup veteran sent his shot into the lower left corner to make it 1-1.

Egyptian referee Gamal Ghandour had a busy and difficult night. The first yellow card came out in the 12th minute, when Roberto Carlos had a dust-up with Laudrup. Eight minutes later, Thomas Helveg was booked for tripping Roberto Carlos.

But a vicious tackle on Ronaldo didn't even get a whistle, as the irate Brazilian fans chanted insults in Portuguese.

Brazil kept the pressure on, charging up the flanks, and in the 26th minute Ronaldo found Rivaldo on the left side. His chip shot over goalie Peter Schmeichel made it 2-1, and the tone of the game seemed to be set.

But Brazil's porous defense would make it a thriller. In the 36th minute, Moller was alone in the penalty area. But he stepped on the ball, giving Taffarel time to recover

In the 37th minute, Aldair hacked Thomas Helveg and drew a yellow card, and two minutes later it was Soren Colding who got carded for fouling Roberto Carlos with a forearm to his neck.

Stig Tofting replaced Allan Nielsen for Denmark at the start of the second half.

The Brazilian defense almost gave Zagallo heart failure again in the 51st minute, when Roberto Carlos tried to clear a loose ball from his own penalty area with a bicycle kick and missed everything. The ball dropped at the feet of Laudrup, who fired into the upper corner to make it 2-2.

The goal boosted the Danes' morale, and they drew applause for some nifty footwork in their own end. Jorgensen put a booming shot in from the right side that curled just wide of the far post as Taffarel stared.

Then Rivaldo took it on himself to set things straight. In the 61st minute, he picked up a ball in the midfield, raced up the left side and unleashed a shot from 30 yards that found the far corner to make it 3-2.

Three minutes later, Denilson came on for Bebeto, who went to the bench with an icepack on his knee. Soon after Ebbe Sand replaced Moller, and Emerson came on for Leonardo.

Denmark wasn't through. In the 78th minute, Helveg and Laudrup traded passes in the Brazilian penalty area, but Laudrup's shot missed just wide. Minutes later, Marc Rieper hit the crossbar with a header.

Cafu and Ronaldo had chances in injury time as Denmark sent everyone up, even the goalie, but Schmeichel got back in time to cover.


Brazil: Taffarel; Cafu, Junior Baiano, Aldair, Roberto Carlos; Dunga, Cesar Sampaio, Leonardo (Emerson, 72nd), Rivaldo (Ze Roberto, 87th); Ronaldo, Bebeto (Denilson, 64th).

Denmark: Peter Schmeichel: Marc Rieper, Jes Hogh, Jan Heintze, Soren Colding, Thomas Helveg (Michael Schjonberg, 87th), Allan Nielsen (Stig Tofting, 46th), Martin Jorgensen, Michael Laudrup; Brian Laudrup, Peter Moller (Ebbe Sand, 67th).

Referee: Gamal Ghandour, Egypt.


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The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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