Paris: Condemned to win; condemned to do it
At every World Cup the pressure is on Brazil to deliver
glory for fans who believe the trophy is their birthright.
The Selecao did indeed get to keep the original Jules
Rimet Trophy after Pele inspired them to a third tournament
success against Italy in 1970, but the cup has since been
stolen, believed melted down.
Victory in South Africa this summer would complete a
second hat-trick of trophies and would also allow Brazil to
keep up their unique record of having won the competition on
every continent it has been played.
Their last triumph eight years ago in South Korea/Japan
came on the back of highly inconsistent qualifying form.
This time, whereas eternal rivals Argentina laboured to
emerge from the qualifiers in one piece, Dunga`s Brazilians
topped the group.
Even so, they were efficient rather than spectacular --
the former quality a necessity for success but the latter a
vital ingredient required to placate supporters who demand
style and success in equal measure.
Losses on the road to Paraguay and minnows Bolivia meant
the margin over the Paraguayans and Chile was a solitary
point, while Argentina were five points further back.
With the 2002 brigade now all but ushered from the stage
-- Ronaldinho was named as a reserve while Ronaldo missed out
on a call-up altogether -- Dunga has had to give youth its
head, though that means finding room for the headstrong, such
Robinho, an expensive misfit at Manchester City, has been
revitalised during a loan spell at his formative club Santos,
who recently lifted the Paulista championship.
He and Real Madrid star Kaka will provide the creative
spark in a side where defensive midfielders Gilberto Silva and
Felipe Melo represent the face of Dunga`s new emphasis on
Roving right-back Maicon goes into the tournament off the
back of a stellar season with Inter Milan, while Lyon winger
Michel Bastos has been handed the heavy responsibility of
succeeding Roberto Carlos at left-back.
Sevilla striker Luis Fabiano top scored in qualifying
with nine goals and there is firepower on the bench in the
shape of Villarreal`s Nilmar and Wolfsburg`s Grafite.
Dunga`s conservatism, meanwhile, meant there was no place
in the squad for exciting Santos forwards Neymar and Paulo
Henrique Ganso, while AC Milan attacker Alexandre Pato and
Flamengo`s Adriano also missed out.
"We have to learn to live with the favourites` tag," said
Kaka after the historic 3-1 win in Argentina that secured
"We mustn`t let it turn into something negative, as it
has done in previous years."
Kaka and Luis Fabiano are both expected to be fit despite
finishing the Spanish season with injuries.
Brazil were drawn in Group G, quickly dubbed the `Group
of Death`, where they will face Portugal, Ivory Coast and
They kick off against the Asian side on June 15 in
Johannesburg, where they play the Ivorians five days later,
before their final group match against Cristiano Ronaldo`s
Portugal in Durban on June 25.
"I beg the Brazilian fans that they support us," said
"If they don`t like me or something, that`s fine, but I
want them to support us, to be patriots."