Inside Soccer

July 05, 1998

CREATIVE TENSION
Brazil's dazzling 4-1 win over Chile was colored by spats and
catcalls

The lecture took place in the open, out on the field. It
happened last Saturday at Paris's Parc des Princes when Dunga,
Brazil's hard-assed captain, raced over to Ronaldo and, waving
his arms like an airport runway worker, showed the best soccer
player on the planet where he should have stationed himself for
the preceding free kick. No matter that the kick had just led to
a Brazilian goal and that Ronaldo was busy celebrating his
team's 2-0 lead over Chile. Dunga felt that Brazil was
struggling, and afterward coach Mario Zagallo agreed. "In the
first half there was confusion, and we didn't play well,"
Zagallo said. "In the second half we finally settled things down."

Brazil won the second-round game 4-1 to set up a Friday
quarterfinal against Denmark, though you wouldn't have known it
from watching Dunga or by listening to the team's fickle
supporters. As usual, they whistled derisively at Zagallo, but
they also whistled at Taffarel, the goalkeeper, for shanking a
goal kick out-of-bounds; at Bebeto, the striker, for letting a
through-ball race past him; and even at Ronaldo, for overlobbing
Bebeto on a crossing pass. "I'm 34 years old, and this is the
first time I have ever been whistled at in my career with the
national team," said Bebeto, a hero of the '94 World Cup.
"Sometimes I don't understand our fans."

To the ordinary observer, watching Brazil was like walking
wide-eyed through a carnival midway: flashing lights here,
prizes on display there, cotton candy everywhere. Midfielder
Cesar Sampaio scored the first two goals, but--look!--there was
Ronaldo, finally living up to the expectations implied by the
two 10-story billboards bearing his likeness outside the
stadium. He scored only once in the three first-round games, but
against Chile he made the wet Paris sod look like the Bonneville
Salt Flats. Just before intermission Ronaldo streaked freely
down the gut and earned a penalty that he converted with
precision. In the second half, moments after Chile's Marcelo
Salas made the score 3-1, he rocketed through the middle again
and fired a worm burner past goalkeeper Nelson Tapia. Il
Fenomeno, as the Italians call Ronaldo, was back. "He had a
better match tonight," said Zagallo, "but he can still give a
lot more."

Even with Ronaldo on form, the Brazilians' chances of winning
their fifth championship depend on whether they can keep from
grabbing at each other's throats. In recent weeks they have
resembled the '78 Yankees, bursting with talent yet racked by
squabbling. Dunga and Bebeto engaged in an ugly on-field
shouting match during a first-round game against Morocco; after
a 2-1 loss to Norway, Ronaldo and playmaker Rivaldo complained
that Zagallo had asked them to play out of position--Ronaldo far
back in midfield and Rivaldo away from his accustomed left side.

Nor did free-kick maestro Roberto Carlos help matters last week
when he claimed that he, and not Ronaldo, was Brazil's true
star. Last Thursday the team held a closed-door meeting, and
tempers appeared to have cooled before the game with Chile.
"Each of us may have a differing opinion, but there are no
problems," Dunga said the next day. "It is very important that
everyone is able to fully express himself to achieve a common
objective."

Struggling Italians
OVERCOMING THE OLD VIRTUES

Not that anyone wondered, but now we know what Princeton's
basketball players do in the summer. Last Saturday in Marseilles
they put on white uniforms and took Norwegian names, played an
old-fashioned, disciplined style that the rest of the world
abandoned years ago and almost knocked Italy out of the
NCAAs--uh, the World Cup.

"Norway is a very difficult team to beat," Italy coach Cesare
Maldini said in a relieved, John Thompson sort of way. The
Italians won the second-round match 1-0 on an 18th-minute
breakaway by Christian Vieri, his tournament-leading fifth goal.
But because Italy was hobbled defensively, Norway had chances to
even the score on a couple of Princeton-like backdoor plays.

"We didn't play up to our limits," complained Norway coach Egil
Olsen, who, at 56, is every bit as irascible as former Princeton
coach Pete Carril. "I felt if we had done that, we would have
beaten Italy. In fact, I was not impressed with Italy, either."

As the Italians headed into a quarterfinal duel with host France
on Friday, they were especially concerned about their
23-year-old star, Alessandro Del Piero, who had yet to score and
failed on three breakaway chances against the besieged Norway
goalkeeper, Frode Grodas. Fearing that a substitution might ruin
Del Piero's confidence, Maldini declined to replace him with the
magical Roberto Baggio. "I wanted to play, but I'm not going to
make a big deal out of it," said Baggio, 31, who pointed out
that he was scoreless in '94 until the last minutes of the
second round. From there he netted five goals in three games to
lead Italy into the final. --Ian Thomsen

U.S. Bright Spot
ONE PLAYER WHO MEASURED UP

A few minutes before his World Cup debut on June 15, U.S.
defender Eddie Pope's jaw dropped when he looked across the
field and saw the German he would be guarding. At 6'3" and 185
pounds, Oliver Bierhoff, the top scorer in Italy's Serie A this
season, was the most intimidating opponent the U.S. would meet
in the World Cup. "When I saw him before the game, I said, 'Wow,
I knew he was tall, but I didn't know he was that big,'"
recalled the 6'1", 180-pound Pope, who seemed wiry in comparison.

One of the few Americans who improved his stock with this World
Cup, Pope demonstrated a sense of calm and sophistication beyond
his 24 years. He spent the first two games banging against
Bierhoff and Iran's 6'2", 174-pound Ali Daei, preventing them
from setting up in the penalty box and holding them without a
goal. All that hard low-post play left Pope with a sore back and
a seat on the bench for the Americans' concluding 1-0 loss to
Yugoslavia, which placed them last in the 32-team field and
prompted the resignation of coach Steve Sampson on Monday.

Pope gives the U.S. at least a foundation upon which to build
toward the 2002 Cup. The former North Carolina All-America is
hoping to be playing in Europe by then, if a club can negotiate
his transfer with MLS, which owns his rights through 2000. "I
didn't learn anything about myself because I always believed I
could do it," Pope said after the last U.S. game. "But maybe I
learned something about the game--how much higher the next level
was and how much more pressure there was going to be." --I.T.

COLOR PHOTO: PHOTOGRAPH BY AL TIELEMANS Punch Out Christian Vieri (21), who would score the only goal in Italy's second-round World Cup victory over Norway, was thwarted early by keeper Frode Grodas (page 62). [Leading Off] COLOR PHOTO: SIMON BRUTY ABOVE THE FRAY Rivaldo has soared in Brazil's midfield, even if he's irked about where he plays. [Rivaldo, Bebeto, Cesar Sampaio, Ivan Zamorano and Pedro Reyes during game]

Q & A

France has a king again, and his name is Pele. Soccer's grand
ambassador is all over Paris--commentating, smiling, flogging
products--in short, being Pele. So it seemed only natural last
month when, upon presenting the French Open men's singles
trophy, he acknowledged the crowd by hoisting the hardware
himself. We tracked him down on the eve of the second round.

Q: Which players have impressed you most?

A: [Zinedine] Zidane from France and [Jay-Jay] Okocha of
Nigeria. Those are the only two who have stood out in my mind so
far. They're intelligent players, and they have excellent ball
control.

Q: Have the Americans gotten better or worse since the '94 World
Cup?

A: I think their level of talent was about the same this year.
The difference was their group was much more difficult in '98.

Q: How can the U.S. improve?

A: I'd have them play a lot more games against European and
South American teams. They need more experience against
top-level competition.

Q: Would you like to be the next U.S. coach?

A: I've been asked to coach national teams all over, including
the U.S., but my desire has never been to be a professional
coach. Someday I'd like to teach amateur players and prepare
youth teams from Brazil for a Cup.

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)