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Hallelujah! At last, Brazil's hallowed name is to grace the 2002 FIFA World Cup Korea/Japan. The FIFA World Cup record-breakers, the only team to have played in all previous tournaments and the only one to have lifted the coveted trophy four times, finally made it to the finals.
A FIFA World Cup without Brazil was unimaginable, but what a scare they and their supporters had! 160 million adoring Brazilians were made to suffer right up until the end, not mentioning the millions of foreign fans of their unique brand of football worldwide.
Brazil had never come this close to being eliminated, never spawned so many doubts and never played as badly as they did during this qualifying campaign. They were unrecognisable, a team short on harmony and quality. Nonetheless, the sheer weight of Brazil's glorious history and the aura of its football pulled them through and saw them scramble enough points to qualify, finally thumping Venezuela 3-0 in the decisive match.
So what went wrong? The roots of the problem run deep and relate to the crisis of identity currently plaguing soccer in the land of Pelé and Garrincha. Physical and tactical football is alien to the Brazilian player. It suffocates the beautiful game, the art of attacking and the joy of winning through attractive football. This confusion was evident in Brazil's on-field displays and its succession of trainers: Wanderley Luxemburgo, Candinho, Leao and Felipe Scolari.
But Brazil are Brazil. And the FIFA World Cup is Brazil's favourite arena. As such, it is not outlandish to believe that Felipe Scolari possesses a core of experienced players capable of fighting for glory in Korea/Japan 2002, including Marcos (Palmeiras), Cafú, Emerson (AS Roma), Lúcio (Bayern Leverkusen), Roque Júnior (AC Milan), Roberto Carlos (Real Madrid); Vampeta (Flamengo); Rivaldo (FC Barcelona), Edilson (Flamengo), Ronaldo (FC Internazionale Milan), Romario (Vasco da Gama) and Denilson (Real Betis). Once the qualifying traumas are forgotten, the trainer confirmed in his post and the players showing more confidence, Brazil should once again be the force that everyone knows shouldn't they?
Significant past players:
Romario, Bebeto, Dunga, Alemao, Careca, Falcao, Sócrates, Toninho Cerezo, Zico, Rivelino, Leao, Jairzinho, Pelé, Garrincha, Didí, Vava, Zagallo.
-- FIFA World Cup winners 1958, 1962, 1970, 1994, runners-up 1950, 1998
-- Copa America winners 1919, 1922, 1949, 1989, 1997, 1999
-- Runners-up in the Olympic Football tournament in 1976 and 1988
-- Winners of the FIFA U-20 World Cup in 1983, 1985 and 1993
-- Winners of the FIFA U-17 World Cup in 1997 and 1999
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