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Branco whose actual name is Claudio Ibraim Vaz Leal has played 78 times for the Brazilian national team.  He participated as a defender in the last three World Cups. During World Cup '94 it was Branco who, in the 82nd minute scored a goal against Holland giving Brazil a 3-2 quarterfinal victory.   He is regarded by many as being a free kick genius.

Branco 33 has played professionally in Italy's Series A (Brescia, Genoa), England's Premier League (Middlesborough), Portugal's First Division (Porto), and Brazil's First Division (Fluminense, Flamengo,Gremio,Corinthians, and Internacional of Port Alegre). He has also played for Mogi-Minim of the Sao Paolo State league.  

On Sunday July 14, 1997 Major League Soccer's Metrostars franchise announced his signing to their team. Coach Carlos Alberto Parreira said,  "I have known Branco since he is 19 years old and I believe he will be a great player  for the Metrostars and the league"  

                 Exclusive Interview


Q: What does it feel like coming from a World Cup level team like Brasil's to play here in the United States for a league level team?

A: Well, before and after World Cup 1994 I played in league teams in Europe. In fact I've played in several of Brasil's league teams as well. However, coming  to America to play for the Metrostars was a opportunity which I could not let pass.  Coach Parreira asked me to become a part of this new league with the hopes of my participation aiding in the league's growth. Like any new organization there are growing pains but in time you will see a  big difference in the level of play in the MLS teams.. You cannot compare playing with a World Cup team of such as Brasil's with the MetroStars but  playing futbol for any team particularly in this country (America) is an exciting new challenge.. I have stated earlier you will see the team develop as a whole the more we play together.  That is one of the numerous keys to a successful team  For example, right now many of the players attentions are divided between the styles of their national teams attempting to qualify for France98.  One day you  play for your national team thousands of miles away then you are expected to adjust to the style of play on the local league level. Although futbol is futbol coaches training methods and strategies vary.  The rules differ somewhat on the international level.  

Q: Has playing in America been difficult with regard to adjust to food, time, and the culture in general?

A: No not really.  I have been in several parts of the world. Although America is unique it is a country which is similar to others. So for me there was no difficult adjustment period in that regard..

Q: What is your opinion of the American stadiums.and how do they compare with the stadiums of Brasil and Europe? What's your favorite?

A:  The stadiums here are beautiful, particularly Giants Stadium here in New Jersey. It's amazing how they installed  the natural grass surface It's difficult for me to compare stadiums. Each has it's own personality. For instance Wembley which has an excellent grass surface also has an enormous history. Maracana is the world's largest stadium.  It was the site of the World Cup in 1950. With Brasil being my country, I of course love all of it's stadiums. America's stadiums and  the playing surfaces during World Cup 94 were wonderful.  Although it was very hot on the field in California the surface was like carpet.  If I had to chose one however I would say Maracana in Brasil is my favorite.   

Q: You spoke about the grass at California being like carpet. How important is the playing surface to the game?

A:  The quality of the surface can affect the players.  If the grass to to high the ball will travel slower. It takes much more energy to move the ball and as a result the players can tire easier. If the grass is short with no holes or bumps, the player will have more control over the ball moving it quicker across the field. The receiving players can also more accurately predict the path and speed of the ball.  While some players like a moderate cut surface I prefer a low cut level field.  The artificial surface at Giant stadium however was very difficult to play on due to the ball bouncing across it's surface. The player is also more susceptible to injury on this type of surface.  The rules of World Cup soccer mandate that all World Cup level matches be played on grass. In fact, in 1994 there was an excellent temporary grass field installed at Giant stadium over the artificial turf.

Q: Who in you opinion is the greatest player of all time?

A: Every country had great players in different time periods however I  had to make a choice Pele would be for me the best player of all time.  He was the complete player and could probably have played in any position he chose. Most of all he has always been a gentleman on and off the grass. As you know he is also the Minister of Sports in Brasil.

Q: Of the players now, who do you consider to be the best?

A:  Again there are many good players but in my opinion Ronaldinho is the best player at this time. He has enormous speed, agility and ball control. He is still a youth who will continue to develop. .

Q:  Looking ahead at France'98 do you think it's possible that Brasil will win the cup a fifth time, and if so why?

A: Let me first say that the world is changing ,and the level of play of all of the teams have improved . For example African teams like Nigeria, Cameroon, and Gana have greatly improved over the years and are now top contenders. It was a great victory for Nigeria to win the Olympics over both Argentina and Brasil however the World Cup will be different. During the Olympics you are limited in the amount of senior players you can use.  So, Brasil will win a fifth World Cup because of  great depth of players that it will be able to choose from at that time.   Playing on three World Cup teams I can feel the difference in the players focus when we are competing in the most prestigious game. When playing in World Cup there also seems to be able to achieve a heightened level of play.  You can sense it immediately upon stepping on the grass.  You must also remember that throughout South America children are playing futebol at a very early age. In Brasil as in most South American countries futebol is the primary game. The ball is given to them sometimes even before they are able to walk.  Even during the pre-teen age years our players are excellent. They develop a high level of technical skill and avoid bad habits which are difficult to unlearn at a later age. We have the best coaches with vast personal experience behind them. We will win a fifth cup because of intense need to do so for the pride of our team and country.

Q: What was it like playing on the Brasil's team at World Cup 1994 here in America.

A: We were focused for the game. Coach Parreira who I and many people regard as one of the is the best coaches  in the world had our team physically as well as psychologically prepared for the matches.  Losing a point was not as important as staying relaxed and focused. Many excellent teams have lost matches as a result of losing concentration and panicking after being scored upon.  Although we did not win every game by a hugh difference in score (as was expected), we kept or focus and did the things it takes to win the World Cup.Finally, since the last World Cup, coach Zagallo has had a lot of time to reflect on mistakes which may have been made. He has a vast pool of players to choose from all who are superb players themselves. Since World Cup 1994, he has had an opportunity to experiment with new talent, doing so international matches.  So when the World Cup arrives you will see a very experienced well balanced team, a team prepared for a fifth World Cup victory!"  



Website author Gerard Robbins and Branco

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