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"Hands of Gold" 


                                                                                                 By Gerard Robbins

Claudio Andre Taffarel should no doubt be heralded as the man that singlehandedly survived Brazil to the 1998 World Cup final match in France . On July 7th, 1998 he stopped two balls from entering the net and in doing so, positioned Brazil to win an incredible 5th World Cup title. However, as the world knows, that 5th title was not to be, but it was no fault of Taffarel's. No human could have stopped the perfectly timed bullets that entered Brazil's net off of the head of Zinedine Zidane. Bullets that immobilzed Brazil for the remainder game. It was a Brazil that was down that took the final bullet from a Frenchmen named Petit near the end of the second half. Coach Mario Zagallo would later admit that his team was outclassed on that day.  But with all of the hoopla of France's unexpected win, the truth is, no other country on the planet will be able to surpass Brasil in the next century in terms of World Cup victories. Without question due to in great part to the genious of Pele, but nonetheless also due in part (although to a lesser degree) to Claudio Andre Taffarel.

In Brazil, President Fernando Henrique Cardosa called Taffarel a national hero. Brazilian people world-wide were dancing in the streets as a result of  Taffarel's July 7th performance.  It was being reported that mothers named their new-born babies Taffarel, even if the babies were females. In essence, the world never looked brighter for this goalkeeper at that moment . But it wasn't always that way. When Brasil lost the World Cup in 1990, many people questioned the coach for using him. Although he signed with Parma of Italy, Taffarel saw most of the games while sitting on the bench. It was Carlos Alberto Parreira with the urging of  Mario Zagallo who ignored  Taffarel's detractors and called  him to play in World Cup 1994. Although Brasil won that cup, Taffarel's career began to decline yet again. He found himself playing with Atletico Miniero where he thought he play out his career. This was not to be the case as Mario Zagallo called upon Taffarel once again to participate with the national team due to his experience.

This writer had the opportunity to talk with Taffarel while the team was competing in the CONCACAF Gold Cup in California. I found him to be a very softspoken individual, the last person you'd expect to be bragging about his previous World Cup victory or any win for that matter. We talked about his experience in America's first World Cup and what it was like being a part of Brazil's world cup winning team. He also shared with this writer why he thought Brazil would win a fifth title in  France. Of course, as the magazine focuses on the playing surfaces Taffarel talks about the significance of having a quality playing surface. He gave his opinion on America's grass surfaces of World Cup 1994.  In return  (as with other members of the Brazilian National Team) we presented Taffarel with the above historical momentos containing preserved turf extracted from the playing surface of World Cup 1994.  Like his teammates he simply remarked "These are very beautiful!"


Exclusive Interview

Q: Claudio, what was it like being a member of Brazil's National Team and winning an historic 4th World Cup title?
A: I was very proud as you can image.  As you probably know I played with the national team several times including the previous World Cup which was held in Italy. But to answer you question, being a member of our national team in itself gives one enormous pride and tremendous responsibility as well. Everyone expects you to win so the pressure is always great.  Futebol is the type of game where anything can happen and on any day.

Q: Do you think that the job of goalkeeper is easier than other positions?
A: No, absolutely not, If you have a good defensive line, that makes your job easier but the pressure is still there. You have to assume that your defense will be penetrated, and it's at those moments when your actions alone may determine the difference between a win or loss.  Also, many times it is the goalkeeper who is blamed when a team loses. However, it is a rare occasion when the goalkeeper is credited with the team's victory. I believe that people only see the middle of the field. For the most part, no one really pays attention to the goalkeeper.

Q: How did you like playing in the U.S. in America's first World Cup and what it your opinion of our grass playing surfaces and stadiums during that cup.
A: It was a very nice experience playing here in the U.S. in 1994. I thought that the stadiums were some of the best I've seen. All of the grass fields we played on were in excellent condition. One stadium in Michigan was unusual because the grass field was installed in an indoor environment. The grass surface itself was very nice although slightly tall.

Q: Can the grass make a difference in the outcome of a game and, which playing surface would you rate as is the best in terms of quality?
A: Of course the surface can make a difference. From the position of a goal keeper, it is easier to anticipate the movement of the ball if the surface is even. Most other players like the surface to be low cut and without flaws such as holes and breaks in the grass. Many time I have played on a surface which wears easily creating holes. In addition to being evenly cut, I prefer the surface to be dry. This keeps the ball dry and helps me catch it easier. A dry surface also provides me with better footing when jumping for the ball. In terms of  best fields, I would have to say Wembley is one as well as Maracana in Brazil. Wembley of course has a tradition and Maracana is the largest.

Q: I have asked other members of the team now I will ask you. Will Brazil win a 5th World Cup title and if so why?
A: This is not really an easy question but what I can say is that I am confident that Brazil will win a fifth title. I believe that we have a great coach  in Mario Zagallo who himself was a great player. He understands what the team needs to do to be successful. In addition, I also think that Brazil has so many excellent players within all of it's clubs; players that no one has seen, capable of  being on our national team. So in terms of numbers alone we have some advantage.  Also, the players from the previous cup are no really old. What you may see in France might be a combination of youth and experience.


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World Cup 1994 USA Videos  (complete matches)

Final  -  Brazil  v  Italy                    #4392   $29.95           Add 2 Cart
Semi Final -  Italy v Bulgaria          #4393   $29.95          Add 2 Cart
Semi Final  - Brazil v  Sweden        #4394   $29.95           Add 2 Cart
Qtr Final  -  Italy  v  Spain              #4395   $29.95           Add 2 Cart
Qtr Final  -  Bulgaria  v  Germany  #4396   $29.95          Add 2 Cart
Qtr Final  -  Holland  v  Brazil         #4397   $29.95          Add 2 Cart
Qtr Final -  Sweden  v  Romania     #4398   $29.95          Add 2 Cart
2nd Round -  Brazil  v  USA            #4399   $29.95          Add 2 Cart
Group Play -  USA  v  Columbi       #4400   $29.95          Add 2 Cart
Group Play -  Ireland  v  Italy         #4401   $29.95          Add 2 Cart

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