Back at full strength, Brazil isn't worried
about beating Venezuela in its final World Cup qualifier Wednesday.
The team is more concerned about how to fit so much talent into its
lineup. After resting a handful of starters for Brazil's 1-1 draw
against Bolivia on Sunday, coach Carlos Alberto Parreira will have his
choice of among 26 players for Wednesday's game in the Amazon city of
Already qualified for the 2006 Cup in Germany, defending champion Brazil
has 31 points and a rare chance to relax and indulge in a little
showtime in a meaningless game against Venezuela, which is out of
Argentina, Paraguay and Ecuador also are assured berths at the Cup, and
a fifth team will play Oceania champion Australia for the final berth.
It's quite a change from 2002, when qualifying went down to the the
final game and Brazil needed a victory over Venezuela to qualify. The
team went on to win its fifth World Cup in Japan, but Parreira vowed the
anguish of qualifying wouldn't happen again this time.
Brazil has coasted to a berth, thanks in part to an exceptionally
talented generation of strikers - so many, in fact, that Brazilians hope
Parreira can find a spot for them all.
Ronaldo, Adriano, Ronaldinho and Kaka form what Brazilians call the "magic
square,'' responsible for generating the offense and scoring goals.
But the arrival of Real Madrid youngster Robinho has some calling on
Parreira to create a "magic quintet'' with five attackers.
The conservative Parreira discards the idea, saying it would expose and
overburden his defense. That decision causes another dilemma: who plays
and who doesn't.
Real Madrid's Ronaldo, a three-time FIFA Player of the Year and the
World Cup's leading scorer in 2002, said he prefers Adriano of Inter
Milan, a powerful striker nicknamed "the emperor.''
"I feel more at ease with Adriano. He more's my style and plays up front,
by my side,'' Ronaldo said in a televised interview.
"Robinho plays back, brings up the ball from the midfield. He's much
more like Ronaldinho than like me or Adriano.''
But it will be tough for newcomer Robinho to oust Barcelona striker
Ronaldinho, the FIFA Player of the Year in 2004. AC Milan's Kaka is
another solid starter - playmaker, scorer and field general.
Robinho seems resigned to the bench _ for now.
"If fans ask for me, I'm at Parreira's disposal,'' he said with a smile.
Wednesday's game also will be a chance for Parreira to test replacements
for aging wingers Cafu and Roberto Carlos. And second-choice players are
still trying to ensure a spot on the World Cup roster.
Sao Paulo's Cicinho is the usual replacement for Cafu, but Gilberto and
Gustavo Nery are both in the running as Roberto Carlos' understudy.
Inter Milan goalkeeper Julio Cesar and Luyon midfielder Juninho
Pernambucano were standouts against Bolivia and edged closer to securing
a roster place.
Venezuela, in eighth place with 18 points, will take its "A'' team
against Brazil, featuring Mallorca's Juan Arango, Estudiantes striker
Ruberth Moran, and Lazio's Miguel Mea Vitalli.