The prevent defense just doesn't work. Brazil proved that again Wednesday, qualifying for the World Cup final with a 1-0 victory over Sweden.
While Sweden laid back and played for a tie and penalty kicks, Brazil pressed throughout their semifinal at the Rose Bowl. Time after time, wave after wave, the creative South Americans attacked and were turned back.
But that strategy doesn't work forever, and Romario headed home a goal in the 81st minute, lifting Brazil into its first final since 1970. That year, the Brazilians defeated Italy for their third world soccer championship. On Sunday, they meet the Italians again, and the winner will be the first four-time World Cup champ.
Sweden's chances were severely diminished in the 63rd minute when captain Jonas Thern was ejected for a vicious tackle on Dunga. That made the Swedes turn even more conservative, rarely venturing into Brazil's end of the field. Sweden was outshot 26-3.
Meanwhile, goalkeeper Thomas Ravelli, a hero in Sweden's most successful World Cup since it lost to Brazil in the 1958 final, kept the Brazilians frustrated with several sensational saves.
He was helpless, however, on Romario's goal, which came off a brilliant crossing pass from the right corner by Jorginho. Romario had beaten defender Roland Nilsson and had plenty of time to redirect the pass.
The goal set off a torrent of cheering, drum-beating and dancing in the aisles by the overwhelmingly pro-Brazil crowd. As the clocked ticked away, the stadium reverberated with the sounds of the samba. And the expectations that 24 years of soccer frustration will end Sunday.
"The only real opportunity that we had, I was able to convert," Romario said. "Thank God I was able to get it in and get on to the final."
Brazil worked inexorably toward the first goal for 80 minutes, but it never came, mainly due to Brazilian misplays.
Romario and Bebeto had ample opportunities to create goals, but they either sent shots wide or hesitated and lost the chance to shoot. In the 20th minute, Romario broke free in the penalty area and evaded Ravelli, but his shot was cleared off the goal line by Patrik Andersson. The rebound went to Mazinho, but his shot went wide.
For most of the day, the game eerily resembled Brazil's last World Cup defeat, in Italy four years ago. Argentina's ultraconservative approach made for a one-sided match, but the Brazilians couldn't score and the Argentines eventually broke through on one of its few attacks for a 1-0 win.
This time, as their fans grew impatient--often whistling and hooting at the Brazilians' inability to finish--the South Americans could show nothing more than a 15-1 shooting edge for the first half.
That edge grew along with Brazil's anxiety as the match remained scoreless. But the Swedes, who tied Brazil 1-1 in the opening round--this was the first World Cup rematch since 1982--never abandoned their defensive shell. And Brazil never stopped attacking.
Brazil now is 5-0-2 against Sweden in the World Cup. But the important number has become four: Either Brazil or Italy will be holding up that many fingers Sunday, which no nation has done.