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It's Not Gold, but Brazil Wins It

August 03, 1996|Times Wire Services

Brazil restored some of its battered soccer pride with a 5-0 rout of Portugal to win the bronze medal behind a hat trick by Bebeto.

Goals by Ronaldinho and Flavio Conceicao in the first 10 minutes sent Brazil on its way and Bebeto completed the victory by scoring three in the second half.

"We came here to try for the gold, that was our objective," Bebeto said. "It is an honor to win a bronze medal, but it is not what we were here for."

Stacked with talent, Brazil seemed an overwhelming favorite for the gold medal. But it lost its opening game to underdog Japan and then blew a 3-1 lead in a 4-3 overtime loss to Nigeria in the semifinals.

"The bronze medal has the taste of gold because the Brazilian team played a very nice match today," Coach Mario Zagallo said.

"We cannot win all. To know how to lose is difficult, but it is important. To win is easy. Brazil gave an example of that in the game against Nigeria."

Zagallo said he would honor his contract, which runs through 1997.

The Brazilians received their bronze medals immediately after the game because they are returning home before today's final. The medals were handed out by Joao Havelange, the Brazilian chief of FIFA.

While Brazil started the same 11 that lost to Nigeria, Portugal made six changes from the lineup that lost, 2-0, to Argentina, but playing with the typical lack of passion in a bronze-medal game, never had a chance.

Bebeto leads the tournament with six goals, but Argentina's Hernan Crespo has five goals and can claim the scoring title if he has a big day in today's final against Nigeria.

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