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Soccer / DAILY REPORT

Romario Still Hopes to Play for Brazil

December 31, 2002|Paul Gutierrez | Times Staff Writer

While World Cup titleholder Brazil is set to end its championship year without a coach, an icon from the team's past is holding out hope of playing again for the champions.

Romario, who turns 37 next month, has missed out on the last two World Cups and last two Olympic games. Not that he's bitter.

"I don't let it get to me anymore," Romario told Reuters. "Whatever comes along from now will be a bonus."

Since leading Brazil to the 1994 World Cup title with five goals, Romario has had a bittersweet international career. A calf muscle injury cost him the 1998 World Cup and then-Coach Luiz Felipe Scolari left him off the 2002 team, which caused a great outcry among Romario's fans, who considered him to be Brazil's best striker at the time.

A tearful public plea from Romario, who was also left off Brazil's 1996 and 2000 Olympic teams, failed to sway Scolari, who stepped down as coach in early August.

Romario, who won a silver medal with Brazil in the 1988 Olympics, scored 15 goals and led Fluminense to the Brazilian semifinals this year. But his six-month contract is up.

"I hope to sort it out quickly because I miss playing football," he said, "and I want to keep playing."

Keep Searching

Since winning the World Cup, Brazil has split two friendlies, falling 1-0 to Paraguay at home in Scolari's farewell, then defeating host South Korea, 3-2, with Mario Zagallo, who led Brazil at the 1970, 1974 and 1998 World Cups, coaching in tribute.

Among the people being mentioned most as Scolari's long-term replacement: Santos Coach Emerson Leao, Corinthian Coach Carlos Alberto Parreira, Sao Paulo Coach Oswaldo Oliveira and former Brazil coach Vanderlei Luxemburgo.

Leao coached Brazil before and was fired in 2001 by Brazilian Federation President Ricardo Teixeira after only eight months. Reuters reported that when Leao was asked if he would like to reclaim the job, he said, "No, not with [Teixeira] in charge."

Parreira led his club team to titles in the Rio-Sao Paulo tournament and the Copa Brasil, and finished second to Santos in the Brazilian championship. But he coached Brazil to the 1994 World Cup championship and has said that he has had enough at that level.

Oliveira, then, would seem to be the favorite by attrition.

The Brazilian media are not discounting a comeback, of sorts, for Luxemburgo, who was fired in disgrace after the 2000 Olympics. The flashy Luxemburgo, known for wearing expensive jewelry and designer suits, was told by a Congressional commission that his income was not compatible with his profession and that his answers to the origins of his wealth were not convincing.

He has also since admitted that he used a fake birth certificate, which made him three years younger and misspelled his first name as Wanderley.

Alonso Injured, Out

Spanish leader Real Sociedad suffered a blow to its chances when it was announced Monday that midfielder Xabi Alonso would be lost four to six weeks because of an ankle injury he suffered playing for a Basque team.

Alonso, 21, strained ligaments in his right ankle Saturday against Macedonia and, as a result, will sit out at least four league games, including the heavily anticipated match against second-place Valencia in mid-January.

Report on Break

The Daily Report will take a holiday hiatus and will not return until an undetermined date. Some key events to keep in mind: The U.S. women's national team will play a friendly against Japan on Jan. 12 in San Diego before playing in a four-team tournament in China beginning Jan. 23 against Norway, Germany and China. The Mexican women's team will play in a similar tournament beginning Jan. 26 in Australia against South Korea, Sweden and Australia. The U.S. men's team will play Canada on Jan. 18 in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

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