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Some Great Expectations for Brazil-England Clash

June 20, 2002|MIKE PENNER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

SEOUL — In England, they still talk about The Save as if it happened yesterday. Sad truth is, it has been 32 years since Gordon Banks went from one post to the other to deny Pele's header, in an eventual 1-0 loss to Brazil, in Mexico, in 1970, and it's really about time the English moved on and talked about something else they did right against Brazil in a World Cup.

New fodder could be coming Friday in Shizuoka, Japan.

There, England and Brazil will meet in a World Cup match for the first time since 1970 in the one 2002 quarterfinal that actually seems like a World Cup quarterfinal. No out-of-nowhere interloper crashed this bracket. It's the country that invented soccer against the country that elevated the game to perhaps its highest levels.

Not unexpectedly, both camps are amped.

"My cash is on Brazil to win the tournament, but now I honestly believe England will beat them," Manchester United Coach Alex Ferguson said to the English tabloid The Sun.

The Brazilians, meanwhile, make offhand references to the World Cup championship standings--Brazil 4, England 1--and seem amused by the media furor about English players David Beckham and Michael Owen.

"I'm not concerned about players such as David Beckham and Michael Owen, as there are better players in our squad," Ronaldinho said.

Goalkeeper Marcos agreed.

"We know about Beckham and that he has a good right foot," he said. "But we have players who are better."

In a World Cup where tradition has been shredded, this match offers two old-guard teams that have arrived in the quarterfinals with their reputations reasonably intact.

With Ronaldo fit again and Rivaldo pressing him for the tournament scoring lead, Brazil has shown it can still play the beautiful soccer for which is it renowned. England, meanwhile, has been typically resilient in resolve and dogged in defense--recording three consecutive shutouts, including a 3-0 rout of Denmark in the second round.

This is the kind of matchup the World Cup used to be about. Nothing against South Korea, Senegal and Turkey, but this one, at last, is something for the purists.

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