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WORLD CUP `06 | ANALYSIS

For Brazil, It's More Tragic Than Magic

July 02, 2006|Grahame L. Jones | Times Staff Writer

GELSENKIRCHEN, Germany — In the end, the wizardry ran out. There simply wasn't enough magic on Brazil's team to go around.

For months leading up to the World Cup, Coach Carlos Alberto Parreira and his staff debated the merits of the team's various attacking options. Which player to pair with which player? Who worked best with whom? Where would the goals most likely come from?

Finally, they decided to put the entire "magic quartet" on the field at the same time. So Brazil went into the tournament with the foursome of Ronaldo, Ronaldinho, Adriano and Kaka as its attack, supplemented by timely offensive forays from outside backs Cafu and Roberto Carlos.

Robinho's role, meanwhile, was to come off the bench. It was a bit of a waste for a player of his talents, but what else to do?

The "magic quartet" failed Saturday night in Frankfurt, Germany, and Brazil lost to France, 1-0, in the quarterfinals. The chemistry wasn't correct. The fizz was missing.

Brazil finally ran into serious opposition, and it was not prepared to handle it.

France controlled the game from the outset, and Brazil, unaccustomed to being on the receiving end, had no reply.

The defending world champions no longer have a hand on the World Cup because Ronaldo and Adriano were too much the same sort of player. Both are big, bulldozing center forwards who want to run at defenses.

They ended up getting in each other's way. Or, to put it another way, there wasn't enough space for both to occupy.

The same is true of Ronaldinho and Kaka, both playing just off the front line and both uncertain whether they should be scoring goals or creating them.

Ronaldinho last week said he was not worried about not having scored in the tournament, despite being the two-time FIFA world player of the year. He was here to lay on the goals for others, he said.

No one really bought it.

The fact of the matter is, the long European season, in which Ronaldinho won the Spanish title and the European Champions League with FC Barcelona, left him drained. He just did not look like the Ronaldinho of only a few months ago.

Brazil also is out because despite saying all the correct things about wanting to play for the team and that winning was more important than individual honors, Ronaldo's focus really was on becoming the World Cup's all-time leading goal scorer.

He wouldn't have another chance. This World Cup was it for him.

He was unfit, but Parreira stuck with him. He struggled, but his teammates kept pushing him along. He achieved his goal, three goals taking him to 15 and putting him ahead of all others, but after that there wasn't much left in the tank.

He was never fat, but he was never fit.

Things never really clicked for the Brazilians. They had bright patches and there were occasional highlights, but there were no sustained periods of brilliance in any of their five games. Spontaneity was in short supply. Creativity was checked at the door.

Most importantly, opponents did not fear them, not even Ghana.

Before the tournament began, pundits in Rio de Janeiro, Sao Paulo and elsewhere tried comparing this Brazilian team to the Brazil of 1970, which featured Pele and Carlos Alberto.

The 1970 veterans bristled at the notion. They had won the World Cup in spectacular attacking fashion, they said. This team had yet to win a game.

As it turned out, the comparison was not valid. Sad to say, Parreira's Brazil of 2006 was just an ordinary team with some extraordinary players.

Defending the World Cup is always more difficult than winning it. It takes a bit of magic, and the "magic quartet" did not bring enough along.

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