It's Brazil's World Cup for kicks

July 18, 1994|By Mike Preston | Mike Preston,Sun Staff Writer

PASADENA, Calif. -- There were finally tears of joy, ones that are shared by an entire nation.

Brazil ended its 24-year drought in the world's most prestigious sporting event with a 3-2 shootout win over Italy after 120 scoreless minutes in the World Cup championship yesterday before a crowd of 94,194 at the Rose Bowl.

The win gave Brazil an unprecedented fourth World Cup title out of 15 tournaments, and may have silenced the Brazilian fans who have criticized coach Carlos Alberto Parreira for playing gritty defense instead of the traditional "samba" style of offensive soccer.

Brazil won this game with defense, and its victory was partly achieved through goalie Claudio Taffarel, who knocked away Daniele Massaro's tie-breaking attempt in the shootout.

Dunga followed with a shot to the left post giving Brazil a 3-2 lead, and when star forward Roberto Baggio sent a shot high as Italy's fifth and last shooter, Brazil had its first championship since 1970.

The players celebrated singing, holding hands, and running a victory lap around the Rose Bowl. Outside, the beer was flowing as drums sounded and conga lines formed.

Finally, the World Cup trophy was back in Brazil, but this was more than just about a championship.

"The economics and financial picture in Brazil is sad," forward Bebeto said.

"I hope this victory will stimulate the government to improve the economic conditions. The lack of jobs and the poor children are a very big problem. We were a team on a mission."

"The victory was the effort of all the players who gave it their all for two months, sacrificing to practice, play and win," Parreira said. "I dedicate the victory to all the people in Brazil in general, to those who have suffered, and to my friends and family who always supported me and believed in us."

There weren't many who believed, and the criticism seemed to reach a peak when Brazil only tied Sweden, 1-1, in a first-round game.

Brazil's president called Parreira to complain. Pele expressed his disappointment at Parreira's "defensive scheme." Even Parreira's mother called about changing the lineup.

"Although I was criticized by the Brazilian and international press, I stuck by my philosophy and principles," said Parreira, who stresses tough defense, blue-collar midfielders and having two great forwards.

"It feels great because, like Frank Sinatra, I did it my way," he said.

Brazil had entered the game outscoring its opponents 10-3 in six games, and this was expected to be an offensive game because Italy also liked to go forward.

But when Italy started and remained in its defensive shell, and the stars like Romario and Bebeto couldn't score, new heroes emerged like defenders Cafu, Aldair, Marcio Santos and Branco.

Brazil's new group was not expected to play well in the tournament because they were late replacements for injured Ricardo Gomes, Ricardo Rocha and Leonardo, who was disqualified after elbowing Tab Ramos in the face when Brazil played the United States.

But except for a few brief scares, Italy's counterattacking offense was not much of a factor.

"Every team we played against changed their way of playing against us," Bebeto said.

"Italy played back waiting for Brazil."

And waiting. And waiting. Italy's defense was great.

"We just kept coming, just bringing the pressure until the end hoping something would break," Bebeto said.

Brazil's win ended a spectacular and courageous run by Italy, which was without starting defenders Alessandro Costacurta and Mauro Tassotti.

The Italians also started three players who were slowed by injuries, including the ponytailed Baggio, (strained hamstring) who had five of Italy's last six goals.

Starting defender Franco Baresi, who had knee surgery 23 days ago, was outstanding and so was midfielder Roberto Donadoni, who strained a hamstring Wednesday.

"The Italian team showed a lot of composure and maturity," said Arrigo Sacchi, the coach of Italy who is certain to receive &L pressure to resign after yesterday's loss.

"Those traits allowed us to rebound in situations that did not favor us. The players gave everything they had. We will not look for any alibis. When you give it your all, you have to accept the loss with great calmness."

Like Brazil, Italy had won three titles (1934, 38 and 1982), but this squad was far from overpowering. Sacchi had to use a different lineup for all six games.

Italy also had to pull out some near miracles to advance in this tournament. Dino Baggio got Italy a short-handed goal in a first-round match against Norway. Roberto Baggio scored a short-handed goal in the 89th minute to hold off Nigeria, and Roberto Baggio delivered again in the 88th minute to beat Spain.

And Italy almost pulled out this one, despite being outshot 22-8. Brazil squandered a number of chances in regulation and another great one five minutes into overtime when Romario's 3-yard shot was smothered by Italy goalie Gianluca Pagliuca.

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