A Passionate, But Low Scoring, Final In The Offing

Updated: Jun 30 2002, 05:30am hrs
Church bells will ring louder and the devout will say their prayers with greater vigour in Brazil and Germany when the two countries clash in the final of the World Cup at the Japanese city of Yokohama today evening. It will be a stern test for the devotees, considering prayers in St Pauls Church failed to stop Englands exit from the worlds premier football tournament. Divine interference aside, the players from the two teams will go all out in those 90 minutes, in a game that is passion in both Brazil and Germany.

Contrary to popular belief, in all probability, the match will be a low scoring one. A solitary goal may decide the fate of the two superpowers of world football. It will not be entirely surprising if the elusive goal is scored in extra time as a golden goal.

Brazil has a stingy forward line with three of the greatest players, Roberto Carlos, Ronaldo and Rivaldo, in their ranks. But they may find it difficult to scale the German wall manned by three of the best defenders in the business. The trio of Marko Rehmer, Thomas Linke and Christoph Metzeider is rock-like. Add German skipper Oliver Kahn under the bar and you have undoubtedly the best defence line in contemporary football.

While the two sets of 11 players will tackle on the field, off it, two great coaches, German Rudi Voller and his counterpart, Scolari, will be remote controlling the game. It is this aspect that is crucial to the final outcome of the match. Since the two sides are familiar with each others game, the coaches will have to come out with a new strategy to win the match. A judicious and clever substitution and free-kick taking will prove decisive. Otherwise, with all the brilliance of the Brazilian strikers, the match will confine to the midfield or possibly just near the top of the box.

There will be a lot of pressure on Ronaldo. He has been haunted by bitter memories of the final defeat against France in 1998, and has battled to save his career in four injury plagued years. A slight doubt in his own ability in the background of that ill-fated final and he may find the going tough.

Brazil will be strengthened with the inclusion of that young maverick Ronaldinho. He was serving a one-match ban when Brazil beat Turkey in the semi-finals. He is available for Sunday and raring to go. The scoring ability of Ronaldo and Rivaldo will depend a great deal on excellent crosses by Ronaldinho.

Germany, on the other hand, will sorely miss Michael Ballack sitting out due to a one-match ban. Voller will, however, have the services of striker Miroslav Klose. He had damaged his ribs in last Tuesdays semi-final against South Korea.

Whether the FIFA Cup goes to Germany or Brazil, at least a special Fair Play trophy should already have been given to the disciplined fans in Asia. Not a single incident of violence, despite rank bad officiating, is a record of sorts. In fact, poor officiating has cast aspersions on Koreas run to the quarter-finals. Taiwans China Times has gone to the extent of writing that Koreas glory came with a price and warned that because of the dubious refereeing, people wonder if there is any chance that the World Cup will be held in Asia again.

The Taiwanese newspaper may have motives, political or otherwise, but FIFA will surely come under fire once the tournament is over. Imagine not a single positive dope test in 32 teams, despite the rampant use of drugs in international football. To keep the FIFA image clean, federation president Sapp Blatter autocratically conducted the dope tests ignoring all IOC norms. He knew it well that even if one top player was declared positive, it would play havoc with his commercial interests with the sponsors.

Similarly, he has ignored all requests for the use of technology to assist officiating. His plea is that technology will steal the charm of the game. He feels people should go back home debating the decision by the referee, whether it was a goal or not, or whether a particular player was off side or not. But what if weeks or months after the World Cup, the millions of Koreans, who celebrated their teams fine show in the streets of Seoul and Busan, are told that the matches were fixed or the referees bought over They will have no confidence left in their team and its ability. And that will be a most unfortunate day in the history of the beautiful game called football.