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Brazil samba missing vital beat

COSTA RICA 2; BRAZIL 5 David Miller in Suwon, South Korea BRITTLE, brilliant, blundering Brazil. A crowd's delight, a coach's anguish. A Ferrari with a huge hole in its fuel tank.

Brazil looked even more vulnerable than they had in their opening two matches against Turkey and China as they hurdled into the second round with something to spare in a thrilling, topsy-turvy encounter.

The formula 'if you score one, we'll score three' may be magic for neutrals but, for the four-times champions, it could prove malignant when they meet opponents more solid than the first three.

Besides the two goals Costa Rica scored, they had ten chances. Not just shots, scoring openings.

It is a loss to the rest of the competition that such a positive, open side as Costa Rica have perished, undone by their own adventurous attitude and Turkey's simultaneous victory over China. Ronald Gomez, in his partnership with Paulo Wanchope, has been one of the most eye-catching forwards so far. In vain.

Brazil's tally of nine goals is creating something of an illusion. Favourites they may be, but there were times yesterday when they looked like a thoroughbred on three legs.

It is not often that you see in the course of a few minutes all the glory and the deepest flaws of the greatest football nation the world is ever likely to see. But it happened in this match as Edmilson underlined why he and his team-mates seem certain to keep their nation in a fever of both hope and dread over the next two weeks or so.

One moment Edmilson was walking in the footsteps of all the Brazilian virtuosos as his superb overhead kick brought a breath-taking goal in the extraordinary break-out of exuberant talent.

But, then, he defended so crassly it was easy to understand the catch of anguish in the voice of his coach Luiz Felipe Scolari, when he said: "There is good development in my team, great strength - but also great weakness. If we cannot defend better we will not compete with the top teams."

Scolari added: "When we get in front, we start playing slower and stop doing what we have done in practice. We know our mistakes, we are going to work on them, and we will solve them."

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More easily said than done. Without players of better quality and there are none available Scolari can only meet the crisis, for that is what it is, in Brazil's terms, by altering the formation and tactics.

The second round is hardly the moment.

Edmilson's crime was indifference. For any Brazilian, attack is a joy and defence a chore. Rarely can this psychological division of labour been more starkly underlined than when Edmilson allowed his man to run unchallenged to make the cross from which Gomez scored with a free header.

Perhaps Scolari will remind his men of the betrayal that came in what some consider the best World Cup game ever played, between Italy and Brazil in Barcelona in 1982.

Junior, who was supposed to be a defender, went on a carefree run soon after Roberto Falcao had scored the goal which seemed to ensure the passage of the team of Socrates and Zico in the semi-finals. But Junior was caught, and the ball was delivered to the feet of Paolo Rossi. Italy went on to beat Germany in the final.

Costa Rica's own defence was not exactly Fort Knox but, with Brazil 5-2 ahead just after the hour, they stormed at their illustrious opponents all the way to the finish and saw another four possibilities go astray, twice a post rescuing Brazil.

Brazil were two up inside 13 minutes, Luis Marin diverting Edilson's cross into his own net and then Ronaldo scrambling the ball home after defensive confusion to maintain his record of a goal a game in the finals.

After misses by Walter Centino, Mauricio Wright and Gomez, Edmilson made it 3-0 with an overhead scissor-kick.

Wanchope shot home through Lucio's late, lunging tackle before the interval and then early in the second half Costa Rica were on the rampage, Gomez scoring with a diving header.

Rivaldo and Junior scored two more goals in three minutes before Brazil's disintegrating back line, barely knowing left leg from right, somehow held off Costa Rica. Daily Telegraph, London.

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