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Own Goal Gets Brazil Off Scot-Free

By Steven Goff
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, June 11, 1998; Page E8




SAINT-DENIS, France, June 10 — Perhaps the most troublesome aspect of Brazil's 2-1 victory over Scotland today in the opening match of the 1998 World Cup was the manner in which the defending champions scored. These were not the magical goals of Pele and Socrates and Romario of samba soccer past, goals that dazzled the world for a half-century and resulted in an unprecedented four world titles.

Instead, the right shoulders of Brazilian midfielder Cesar Sampaio and Scottish defender Tommy Boyd were the peculiar difference before a sellout crowd of 80,000-plus at majestic Stade de France.

"Six games are missing," said Ronaldo, Brazil's 21-year-old sensation, referring to his team's remaining path to another title. "We are happy because the first game is always the most difficult."

Brazil's game-winner was an excruciating own goal in the 73rd minute — a clever volley by right back Cafu that struck 39-year-old goalkeeper Jim Leighton in the chest, rebounded off Boyd, then drifted back past Leighton and the delightfully stunned Cafu before rolling into the net.

When the final whistle sounded, the Brazilians danced around the field in a display fueled equally by relief and happiness.

"You could see the joy when they scored, so you knew it was a big victory for them," Scotland Coach Craig Brown said. "There is no denying the better team won, but we had a great chance not to lose. We haven't been humiliated."

At the beginning, however, it appeared the game was headed in that direction. Cesar Sampaio scored off Bebeto's corner kick in the fifth minute, surprising even himself when the ball glanced off his shoulder as he warded off two defenders at the near post.

Brazil turned the field into a slalom course and threatened to rip the game wide open. Ronaldo, the two-time world player of the year, combined strength and grace to solve Scotland's beleaguered defense and apply heavy pressure in the penalty area. In one breathtaking sequence, he danced around Colin Hendry, Gordon Durie, Darren Jackson and Hendry again to unleash a wicked shot that Leighton slapped away. Leighton made two other sensational saves to maintain the 1-0 deficit and keep his teammates' diminishing confidence alive.

It was clear that Scotland was not going to create many scoring chances on its own; rather, it would have to rely on free kicks, corner kicks or a Brazilian mistake to tie the game. But in the 37th minute, with Brazil cruising, Cesar Sampaio made such a mistake. He held Kevin Gallacher, then knocked him down in the penalty area while both chased Christian Dailly's header.

Referee Jose Maria Garcia Aranda immediately signaled for a penalty kick, and for added measure, slapped the pleading Sampaio with a yellow card. John Collins converted the kick, sending a low shot just beyond goalie Claudio Taffarel's right-armed reach.

Scotland maintained its composure for the first 25 minutes of the second half and even tested Taffarel on occasion. But the game shifted back in Brazil's favor in the 70th minute when Brazil Coach Mario Zagallo inserted 20-year-old Denilson as a replacement for Bebeto. Denilson's inventive play re-energized Brazil's attack and forced the Scots to retreat again.

The pressure paid off, sparked by Denilson's burst along the left sideline to create the winning scoring opportunity — but not in the way the demanding Brazilian fans and hundreds-strong media are accustomed. Zagallo, who endured biting criticism prior to the World Cup for his team's stale play and disharmony, defended himself angrily during a heated postgame news conference.

"For the time being, I don't care," he barked. "I beat Scotland. That's enough."

© Copyright 1998 The Washington Post Company

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