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And the Brazilian Beat Goes On and On

By William Gildea
Washington Post Columnist
Sunday, June 28, 1998; Page D1

PARIS — If Brazil had lost tonight in the World Cup's round of 16, it would have been the equivalent of the most interesting guest leaving a party early. A Brazil festival in the streets of the city this week produced the samba beat, and the talk was of the world's top player, Ronaldo. But the Brazilians completed their opening round with a meaningless loss to Norway, and tonight's opponent, Chile, had waited a long time for the chance to spoil a Brazilian party.

Thousands of Chileans, dampened by a cold rain, set out this afternoon by foot and subway from the Eiffel Tower to the Parc des Princes. This was the time and place for Chileans to pay back the country that had ruined so many soccer occasions for them.

But only brief minutes into the game, Brazil signaled that once more it would maintain order in the South American soccer hierarchy and make the Chileans dance to its tune. Cesar Sampaio, 30, a defensive midfielder playing in his first World Cup, struck in the 11th and 27th minutes to send Brazil on its way to the quarterfinals. The heralded Ronaldo scored a penalty-kick goal just before the half during injury time and added another in the 70th minute, just two minutes after Chile's key striker, Marcelo "The Matador" Salas, scored on a close-range header for Chile for his fourth goal of the tournament. With a withering attack and its 4-1 win, Brazil advanced to the final eight and a game Friday in Nantes against the winner of Sunday's game between Nigeria and Denmark.

"We were quite nervous in the beginning and did not play well in the first 10 minutes, but we soon settled down and played good football," said Mario Zagallo, Brazil's coach, whose record as player and coach against Chile is 12-0. "Our second half was the best football we have played since the beginning of the World Cup. My players were able to develop the kind of game that I like. Brazil found a good way to play — Brazil's way."

That much was obvious. But Zagallo was perfectly candid when asked to assess Brazil's chances for the rest of the tournament. "We are going all the way," he said without hesitation.

Chile certainly was in no position to argue, and nonpartisans agreed that the defending champions played as if they intended to be present on July 12 when the Cup will be awarded. The New York Yankees right now are the Brazil of baseball. Brazil's lineup is potent from front to back, or whichever direction you care to look at it. Chile — as any other opponent might — was poised to confront the likes of Bebeto and Leonardo and Rivaldo and captain Dunga and Aldair and Roberto Carlos and Cafu, to say nothing of Ronaldo. Cesar Sampaio, the equivalent of the eighth batter in the lineup, put the ball into the goal with first his head and then his right foot.

"There was a bit of confusion at first," said Zagallo, "but we had the good luck that Cesar Sampaio scored the first goal and let us settle into our game."

While Cesar is his first name and Sampaio his family name, no one in Brazil knows him either as Sampaio or Cesar. He is Cesar Sampaio. As a Brazilian writer said, "His name has become one." Known as a friendly and religious man, Cesar Sampaio fell to his knees for an apparent prayer after scoring the game's first goal, a bullet of a header after Dunga swept him a free kick. Cesar Sampaio was well positioned for his second goal. Roberto Carlos bounced a free kick against the Chilean wall, the ball ricocheted off a startled Bebeto and dropped in front of Cesar Sampaio, who kicked to the right of goalkeeper Nelson Tapia, who went left.

"The first goal came as the result of an action we have practiced many times," said Cesar Sampaio. "We must continue to work to perfect the gift that God has given us, the gift of football. For this victory, I thank God."

With the score 2-0 and the pressure off, Ronaldo broke loose. He drew the penalty kick when Tapia tripped him as he broke in alone and seemed certain to score. For his second goal, Ronaldo glided down the right sideline and outdistanced Chile's defenders, who were caught upfield. When Tapia broke to his left, Ronaldo lofted the ball off his right instep into the left side of the net. That gave him three goals for the tournament.

Cesar Sampaio had scored only three goals since making the national team in 1991. He was passed over for the 1994 World Cup team and went to play for the Yokohama Flugels in Japan's J-League. Dunga also plays in the J-League, although more Brazilians play with the most prestigious clubs in Europe. Cesar Sampaio had to make the team a second time before earning the trip to France. He was asked recently to name Brazil's top player, but diplomatically answered: "It is difficult to say who is better or who is the most important in the national team." Even had he named someone, it wouldn't have been himself.

Chileans, though, will remember him. Chile had not advanced to the round of 16 since 1962, when it was beaten in the semifinals, 4-2, by Brazil in Santiago, a game in which Zagallo played. Chile had not played Brazil in World Cup qualifying since 1989 — and had been living with the fallout ever since. That year, the two teams first played a rough 1-1 tie in Santiago during which Chile's coach, Orlando Aravena, was ejected; Sebastiao Lazaroni, Brazil's coach, ranted so much he was roughed up by Chilean police, and Lazaroni called Aravena an "imbecile." With Brazil leading its second match, 1-0, before 140,000 in Rio, a flare was thrown from the stands and landed in front of Chilean goalkeeper Roberto Rojas. He faked an injury, Chile refused to continue, Brazil qualified for the '90 finals in Italy as a result, Rojas later admitted his trick and Chile was banned from the 1994 World Cup. To Chileans, Brazil means no party for them.

"Today is a happy day," said Zagallo, with no thought given to Chile's continuing torment. "Ronaldo played his best match so far. But I think he can play even better." And so the samba beat goes on.

© Copyright 1998 The Washington Post Company

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