Brazil, perhaps the proudest of soccer nations, came to the 13th World Cup this year with plenty to prove. Its zealous fans have been derisive toward the team, which, despite arriving here in the role of favorite, has been hampered by organizational problems, not to mention injuries.
Today at Guadalajara's Jalisco Stadium, Brazil opened its World Cup bid with a controversial 1-0 victory over Spain in a Group D match.
In a Group C opening match at Leon, heavily favored France defeated Canada, 1-0, on a goal by Jean-Pierre Papin in the 33rd minute of the second half.
In the day's first match, a second-half goal by forward Socrates proved decisive. However, Spanish fans long will remember a sequence several minutes earlier in which Spain's Michel appeared to score, but his shot off the top post was ruled no goal.
Brazil, the only nation to qualify for all 13 World Cups, thus took an important first step toward winning an unprecedented fourth title. Despite the loss, Spain, also, is expected to advance to the knockout round of 16 from Group D, which includes Northern Ireland and Algeria.
Brazil Coach Tele Santana has faced numerous problems: star center-forward Zico did not play today because of a knee injury, several other ailments kept key players off the 22-man roster, highly regarded Leandro opted not to join the team and Eder and Sidnei were left off because of disciplinary problems.
"We need to play attacking soccer to win," Santana said before the match. "Not much has changed, in that regard, since the 1982 World Cup (in which Brazil played disappointingly)."
After today's victory, in which Brazil's offense lacked punch, Santana emphasized: "We attacked, but we had no cohesion much of the time. I thought Spain played well, but they seemed to lose their spirit in the closing minutes."
If Spain lost its spirit, it probably can be traced to the ninth minute of the second half. Spanish fullback Victor Munoz sent a corner kick to the right side and Antonio Macedo headed it out to Michel, who, from just beyond the penalty area, kicked the ball with his right foot off the top of the goal.
Referee Christopher Bambridge of Australia ruled it to be no goal, but television replays clearly showed the ball dropping into the net area, beyond the white chalk line.
"It was a goal in Spain," Michel told Spanish reporters afterward.
The Spanish protest went for naught, and momentum seemed to shift to Brazil.
In the 17th minute of the second half, Brazil's Careca penetrated deep down the right side and his shot on goal, too, hit the top post. Spanish goalkeeper Andoni Zubizarreta fell down diving to his left, leaving Socrates and offensive-minded fullback Junior alone in front of the goal. Either could have converted the rebound; Socrates softly headed it into the net as Zubizarreta got up a moment too late.
After the goal, Brazil kept intense pressure on the Spanish defense, and it was not until the final 10 minutes that Spain began to threaten again. But goalkeeper Carlos made good saves on shots by Michel and Jose Antonio Camacho.
Perhaps the Spanish player most exasperated by the loss was Emilio Butragueno, a 22-year-old center-forward. Spain tried to work its three-man, triangular offense deep in Brazilian territory, and forward Julio Salinas often came just inches from getting a heavily marked Butragueno the ball in the right spots.
"We played with heart. It is a shame we could not get a tie," said Spanish Coach Miguel Munoz.
The first half was one of frustration for both teams. Neither team could generate an attack despite a fast-paced, entertaining style of soccer. Carlos did not have to make a save; Zubizarreta made only one.
Butragueno was hounded constantly, but he had one good chance. After Zubizarreta punted the ball nearly into the Brazil penalty area, the Brazilians failed to clear it at the 25-minute mark. Butragueno, unmarked, raced for the ball to the left of the goal area, but Carlos gambled and reached the ball at the same time to thwart a potential shot.
In the day's second match, France had at least nine scoring opportunities in the first 30 minutes of the second half -- including four shots by Papin -- but the 1982 third-place World Cup finishers could not convert.
Finally, France's Luis Fernandez sent a crossing pass to the left of the goal mouth, and Yannick Stopyra played it on a short hop just as it was going out of bounds. Stopyra, with his right foot, sent the ball into the goal area, and Papin headed it in.
France dominated despite the fact that midfielder Michel Platini, whom many consider to be the world's best player, was not much of a factor.
Canada is making its first World Cup appearance. Coach Tony Waiters surprised many by benching striker Branko Segota (of the Major Indoor Soccer League's San Diego Sockers) and goalkeeper Tino Lettieri (of the Minnesota Strikers) because their MISL obligations kept them out of training with Canada's national team. Lettieri's replacement, 20-year-old Paul Dolan, played very well against France.