Brazil Favored to Edge Belgium
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KOBE, Japan (AP) _ Even with its trio of super-strikers back together, Brazil refuses to take Belgium lightly in the second round of the World Cup.
Brazil, a heavy favorite, is entering Monday’s game with caution, aware that this has been the World Cup of upsets. Argentina, defending champion France and Portugal were knocked out in the first round.
Belgium _ still celebrating its qualification for the second round _ can’t be written off.
``We never underestimate an opponent. The Belgians are a strong team and they showed that against Russia,″ Juninho Paulista said.
``Watch out. We still have not won anything, we have only got through one round,″ coach Luiz Felipe Scolari added. ``The first objective is Belgium, a very dangerous team.″
Scolari’s team is also dangerous, especially with Ronaldo, Rivaldo and Ronaldinho, Brazil’s brilliant attackers.
``We have great athletes who can win a game at any moment,″ he warned.
Ronaldinho, who sat out against Costa Rica, will take his place up front at the expense of Edilson. Ronaldinho’s return means the much-feared ``Three R″ strikeline is back in action. The trio already has eight of the side’s 11 goals in three matches. Ronaldo has four, Rivaldo three and Ronaldinho one.
``We will obviously have to be on top of our game if we are to beat them,″ Belgium coach Robert Waseige said. ``But it is just nice that we can even dream of beating Brazil.″
The Belgians are confident entering the match. They needed two late goals to beat Russia 3-2 and advance from Group H. It was the team’s first World Cup win in seven matches, the last one coming in 1994. Belgium had five straight ties before defeating Russia.
``We are strong against teams who are so much more experienced, so much more talented,″ midfielder Yves Vanderhaeghe said.
Belgium’s best hope is to challenge Brazil’s defense, which has struggled. But that means opening up the game, something that plays to Brazil’s strengths.
Scolari has dismissed repeated suggestions the team was regressing from the defensive strides it made in 1998, when it lost in the championship game.
``Brazil is strong in every position,″ Scolari said. ``It seems strange to me that people would question our defense. We only have the problems that every other team has.″
And those teams can’t match the South Americans’ firepower.
Belgium, playing its 10th World Cup, has never faced Brazil, which has participated in every tournament.