Brazil revs up for World Cup

<img border='0' align='left' title=' ' src=' ' class='caption'> Very few people are betting against Brazil at the World Cup.

updated: February 25, 2007 11:35 IST
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Very few people are betting against Brazil at the World Cup. Brazil has many of the best players in the world, a record five World Cup titles, and one of the greatest traditions in soccer. The national team has won two of the last three titles - and is coming off a successful season last year. There's no denying Brazil is heavily favored to win the tournament in Germany. The Brazilians admit that - as do most of their opponents. The Brazilians, however, will be the first to point out that things likely won't be as easy as they look. ''It's true that we have great chances to win the World Cup,'' Brazil coach Carlos Alberto Parreira said recently. ''But that doesn't mean it's a done deal, we still need to play the matches and win them. And we know that's not going to be easy. All teams will be trying their best to beat the defending champions.'' Brazil is a stronger favorite than ever as this World Cup approaches. In addition to comfortably leading FIFA's world rankings since 2002, Brazil won the 2004 Copa America and last year's Confederations Cup. It also finished first in the South American World Cup qualifying group, ahead of rival Argentina. The team will be led by two-time FIFA player of the year Ronaldinho, and he will be supported by all-stars including Kaka, Ronaldo, Adriano, Cafu, Robinho and Roberto Carlos. ''We have a very strong team, very technical and experienced,'' Ronaldo said. Brazil's World Cup record is hard to be matched. Brazil has reached the semifinals in 10 of the 17 World Cups since the competition started in 1930, and is the only team to have played in every tournament. It was runner-up twice, including in 1998 to host France. Brazil has played 87 World Cup matches, winning 60 (including the last seven), drawing 14 and losing only 13. It has outscored its opponents 191-82. But no matter how good Brazil may be, history shows it might have a hard time in Germany. After winning its first two titles in 1958 and 1962, Brazil was heavily favored to clinch a third in 1966 in England. Even with Pele in his prime, the team played poorly and was eliminated in the first round. Another disappointment took place in the 1974 World Cup in West Germany, after Brazil's dazzling campaign to win its third title in the 1970 tournament in Mexico. This time without Pele, Brazil was eliminated by the Netherlands and finished fourth. ''Several times the favorites came back home early,'' Parreira said. ''Just remember France and Argentina in 2002, they had chances to win the title but were knocked out early.'' In 1982 in Spain, Brazil assembled a great team with stars including Zico, Socrates and Falcao. The team enchanted fans and cruised through the first two rounds, then was shocked 3-2 by Italy when it needed only a draw to advance. By contrast, Brazil's fourth and fifth titles came when Brazil was not heavily favored. In 1994, with Parreira in command, Brazil surprised everyone en route to the championship in the United States. And in 2002, the Brazilians won despite limping into the final tournament in South Korea and Japan, clinching a berth only in its final qualifying match. Italy and Germany are the closest to Brazil in titles, with three each. Argentina and Uruguay are next with two each. (AP)