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Brazil’s national soccer team goalkeeper Julio Cesar practices during a training session at the Granja Comary training center in Terescopolis, Brazil, June 8.
Brazilians betting on WC glory Pele looks to Brazil avenging ‘Maracanazo’ in final

SAO PAULO, June 9, (AFP): A whopping 68 percent of Brazilians believe their tea-m’s name is on the World Cup — and coach Luiz Felipe Scolari is the man to deliver it. With Brazil’s tournament opening clash with Croatia looming on Thursday, a survey by polling firm Datafolha underscored the sense of national expectation surrounding Scolari’s squad. An overwhelming majority of Brazilians expect the country’s players to clinch a sixth World Cup crown next month. Five percent were betting on Germany, while just three percent liked arch-rivals Argentina and reigning champions Spain. The poll also revealed a high level of confidence in Scolari to mastermind the win, with 68 percent rating his performance as great or good. Fourteen percent said it was average and two percent said it was bad or terrible. Sixteen percent did not respond.

The rating is better than the 51 percent Scolari had in June 2002, in the middle of the World Cup in Japan and South Korea — which Brazil went on to win, its fifth world title. Scolari returned to coach the national team in 2012, replacing Mano Menezes. During the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, then-coach Dunga had a 49-percent approval rating. Brazil were eliminated from that edition of the tournament in the quarter-finals. The World Cup kicks off Thursday in Sao Paulo against a backdrop of strikes, protests and widespread frustration over Brazil’s economic slow-down and the more than $11 billion being spent on the tournament.

Datafolha said 54 percent of Brazilians believe the Cup will do the country more harm than good, while 36 percent say the opposite. If protests erupt during the World Cup, as they did during last year’s Confederations Cup, 65 percent of Brazilians say they will be ashamed, 25 percent say they will be proud and 10 percent say they don’t know, the pollster found. Brazil avenging their traumatic 1950 World Cup final defeat by beating Uruguay in the final in July would be the ideal result said Brazilian legend Pele. The 73-year-old three time World Cup winner said in answer tyo a question of whether he would like a Brazil vs Argentina final on July 13 at the Maracana it would be much more to his taste to play Uruguay and beat them.

“I would prefer to have a Brazil vs Uruguay final in order that we could avenge our defeat in 1950,” Pele told a select group of journalists invited by FIFA to a bar in Sao Paulo. The Uruguayans stunned the 200,000 spectators at the Maracana into silence back in 1950 when a late goal earned them a 2-1 win and that was enough on the old system for them to be crowned world champions and not Brazil, who went into the match just requiring a draw. The match earned the nickname the ‘Maracanazo’ on the back of it. Pele, the record goalscorer for Brazil, said that the importance of what football had done for Brazil’s worldwide reputation could not be underestimated.

“I would say to the young that the World Cup is the tournament which allowed people throughout the world to learn about Brazil. “I began my World Cup career in 1958 in Sweden when I was 17 years old. “Nobody knew anything about us. Nobody, not even a journalist came to see us. “People confused Brazil with Argentina and the Amazon ... they were all the same thing to people. “Brazil became known to them because of the World Cup.”

Pele, who eventually retired from football in 1977 and has had a varied career since embracing acting followed by politics and latterly as an ambassador for the sport, said that he wouldn’t give a scoreline for Brazil’s opening game of the tournament against Croatia on Thursday. “The important thing is not seeking to win 1-0 or 2-0,” he said. “The primary thing above all else is to respect your adversary and to be prepared for everything because in football one can play magnificently for 85 minutes and then be very unlucky in the final five minutes which can change everything. “It is imperative to be ready.”

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