Romario shoots, scores in last match for Brazil

Veteran striker Romario scored his last goal and played his final 39 minutes for Brazil’s national team on Wednesday, helping the five-time world champions beat Guatemala 3-0 in a friendly at Sao Paulo.

It was Romario’s last official match with Brazil, ending the career of one of Brazil’s greatest soccer idols.

“It’s a very special moment,” Romario told reporters.

“I’ve been very proud to be able to wear the Brazilian jersey all these years. I’ve always played with a lot of heart, always trying to make the Brazilian people happy.”

Romario, who shed tears before the match as Brazil’s national anthem was played, netted with a header from about eight metres in the 16th minute—his 71st goal in 84 matches wearing Brazil’s famed yellow jersey.

Romario was substituted in the 39th, and the match was stopped for almost five minutes as he left the field with close to 35 000 fans at Pacaembu stadium chanting his name.

“I’ve been extremely happy for all that I’ve accomplished,” Romario said.

“I want to thank the fans for everything.”

Romario (39) raced around the field waving his jersey, applauded by fans, players and coaches.

Corinthians defender Anderson had put Brazil ahead with a header in the fourth minute, and Sao Paulo striker Grafite closed the scoring with a shot from the top of the area in the 64th.

Brazil’s top stars were not released by their European clubs, and coach Carlos Alberto Parreira used a 20-man squad from Brazilian teams—mainly young prospects who rarely get a chance on the national team.

Palmeiras goalkeeper Marcos and Santos midfielder Ricardinho were the only players returning from the squad that won the 2002 World Cup in South Korea and Japan.

Romario was included by the Brazilian Soccer Confederation as a special 23rd player as part of a tribute to Brazil’s 1994 World Cup winning side.

Romario’s last game on Wednesday happened nearly 18 years after his first, when he came in as a substitute in Brazil’s 1-0 loss to Northern Ireland in a 1987 friendly at Dublin. His first goal also came in 1987, when he helped Brazil beat Finland 3-2 in Helsinki, in another friendly.

It was Romario’s first game with Brazil’s squad since 2001, when the team lost 1-0 to Uruguay in a 2002 World Cup qualifier.

The hero of the 1994 World Cup championship team, Romario is Brazil’s second-best all-time scorer, only behind Pele.

The former FC Barcelona and PSV Eindhoven striker was Brazil’s high scorer, and named the tournament’s most valuable player during the 1994 World Cup in the United States.
Other members of the team, including Branco, Rai and captain Dunga also were at Pacaembu for the tribute.

Romario dedicated his goal to his daughter Ivy, who was born recently with Down’s Syndrome.

Despite the farewell match, Romario has said he is not done with soccer yet. He recently extended his contract with Rio de Janeiro club Vasco da Gama until the end of the Brazilian championship in December.

Romario, who will play in Fifa’s first Beach Soccer World Cup in May, has been on the verge of retirement since the end of last year. He twice announced he was quitting, then reversed his decision.

In addition to Romario’s farewell, the match also marked the 65th anniversary of Pacaembu stadium, and the 40th anniversary of Globo TV, Brazil’s main television network.

It was Brazil’s first match at Pacaembu in nearly 40 years. The last time was in 1968, when Brazil beat Uruguay 2-0 in a farewell match for Brazilian defender Djalma Santos.

Brazil elected to play Guatemala—third in Concacaf’s World Cup qualifying group - only after rejections from Argentina, Uruguay and Ecuador. - Sapa-AP

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