/ 31 May 2006

Brazilians all over in World Cup

Crazy as it sounds, not all Brazilians will be rooting for their country in the 2006 World Cup.

In fact, some will be working hard to keep Carlos Alberto Parreira and his Brazilian players from repeating as world champions.

To be fair, most would have been happy to help their countrymen — but they couldn’t catch on with Brazil’s team, so they’ll take part as members of other national squads instead. In addition to Parreira, four other Brazilians will be coaching national teams, and five Brazilian-born players have been summoned to play with other nations.

And it’s no surprise: the country’s soccer talent pool is so deep that some say its second-stringers could contend for the title. Standouts such as Real Madrid’s Julio Baptista and Valencia’s Edu were left off the final roster.

”Every time is like this,” Mario Zagallo, Brazil’s assistant coach and a former player, said recently. ”There are always a lot of options for Brazil.”

The most prominent names among coaches include Zico, a former Brazilian all-star who commands the Japanese national team, and Luiz Felipe Scolari, who led Brazil to their fifth world title in the 2002 World Cup and now coaches Portugal.

Players include one of Portugal’s stars, Deco, who was born in Brazil and grew up playing locally before adopting Portuguese citizenship. The FC Barcelona midfielder said he made the move after realising he would not have an opportunity to play on Brazil’s national team.

Parreira recently said Deco would likely have a chance to play for Brazil now, but Fifa doesn’t allow players to switch back their citizenship once it’s been changed.

Brazilian-born midfielder Antonio Naelson made a similar move, seeking Mexican citizenship so he could play for that country.

Barely known in Brazil, Naelson has been included in coach Ricardo Lavolpe’s Mexican squad for the World Cup.

Spain enters the tournament with midfielder Marcos Senna, a 29-year-old Brazilian naturalised Spaniard who moved to Villarreal in 2002 after failing to settle with Brazilian clubs. He debuted with Spain on March 1 as a substitute in a 3-2 win over Côte d’Ivoire in a friendly.

”It would be a dream come true to participate in this World Cup,” he said before his final selection.

Japan, one of Brazil’s opponents in group F, selected midfielder Alessandro Santos, who was born in Brazil and now is a regular starter on Zico’s team. And Tunisia will count on Brazilian striker Jose Clayton, a key player in the African team’s campaign to qualify for their second straight World Cup finals.

Another Brazilian in Germany is coach Marcos Paqueta, who will lead Saudi Arabia. Paqueta, who has been coaching Arab clubs since 2004, has seven Brazilians as members of his staff.

Costa Rica also will be led by a Brazilian coach for the second consecutive World Cup. Alexandre Guimaraes will lead the Costa Ricans when they open the tournament against hosts Germany on June 9. — Sapa-AP