My Choice/ Brazil�s 4th forward
Long Whistle/ Why spare the best till the semis?
Victoria lose
Bangalore Races/Antequera may amend failure

June 28: 
I am not superstitious. And I�m not espousing the Mohammed Habeeb Special Theory of Coincidence. But look at this piece of statistic. The first time Brazil won the World Cup, in 1958, wingback Bellini was skipper. In 1962 another deep defender Mauro was captain, and in that great year 1970, it was right back Carlos Alberto. This time it�s right back Cafu. No, that�s not my method of choosing the Best Player. But what fun if it coincides, because from what I saw in the semi-finals, this man has come of age, finally, in his third World Cup.

Brazil�s star-studded attack force is surely the most dominant R-line on the spectrometer picture. But believe me, those star constellations have been more under the microscope than Britney Spears� personal effects. Lucio of Bayer Leverkusen has also been exceptional, especially in the latter stages of the meet, and I am even discounting the goal he gave away to England�s Michael Owen. But what Cafu scores on is industry, diligence and confidence. Since coming into the Brazil team 17 minutes into the 1994 finals, he has slowly become a source of confidence in a Brazil defence that has earned a name for anything but that.

I see Cafu as Brazil�s fourth forward. This 32-year-old AS Roma player has put his faith in the goodness of overlapping, and in the semi-final he was streaking across zones like a comet, building attacks. His interceptions are clean as a whistle; not even a penumbra of doubt there. And the refreshing accent of this shooting star has been the care with which he has managed the gaps he leaves in the defence. Not for nothing will he be in his 110th international Sunday. If Owen could score it was not Cafu�s fault. What I saw was how Turk Hasan Sas, one of the best withdrawn forwards in this Cup, was handled. That needs some guts, surely more imagination.

Okay, there are those fault lines, and versus Germany they could stare mockingly (Inshallah, it won�t happen), but in the semi-finals Cafu�s orbit seemed steady and the rough edges seemed to have been adequately sand-papered. He has been smooth as baby-skin, effective, and even the Turks should have found his innovations kebab-spicy.

The other man who needs obvious mention is German skipper-goaltender Oliver Kahn. This big man has a bigger appetite for challenge. He regurgitates a dire situation and throws up a save. By the time you have finished heaving that sigh of relief, the ball has travelled to rival territory, in attack. This is a great goalkeeper, surely the best in this tournament.

Let me tell you how I would feel, as a player, with the knowledge of an Oliver Kahn under my team�s bar. Peace. That�s the only word that comes to mind. Kahn is solid and mature, all pretty much matching his huge physique.

Germany have not shone in individual brilliance, depending squarely on teamwork. And if you have that man to fall back on, every time, you are the better for it. The defence performs better, the forwards show more guts, and there is an overall sense of achievement, so gratifying. The team built on its personality. This is a factor I have talked about earlier, and people like Kahn add to that personality, the stature of a team grows.

For a goalkeeper there is always that chance factor working quietly. Without that it is like an uncharted section of the universe and you never really know where to focus. Kahn, shall I say, provides that focus.


June, 28: 
It was good to see Fifa admitting that the referees at the World Cup in Japan and South Korea have made some major mistakes. The Fifa president had earlier put the blame squarely on assistant referees and that was grossly unfair.

It took 60 matches for Mr Sepp Blatter to realise that he should instruct the referees committee to pick only the �best� for the remaining four games! That means, Fifa knew who the best were and still did not pick them for the first 60 matches. Isn�t that strange?

The errors in judgment continued in the quarter finals, too, with three of the four matches throwing up controversies.

In the first quarter final, referee Felipe Ramos Rizo of Mexico flashed the red card at Ronaldinho for stamping English defender David Mills in the 57th minute. It was a foul, but definitely not as serious as those committed by Frenchman Thierry Henry (vs Uruguay) or Portugal�s Joao Pinto (vs Korea) for which they were ejected.

The Fifa disciplinary committee was judicious enough to restrict the suspension to one match only. Otherwise, Brazil would have missed the services of their new-found hero in the final.

Scottish referee Hugh Dallas overlooked a genuine penalty when German defender Torstel Frings handled the ball on his goalline in the quarter final against Germany.

In any case, US striker Antony Sanneh�s attempt looked to have already crossed the line off a deflection from Oliver Khan�s shoulder. The Americans thus suffered a double-blow from one incident and ultimately lost the game by a solitary goal.

The Korea-Spain match was the most controversial of the entire championship. Two Spanish �goals� were disallowed by Egypt�s Gamal Ghandour. Nothing looked wrong with the first one � in the 49th minute � as Baraja�s header, off a Puyol free-kick, found the back of the net. The referee later explained that he had blown for a shirt-pulling infringement.

In the second minute of extra-time, Spain again �scored� through a header. This time, Morientes connected a back-centre from Joaquin and looked to have sealed his country�s semi-final entry with a golden goal.

But the referee again played the villain, accepting his assistant Michael Raghoonath�s verdict that the ball had crossed the goalline before Joaquin pulled it back.

Television replays showed the ball was on the line, and as per the laws of the game, the ball is out of play only if it has crossed the line wholly. So Morientes and Spain were clearly unfortunate.

Spain�s cup of misfortune flowed over in the shootout also. Joaquin�s penalty was blocked by Korean custodian Lee Woo-jae but only after he had moved forward by at least one metre before the Spanish forward had actually taken the shot. A re-kick should have been ordered, but the referee failed to spot the goalie�s movement.

The Turkey-Senegal quarter final was handled efficiently by Colombian Oscar Ruiz. He did nothing to add to the huge list of controversies.

Thereafter, Fifa employed the �best� referees to silence the European lobby �led� by Portugal, Italy and Spain. Not surprisingly, seven of the eight officials in the two semi-finals happened to be Europeans � the odd man out being from the US.

The refereeing in the Germany versus Korea semi-final was quite okay but for two incidents of shirt-pulling against Ahn Jung-hwan.

The Koreans were awarded free-kicks on both occasions, but both German �offenders� � Thorsten Frings and Thomas Linke � deserved to be cautioned.

Dane Kim Milton Nielson was more or less in control of the second semi-final � the grudge tie between Brazil and Turkey. Towards the end, though, with the Turks getting restless, Hasan Sas kicked Denilson for which he should have been expelled.

Earlier, Sas was told to take off a necklace which he shouldn�t have been wearing on the field of play. Nielson didn�t notice it till the 33rd minute.

With only two matches left, one hopes the 2002 World Cup will end on a clean, non-controversial note. A memorable final will go a long way in erasing memories of a tournament which has often made headlines for the wrong reasons.


Calcutta, June 28: 
Garalgacha beat Victoria Sporting 2-1 in a first division group B tie Friday.

Sachin promotion

ESPN and STAR Sports have roped in Sachin Tendulkar to promote their programmes, according to a press release.


Bangalore, June 28: 
A shot-head second to Purple Princess, in his last start, the D. Byramji-ward Antequera may amend failure and lift the 1,400m Karnataka Sub-Area Cup here on Saturday. Cristopher Alford partners the Green Forest-Silver Reflet son.


2 pm: Tina�s Turn 1. Asoleado 2. Fantastic Fortune 3.
2.30 pm: She�s A Bird 1. Triple X 2. Helen of Troy 3.
3 pm: Star Treasure 1. Kingley 2. Fiddle Faddle 3.
3.30 pm: Barroness Orczy 1. Cool Camp 2. Saturn Star 3.
4 pm: Antequera 1. Refresher 2. Whatmore 3.
4.30 pm: Presidium 1. Premiere 2. Baby Face Killer 3.
5 pm: Nationalistic 1. Cut Time 2. Milan 3.
5.30 pm: Dust On The Bottle 1. Ankole 2. Genuine Article 3.

Day�s Best: Star Treasure

Double: Presidium & Nationalistic

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