Talking Tactics/ Brazil hold slight edge...
My Choice/ The duel within the big battle
Ticket-seekers to be screened
Customs win
Bangalore Racing/ ‘Classe’ fancied

Yokohama, June 29: 
The most extraordinary World Cup on so many accounts has just one more trick up its sleeves. Korea-Japan 2002 has witnessed an unprecedented exodus of heavyweights and football has hardly been fluent and flawless. Although the spectacular, sometimes, has risen above the mundane, it hardly becomes a generalised exhibit, since determination and teamwork scored steadily over innovation and individual brilliance. Under such circumstances, a final featuring the polar giants of the game is truly a gigantic treat.

This World Cup has firmly established the fact that the fittest will survive and not the finest. A high percentage of the 63 matches were similar. Reputation and heritage was of little relevance and it came down to how fast the teams had read each other, how they got adjusted to the need of the day and how efficiently they organised resources to get the job done.

Surprises just kept coming in and it turned out to be the people’s World Cup rather than that of the pedigreed, as five continents found representation in the last eight. Brazil and Germany have come this far because they have applied themselves, been street-smart, showed determination and also had their share of luck.

Any peep through prediction has made one a monkey of himself in this World Cup, but a closer look reveals a trend, some sort of a clue to decode this crazy puzzle. Going by that, following how the teams have fared in the different departments, Brazil hold a little bit of an edge over Germany. The yardsticks are defensive organisation, midfield mobility and attacking prowess.

How these parts combine on a given day is not known and there lies the element of uncertainty. However, one thing is for sure, this Brazil or Germany are not as compact as the Brazilian champions of 1994 and the German winners of 1990. Those units were way ahead in allround ability and compactness.

However, weather may also play a significant role in determining the outcome. It’s been raining since I landed here this evening. If it continues and the ground gets sluggish, Germany will certainly fancy their chances a little more. The Brazilians, comfortable with the ball on the ground, will find it difficult to control on a turf left heavy by rain.

Otherwise, Brazil possess the best attack at the moment. There is variety in their aggressive moves, thrust from the wings, they can increase men in the attacking third, and the R trio is in roaring form. Ronaldinho’s return means Rivaldo will enjoy more freedom and the latter’s ability to create and destroy can only get better in such a situation.

No point in discussing how precious a weapon Ronaldo is, though the support players, barring the wing-backs, can hardly instil fear in the German ranks.

Germany’s attack, contrarily, has not drifted from the traditional ploy of banking on aerial balls and considering the talents at their disposal, they have done well to play to limitations.

Germany also have one more limitation. Apart from the suspended Michael Ballack, other midfielders have hardly joined the strikers when they are on the offensive. Ballack’s absence reduces Germany’s strength substantially, though missing the key player can often inspire the rest to perform beyond capacity.

Dietmar Hamann, touted to move up to fill in the Ballack gap, was very effective deeper down in the semi-final, and it’s yet to be seen how he fares in the new role. A lot will depend on Oliver Neuville, who has this knack of climbing up the flanks and cutting in through sensitive spots.

In midfield, Germany are ahead of Brazil in blocking and snatching. This is the biggest shortcoming of Scolari’s side. There was virtually no resistance near or just inside the centre against the stream of attacks that lashed the Brazilian defence in the last two games.

This is not a good sign. Defending from the tip of the box, however skilled you are in your job, is risky business and teams dependent on this like Italy, have already paid the price. However, German medios stand a lot closer to each other these days, which has helped them in plugging the gaps, leading up to their defensive zone.

Germany are decidedly better in defensive organisation. They generally prefer the four-back method, but looked in no discomfort when they played with three central defenders in the semi-final. Their biggest plus is they take minimum risk and commit very few unforced errors. In Oliver Kahn, they have a far superior goalkeeper than Brazil’s Marcos. This, again, is a bad sign. It’s encouraging to have a goalkeeper like Kahn, but if he becomes Germany’s mainstay, it only shows that things are not all well elsewhere.

It’s not going to be a duel between Ronaldo and Kahn because that means Brazil’s chances hinge on their ability to finish. This also means a misinterpretation of the chinks which still exist in their midfield and backline. It will, thus, boil down to a clash, more physical and practical, between German resilience and Brazil’s ability to blend grit with flair. However, slight advantage with Brazil for the cutting edge they possess.


June 29: 
The final will be unique. That’s the really happy part. I have enjoyed this World Cup like none other, probably because even if you are rooting for the underdogs you aren’t marked out as politically correct. I love a bit of the weird, and I understand why I chuckle under my breath while going through the team lists. The giants have identified themselves now, and it is possibly a foregone conclusion, those I should look out for.

Germany first. Sad Michael Ballack won’t be there in the final — his second booking was a work of heroics — so who do the Germans depend on?

One thing about this German team has been the fact that it has not been overtly dependant on any particular player. Good for them, but Ballack and Oliver Kahn stood out, still. Tomorrow, expect Kahn to rise to the occasion.

The three Brazilian Rs have magnetic bearing. I had carefully kept them in the freezer to be used as the vital ingredients later. Now is the time. Rivaldo and Ronaldinho are workhorse-geniuses. Notice how Rivaldo has not picked any major injury in this meet and how he has always pre-empted bookings. That’s style. And there’s a great deal to learn from him, even from his wild theatrics in the group match versus Turkey when he acted the victim. Football is played in the head, too, you know.

Now Rivaldo says this will definitely be his last World Cup. Brazil will miss him. Ronaldinho is young enough to look forward to the best days — and Pele says so — so you can see more of him. But Ronaldo is the unique one. He is the striker, the chaser, the snatcher, the medio and a genius. A fabulous package.

In the last World Cup Ronaldo failed, and so did Brazil. This was no coincidence. His injury hurt Brazil no end. Guess there was too much dependence on this man. This time, free of injury, we have seen what this man is really all about. He has strength, power, he is a text book on how to turn, how to shoot, how to use every fraction of time to advantage. A striker to his bootlaces, and then you think he could have been better in the withdrawn position as well. What a spoil of good choices! And, with six goals to his credit he is in running for the Golden Boot. I believe Rivaldo and Miroslav Klose (five each) will not catch up.

However, there is another solid reason why I place my money on Ronaldo. This is in the context of the German team. The Germans thrive on counter-attacks. Starting either from Kahn himself or from the midfield (then, again, the absence of Ballack will make a difference), long balls travel quickly into threatening zone. Otherwise, their natural style is to keep the ball moving on top of their defensive third and into the mid-third till the opening is spotted and till the opponent tires. What happens in flank runs by Brazilians is that they remain vulnerable to cut-offs. Ronaldinho and Rivaldo could be wiped off attack lines (not considering their genius, that is). Ronaldo moves the mid-line and that is where you have major problems in cutting him short.

This, coupled with his sheer strength and unusual determination makes Ronaldo the V6 engine that develops the maximum power and torque.

Again, considering from the German point of view, and considering that the Brazilian defence might not be fast enough for the quick German counter-attacks, attack will surely form Brazil’s best defence. This will be a customised slot for Ronaldo.

The catch is in a German strategy where zonal markers keep the attackers in check till the mid-third and then sweep the loose ones over till help, in the form of the breaks, arrive. Easier said that done, of course, because Brazil pack in ugly firepower. If it rains, though, Germany would want to finish it off before extra time. Brazilians don’t look too sure-footed on soggy ground. But into extra time Kahn will make the difference.

Back to Kahn. He is leader material. This is charisma; and what good is a World Cup without some spice? Put it in a stodgy broth and you have performance, skill and discipline.

And Ronaldo? Well, there is a prize for the Best Player of the World Cup, isn’t there? Cross your fingers.


Calcutta, June 29: 
For the first time in any cricket World Cup, the 2003 event will see the screening of ticket-seekers.

“ The underlying reason, quite clearly, is security and all particulars will figure in the spectators’ data base,” revealed Dr Ali Bacher, the 2003 World Cup’s executive director, this morning.

[While the tournament’s opening ceremony is in Cape Town on February 8, the final is slated for March 23 in Johannesburg.]

Speaking to The Telegraph from London, Dr Bacher added: “Every ticket will be bar-coded… Moreover, I’m confident the screening will be foolproof.”

Though Dr Bacher declined to comment on whether the procedure was largely aimed at keeping the Marlon Aromstams away, the home bookies’ ‘infiltration’-factor must surely have influenced the screening bit.

Much, after all, has happened between the last edition (England, 1999) and now.

While fans from overseas will (among other details) have to make available passport particulars, South Africans will be asked to furnish their national ID number.

Aromstam, it may be recalled, interacted with the late Hansie Cronje and his presence during last November’s (India-South Africa) Test in Port Elizabeth had sparked a controversy.

Then, of course, Aromstam had bought his ticket across-the-counter. In the World Cup, however, that won’t be possible. Indeed, the 2003 event won’t just be the longest and biggest, it will see other firsts as well.

Significantly, the move to screen ticket-seekers complements Pretoria’s decision to reject visa applications from those linked with match-fixing.

The South African government got into the act after Dr Bacher referred the ICC’s anti-corruption unit chief, Lord Paul Condon, to the “revelant authorities.”

“I can’t go into details, but I introduced Lord Condon to the people who matter once he suggested, at a recent meeting, that over 100 people associated with match-fixing be kept away from the World Cup,” Dr Bacher remarked.

Lord Condon, incidentally, is a member of the tournament’s Security Directorate.

Meanwhile, Dr Bacher announced that the World Cup — being projected as a celebration of sport in Africa — will be “supported” by 40 “sports ambassadors” from the continent.

Only one (possibly icon Graeme Pollock) will be a cricketer, while others should be drawn from disciplines such as athletics, golf, rugby and soccer.

Thirtytwo ambassadors will be from South Africa, while Kenya will have four representatives. The other two African nations in the 14-strong tournament, Zimbabwe and rookies Namibia, will also be represented: Three and one, respectively.

Cricket-specific ambassadors (all non-South Africans), by the way, have already been shortlisted. Clive Lloyd, though, has opted out as he is now a full-time Match Referee.

Of the other (cricket) ambassadors, Sir Richard Hadlee, Ian Botham and Sir Vivian Richards have confirmed availability, while Sunil Gavaskar’s plans haven’t been finalised.


Calcutta, June 29: 
Customs beat George Telegraph 2-1 in a first division group A league match at the Mohun Bagan ground Saturday. Sanjay Kundu scored a brace for Customs while Rana Dutta reduced the margin for George Telegraph.

Elsewhere, Railway FC and CFC were locked goalless. The match between Milan Bithee and Bata at the Mohammedan Sporting could not take place as the markings on the ground were washed out due to rains.

Bagan recruits

The AIFF released a list of 19 players in the inter-state transfers that included four — Umesh Sharma and Santosh Singh from TFA, Manohar Joshi and Sunil Chettri from Delhi — for Mohun Bagan. Bagan also signed in Tariq Anwar from George Telegraph Saturday.


Bangalore, June 29: 
I. Sait’s ward, Premier Classe, may win the 1,200m Juvenile Sprinters’ Million here tomorrow.


12.15 pm: Dance Royale 1. Dark Shadow 2. Nesara 3.

12.45 pm: Authentic Power 1. Nice And Noble 2. Alto 3.

1.15 pm: Broken Silence 1. Flying Spur 2. Diamonds Galore 3.

1.45 pm: Sea Legend 1. It’s A Steal 2. Arrival 3.

2.15 pm: Native Red 1. Common Wealth 2. Star of Heaven 3.

2.45 pm: Star Strider 1. Imperial Legend 2. Aureus 3.

3.15 pm: Premier Classe 1. Castle Park 2. Noble Executive 3.

3.45 pm: Saladin 1. Crown Ice 2. Crystal Charm 3.

4.15 pm: Shara 1. Dover 2. Flaming Tower 3.

Day’s Best: Premier Classe

Double: Sea Legend & Star Strider.

Saturday’s Bangalore results

(With inter-state dividends)

1st race: Red Tigress (Abraham) 1; Burning Roma 2; Sushmitha 3. Win Rs 63; (P) 22; 32; 12; (Q) 179; Shp: 70; (T) 916. Fav: Sushmitha.

2nd race: She’s A Bird (Warren) 1; Triple X 2; Charmed 3. Not run: Fantasy Run. Win Rs 34; (P) 15; 12; 18; (Q) 41; Shp: 37; (T) 243. Fav: Triple X.

3rd race: Star Treasure (Prakash) 1; Kingley 2; Fiddle Faddle 3. Win Rs 24; (P) 10; 17; 25; (Q) 60; Shp: 42; (T) 327. Fav: Generic Emperor.

4th race: Aveste (Aadesh) 1; Cool Camp 2; Barroness Orczy 3. Win Rs 43; (P) 18; 25; 19; (Q) 173; Shp: 70; (T) 1,297. Fav: Aveste.

5th race: Star Chieftan (Prakash) 1; Whatmore 2; Refresher 3. Win Rs 48; (P) 24; 29; 17; (Q) 252; Shp: 58; (T) 2,039. Fav: Antequera.

6th race: Mantle of Peace (Rutherford) 1; Baby Face Killer 2; Presidium 3. Win Rs 41; (P) 16; 16; 16; (Q) 74; Shp: 37; (T) 314. Fav: Mantle of Peace.

7th race: Nationalistic (Prakash) 1; Cut Time 2; Red Mamma 3. Not run: Milan. Win Rs 19; (P) 11; 17; 19; (Q) 31; Shp: 42; (T) 142. Fav: Nationalistic.

8th race: Genuine Article (Rajinder) 1; Polar Charge 2; Silver Feathers 3. Win Rs 51; (P) 22; 14; 27; (Q): 64; Shp: 60; (T) 392. Fav: Polar Charge.

Jackpot: Rs 5,426; (C) Rs 552.

Treble: (i) Rs 694; (ii) Rs 225.


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