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Fantastic Football So Far

, PELE EXCLUSIVE

 
 
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> Fantastic Football So Far, PELE EXCLUSIVE
zashakeel
post Jun 22 2006, 05:44 PM
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O Rei Pele is a man who needs no introduction. FIFAís universally accepted choice as the greatest player of the 20th century, Pele makes headlines wherever he goes. The media hang on his every word, particularly when the great man offers his view on a topic as weighty as the FIFA World Cupô.
The Brazilian legend is well aware of the impact his words have, as he made clear to FIFAworldcup.com. ďIím not afraid of speaking my mind. A few World Cups ago, I said that Colombia were playing very well, and that they could end up doing better than Brazil and Argentina. Even though they did play well in their first two games, they went out in the first round, and plenty of people took pleasure in the fact that I got it wrong.

ďBefore this particular tournament, nobody even mentioned Ecuador. People were only talking about Brazil and Argentina and I said that I had seen Ecuador play, that they were very good, and that they could get through the first phrase. And Ecuador are through! A lot of journalists stop making comments once things happen. That way itís easy.Ē

In this exclusive interview, Pele gives a candid assessment of the 2006 FIFA World Cup, and runs the rule over Brazilís performances so far. The Canarinho legend also reveals which players and teams have caught his eye, and much more besides.

FIFAworldcup.com: What has been your verdict on the FIFA World Cup up to this point? Have you been pleased with the standard of the matches?
Pele: Iím enjoying it very much. Firstly because the discipline and the consistency of the referees has been very good and they are clamping down on foul play. Of course, they will always make some mistakes, but discipline in the matches has been perfect. Secondly, because before the tournament many people said that this would be a World Cup without many goals, with very defensive teams, and yet the average number of goals per game has been excellent. I think this has been a better start to the tournament than in 2002.

How do your rate Brazilís performance thus far?
Brazil have done what we all expected, which was to win matches and get through without too many problems. They have done that much, but a lot of people were expecting them to put on a show. That hasnít happened, and the fans are a little frustrated. But the important thing was to qualify easily, and now things will start to assume more importance for Brazil.

If you could choose Brazilís opponents in the Round of 16, who would it be?
In a World Cup you shouldnít choose your opponents. You have to be ready to play anybody. Of course, whoever gets Germany, who are playing at home and are full of confidence, will have problems. For me, it would be better to avoid them. If Brazil qualify in first place, they could only meet Germany in the Final. Thatís crucial. Argentina have also shown that they are playing very well, and that they are a dangerous side.


Have you been impressed by Argentina up to now?
To be honest, Argentina have played really well, but the team that have really impressed me havenít qualified. Iím talking about CŰte díIvoire. They went up against two very good sides, and matched them. They just didnít get the luck they needed to win.
Have you been disappointed with any team?
I have been disappointed with France, because they came here with the responsibility of rectifying the lacklustre impression that they left behind at the last World Cup, when they arrived as world champions and didnít even get through to the second phase. Up to now, they still havenít done that.

If you were the coach, would you change anything about the Brazil team?
Many people have called on (coach Carlos Alberto) Parreira to tinker with the team, but I think that the only changes he needs to make are tactical, or maybe to do with the playersí fitness. If he is happy with the team because they have won, then I donít think he should change anything. But if thereís a problem with a playerís fitness levels, or he wants to make a tactical switch, then he should do it.

Ronaldo arrived in Germany on the verge of breaking the great Gerd Mullerís record as the all-time leading FIFA World Cup goalscorer. Given the quality of the Brazil team, many people thought that he would do it easily. Do you think that he still can achieve his objective?
If he carries on playing, he could still have another five games to get the record. Thereís no doubt that he is a player with real goalscoring ability, and he is capable of beating the record. But to score you need ability and also a little bit of luck. If you want a good example, look at Fred against Australia. He came on, got one touch of the ball, and scored. So maybe Ronaldo needs some luck as well.


Miroslav Klose is one striker who seems to be enjoying that kind of luck. He has already scored four goals in the tournament. Do you think that he could go on and win the adidas Golden Shoe?
Without a shadow of doubt, heís in with a very good shout of ending up as top scorer, because Germanyís confidence is high, and he should just keep on doing what he is doing.
Up to now, has any one player caught your eye?
In the first phase, the player who has impressed me most is (Philipp) Lahm, the Germany full-back. There are quite a few other players who are doing well, and I should mention (Javier) Mascherano, from Argentina. But nobody has really stood out from the rest. As far as Brazil is concerned, even though many people are worried about the defence, I think Lucio and Ze Roberto are doing well. In the opening two matches they have stood out, along with Kaka.


This year for the first time FIFA will present an award to the Best Young Player in the competition. You are the youngest-ever FIFA World Cup winner, and also the youngest-ever goalscorer. If you could pick out any one player, who would be your favourite to win the award?
If Argentina get to the final, then I think (Lionel) Messi will have every chance of winning the award. Cristiano Ronaldo is another very good player. Englandís coach could well give (Theo) Walcott a chance. Heís very young, and he was called up even though he hadnít won an international cap. That would be a great story. Iím only saying that because I was 17 when I scored my first goal, back in 1958.
If Walcott does score in this tournament, he would be the youngest-ever goalscorer in the FIFA World Cup finals. Would you be upset if he took over your mantle?
I wouldnít be upset, as long as Brazil ended up as world champions, because back in 1958, I scored a few goals and Brazil won the Trophy. I wouldnít like it if he scored and England ended up winning it! (Laughs)

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