Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

England Stand in AWE OF RIVALDO; Brazilian 'Villain' Starts to Silence His Critics

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

England Stand in AWE OF RIVALDO; Brazilian 'Villain' Starts to Silence His Critics

Article excerpt


THEY just couldn't help themselves, reckoned Kieron Dyer. Even though it was Rivaldo who was conjuring up the sort of wizardry which could break their hearts this Friday, England's players, watching from the stands of the Kobe Wing stadium, just had to jump to their feet to acclaim it.

"When you see things like that you just get carried away. You've just got to applaud," said Dyer, after he'd watched Rivaldo send the boys from Brazil on their way to a quarterfinal meeting in Shizuoka this Friday which will hold this entire tournament in thrall. "Anybody, whether you're a fan or a player, would have to cheer something like that."

That's Brazil for you. They can even reduce other World Cup contenders into doing impressions of awestruck groupies for a night.

For instance, you should have heard Dyer as he pondered the prospect that the great man might be joining him at Newcastle next season if Sir Bobby Robson gets his way and manages to claw him away from Barcelona.

"Ooo, that would be fantastic, wouldn't it? Rio has already asked me to make sure that I get his shirt for him," said Dyer, sounding for all the world like a wide-eyed kid being told that he was going to get an autograph. Yet as captain David Beckhamwarned today, it's now time to stop being dazzled; England have got to beat the team, not the myth because though watching Brazil may be one of life's pleasures, trying to stop them playing is a rather more trying matter.

In particular, trying to stop Rivaldo is suddenly looking the most pressing matter of all. Watching him last night being acclaimed by 40,000 Brazilians as he stripped to his vest to acclaim his marvellous goal was to see a man reborn in the yellow, green and blue.

For it was only 18 months ago during a World Cup qualifier against Colombia in Sao Paulo that, from each side of the stadium, a tirade of vitriol was directed at just one man. "Get out, Rivaldo," spat Brazil's supporters.

"You're useless". And down on the pitch, the man in the fabled No10 shirt, ducking to avoid the missiles, had vowed that enough was enough.

It was time, he decided, to consider whether he really needed to play for a country which had never really appreciated him. The team were struggling to make it to the World Cup, only having scraped a lastminute-victory that night, and once again he was the scapegoat.

Back in Barcelona, they knew his worth but in Brazil, ever since he had made a careless pass in the Atlanta Olympics which had gifted Nigeria victory and ended their dream of gold, he had been portrayed as a mercenary, someone who'd save his best for his wealthy club employers but not his country.

"They booed me, treated me so badly," he complained that night.

"I've always been a guy who tries hard, who gives of his best but this is just not being recognised. …

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