Brazilians bring brilliance

ROB BRODIE -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 8:06 AM ET

A wise old soccer sage once had this to say about rooting interests during international competitions: If your country's not in the mix, then you're a Brazil fan.

The samba kings, whose attractive brand of soccer has generated a massive global following, arrived in Ottawa under rainy skies yesterday for the final stage of group qualifying in the FIFA U-20 World Cup.

It is a testament to Brazil's popularity that tomorrow night's doubleheader at Frank Clair Stadium, featuring their match against the United States, was the first at this venue to sell out.

A full house of 26,559 will be on hand to witness the spectacle, after Argentina and North Korea help settle the final standings in Group E.

Pack the earplugs, folks.

More than four hours of beating drums from fans of the two South American sides awaits you.

But no doubt you'll be wildly entertained.

It has, after all, always been the Brazilian way.

"Brazil plays happy soccer," star forward Alexandre Pato said yesterday through a translator after his side's first practice in the capital.

"We like to play like that. We know the fans like this style of play and we want to keep playing like that."

And for many of those fans, Pato will be the star attraction tomorrow night.

The 17-year-old forward, an absolute magician with the ball, is widely acknowledged to be the next Brazilian soccer superstar.

But he is still young and precocious enough to smile and be wide-eyed about the support Brazil has received from Canadian fans.

"I was surprised, but I was happy to see that," said Pato, who greatly admires Brazilian legend Ronaldo.

"We were happy to get a win against Korea (on Tuesday in Montreal) to thank them for that support."

More is on the way this evening, to be sure.

You don't even have to be Brazilian to appeciate the rare treat that is about to be served up before our very eyes.

Future grass

FIFA vice-president jack warner has a message for those not happy with the growing proliferation of fieldturf artificial surfaces during its championship events: get used to it.

"Accept that tradition has to change," he said. "(FieldTurf) is the future of football worldwide."

Matches at Frank Clair Stadium are being played on a new version of the artificial surface that was laid down last fall.

Earlier in the week, Argentina coach Hugo Tocalli expressed concern about the field, saying he hoped no teams would suffer injuries playing on it.

But it was inspected before the tournament and received FIFA's stamp of approval.

Games at Olympic Stadium in Montreal and BMO Field in Toronto are also being played on FieldTurf.

CORNER KICKS

Tuesday's outburst of 22 goals in four matches in Ottawa and Montreal almost equalled the total (24) in the 12 games played previously in the tournament ... Going back to qualifying, Argentina goalkeeper Sergio Romero hasn't allowed a goal in six straight matches.


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