Edmundo and Romario formed an irresistible, irrepressible tandem. They had viciously dissected Manchester United's defence en route to a FIFA Club World Championship Brazil 2000 final with Corinthians, whose centre-backs Fabio Luciano and Adilson were, apparently, victims in waiting. Those supposed victims negated their would-be conquerors over 120 goalless minutes, however, before O Timão prevailed 4-3 on penalties.
Adilson Batista would dearly love to lift the prestigious trophy once again and is on the verge of earning another crack at it, albeit in a different capacity. The 41-year-old masterminded Cruzeiro's charge to the Copa Libertadores decider, and a 0-0 draw away to Estudiantes in the first leg, which, given the invalidity of the away goals rule, has left A Raposa favourites to represent South America at UAE 2009. FIFA.com caught up with the former Brazil defender ahead of the deciding leg in Belo Horizonte.
FIFA.com: Adilson, how does it feel to have achieved such a good result in La Plata?
Adilson Batista: We're obviously very pleased. It's never easy to play against Argentinian teams and it can be difficult to play the first leg of a final away from home, as we saw last year with Fluminense [who lost 4-2 at eventual champions Liga de Quito]. It was a very tough game, their fans were behind them throughout, but we did very well. Fabio turned in a brilliant performance, made some decisive saves, and we would have even got the victory had Kleber buried that great chance at the end of the second half. Still, we've left ourselves in a strong position.
How do you rate Fabio? Do you think he deserves a place in the Brazil squad?
He's an excellent goalkeeper. He commands his area very well, has very safe hands, sharp reflexes and his positioning is flawless. Brazil has a number of very good goalkeepers, but I think he deserves a place in the squad.
Estudiantes lost 1-0 at home to Internacional in the final of last year's Copa Sudamericana, but then produced a great performance in Porto Alegre, winning 1-0 to take the tie into extra time before being undone by a Nilmar goal. They've also done well on their travels during the knockout phase of this competition...
Argentinian teams are always strong away from home and Estudiantes have shown this in the Libertadores. They are technical, very fast, and have a lot of energy. And they have a player than concerns me: Veron. He's very experienced, is a great leader and also has tremendous quality. His vision, his passing... he can turn a game and we must keep a close eye on him. Estudiantes will make it very difficult for us and we must be alert to their counter-attacks. We know we have a lot of work to do.
You lost Ramires for some crucial games while he was on international duty at the FIFA Confederations Cup. How important was his return for the second leg against Gremio and the final?
We got two excellent results without him against Sao Paulo [2-2 away in their quarter-final, second leg] and Gremio [3-1 win in the first leg of the last four], but it's obviously been of great benefit to have such an influential player back. Ramires brings a lot to the team. He really covers the pitch and is useful tracking back and going forward. He played well in South Africa. He started on the bench but when he got his chance, he took it and remained in the starting XI for the rest of the tournament.
Would beating an Argentinian team in the final make lifting the Libertadores trophy extra special?
Winning the Libertadores is special enough in itself, regardless of who you beat in the final.
You won the FIFA Club World Cup as a Corinthians player in 2000, after helping to keep Vasco's Edmundo-Romario attack quiet in the final. How did that feel?
It was a wonderful feeling, something that'll stay with me forever. I really want my players to experience it in December. Edmundo and Romario were both magnificent footballers. They were both very, very intelligent and exceptionally talented, so it was a real achievement for us to keep a clean sheet.
Corinthians ultimately beat Vasco on penalties. Have Cruzeiro been practicing penalties ahead of Wednesday's game?
We practiced penalties before we played Universidad, then before we played Sao Paulo and Gremio. We're doing the same ahead of this game. It's best to be prepared. It's something that could decide who wins this tournament and goes to the Club World Cup. Dida was my team-mate at Corinthians in 2000 and won us the shootout against Vasco, and just look at the role he played in Cruzeiro reaching the final when they last won the Libertadores [A Raposa defeated El Nacional and Colo-Colo on penalties in the last 16 and semi-finals respectively in 1997]. We hope to win it in normal time but if it goes to penalties, we'll have faith in Fabio.
That Corinthians side was illuminated by two exceptionally gifted yet controversial stars, Marcelinho Carioca and Edilson. Your current side is highlighted by a similar player in Kleber. How important is he to Cruzeiro?
Kleber is an outstanding player. He only arrived at the club in February, but he's already made a big impact. Everybody knows what a great goalscorer he is, but he's much more than that. He's very good with his back to goal, holding the ball up and bringing team-mates into the game. He's a good passer, skilful and intelligent.
Does he deserve a place in the Brazil squad?
Kleber is certainly good enough to be in the Seleção. The problem he has is competition. Brazil has so many great forwards but if he keeps playing the way he has been for Cruzeiro, producing big performances in big matches, I think he'll get his chance.
Another forward seeking to earn a Brazil call-up is ex-Cruzeiro player Ronaldo...
He's been in great form since joining Corinthians. The move has revived his career. I marked Ronaldo when I was at Atletico [Mineiro in 1994] and it was obvious then that he was a one-off. He's had a magnificent career and is one of the greatest strikers in history. People wrote him off before 2002 but he came back and won Brazil the title. We'll have to wait and see if Dunga gives him the chance to do the same in South Africa.
You played alongside Dunga for Jubilo Iwata. How do you think he has done at the Brazil reins?
He's done an excellent job. Dunga came in at a difficult moment yet he's claimed two important titles. Even outside these tournaments, Brazil have invariably played well and won against the big teams, like they did against Argentina and Italy in London. This is crucial because it's strong sides like these you have to beat to win a World Cup. A lot of people questioned Dunga's appointment because he had no experience in coaching, but for me he was absolutely the right man for the job. Dunga's always been a leader. He's always had that presence on the pitch. He lives and breathes football. I remember in 1997, he played in the Copa America final in La Paz before going to Brazil to visit his family the day after. The next day he went to China to represent a FIFA XI in an exhibition game, and two days later he was in Japan for Jubilo's meeting with Kyoto Purple Sanga. He emerged a winner in all three matches. He was carrying an injury at the time, so at 7:00am the following morning he was in Jubilo's medical centre to begin treatment. It just goes to show Dunga's sheer professionalism and dedication.
Is becoming Brazil coach an ambition of yours?
Right now I have a project with Cruzeiro: to win the Libertadores. That's all I'm thinking about. Even then there's a lot I want to achieve with this club. It would be great to coach at the World Club Cup against teams like Barcelona. I'd like to lead the side to the world and Brasileiro titles. Everyone dreams of coaching Brazil one day but for now I'm very happy. It's an honour to coach a big club with such wonderful supporters.
What are the Cruzeiro fans like?
Fantastic, passionate, vibrant... Cruzeiro has a very special set of supporters. We'll need them on Wednesday because it will be a very tense game.
Finally, do you believe Cruzeiro will lift the Libertadores trophy?
I'm confident. We know it will be tough and we have to keep our concentration. But we have a very strong squad and I believe we have the quality to win this game.