Saudi Arabia 1997: Brazil burn bright
What could the others do to stop a team with the likes of Dida, Cafú, Roberto Carlos, Dunga, Denilson (player of the tournament) Ronaldo and Romario in its ranks? In short, not much. Brazil and their constellation of stars burned bright under the desert sun at the 1997 FIFA Confederations Cup, and the other sides simply could not stand the heat. Mario "Lobo" Zagallo's side knew what they had to do and how to do it; a 4-4-2 formation underpinned by two defensive midfielders gave all the other outfield players licence to get forward, and there is nothing Brazilians love more than attacking. The Auriverde's stroll through the competition began with a 3-0 win over the hosts, followed by a surprising 0-0 draw with Australia (who would pay dearly later) and a 3-2 success over Mexico.
The semi-final against the Czech Republic was a more one-sided
affair than the 2-0 scoreline would suggest, while in the Final
itself, the South Americans ran riot, putting six past the hapless
Australians with no reply. Romario and Ronaldo had fun in the sun,
grabbing seven and four goals respectively in five matches.
South America were represented in the semis by Brazil and Uruguay, while the Czech Republic did Europe proud with a third-place finish. Australia did wonderfully well, getting to the Final before being blown away by the mighty Brazilians.
But it was the Uruguayans who caught everyone by surprise; coming from nowhere to claim a last four finish. The Celeste had been absent from the scene at full international tournaments for far too long, and their young side, many of whom were making the big step up from youth football, were not expected to go far in Saudi Arabia. That was to underestimate the likes of Nicolás Olivera, Marcelo Zalayeta and Walter Coelho though. FIFA World Youth Championship runners-up earlier in the year in Malaysia, they joined forces with their more experienced team-mates to great effect. Paolo Montero, Darío Silva and Àlvaro Recoba responded well to the injection of fresh blood, and Víctor Púa's side beat the United Arab Emirates, Czech Republic and South Africa on their way to the semis. Australia's golden goal broke their hearts and defeat to the Czechs in the third place play-off made for a disappointing end to their campaign, but Uruguay were back among the big boys - and that was enough for now.
Australia, Saudi Arabia, Brazil, United Arab Emirates, Mexico, Czech Republic, South Africa and Uruguay.
All the games were played in Riyadh.
- Romario (BRA), 7 goals
- Vladimir Smicer (CZE) 5 goals
- Ronaldo (BRA), 4 goals