Brazil will play Germany Sunday in the final of the FIFA World Cup football tournament in Yokohama, Japan. They are teams with proud World Cup pedigrees. Germany has won the title three times in the past, while Brazil has captured the crown a record four times.
Even though the Germans and the Brazilians have both been participants in 14 previous FIFA World Cup finals, this will mark their first encounter at football's premier event.
Outside of the World Cup, the teams have met 18 times, with the Brazilians holding a substantial edge. The South Americans have won 11 matches and lost three, with four draws. The last meeting between the teams was in July of 1999 at the FIFA Confederations Cup tourney in Mexico, where Brazil won easily, 4-0.
Brazilian great Pele starred on world championship teams in 1958, 1962 and 1970. At a news conference here in Yokohama, he said Brazil has played progressively better in the latter stages of this World Cup. "I think Brazil has improved in its last two games. Brazil didn't start well, and it has improved a lot," he said. "We're going to have a game (the final) of the attack against the defenders. No doubt, because Brazil is the best scoring team and Germany has the best defending team. I think it will be a very tough game to point who is going to win. But I think Brazil could win. I trust Brazil."
Pele's trust in Brazil was perhaps strengthened by the return of star playmaker Ronaldhino to the line-up for Sunday's final. He had to sit out Brazil's 1-0 semifinal victory over Turkey, after receiving a red card in Brazil's quarterfinal (2-1) win over England.
The Germans, meanwhile, will go into the title match without one of their key playmakers, Michael Ballack. Ballack scored the decisive goal in Germany's 1-0 semifinal victory over South Korea. But he also received his second yellow card, which resulted in an automatic one-match suspension.
In his absence, the Germans will rely on Miroslav Klose for scoring punch. Klose has tallied five goals in the tournament so far. Goalkeeper and team captain Oliver Kahn, who has given up only one goal at the World Cup, leads the strong German defense.
The powerful Brazilian attack poses the biggest test yet for Kahn and the Germans. Two-time FIFA World Player of the Year Ronaldo has a tourney-high six goals for the Brazilians, while teammate Rivaldo has five.
Brazil is captained by defender Cafu, who is on the verge of making history as the first man to have played in three FIFA World Cup championship matches. His famed Brazilian countryman, Pele, missed the 1962 final in Chile because of injury.