Football great Pele is describing Friday's World Cup quarterfinal between Brazil and England as worthy of the championship game.
Pele said Brazil and England will be renewing one of the World Cup's great rivalries in Shizuoka, Japan. He said Brazil has won the World Cup a record four times (1958, 1962, 1970 and 1994), and England once (1966). In Pele's words, Brazil is the greatest nation in World Cup history, while England is the home of football.
History favors the Brazilians. England has won only three times in 20 meetings with Brazil, and lost nine matches. In three World Cup games between the teams, Brazil has won twice (1-0 and 3-1) and the other was a scoreless draw (0-0).
The renewal of the rivalry in Shizuoka features a high-powered Brazilian attack against a stingy English defense. Led by former World Player of the Year winners Ronaldo and Rivaldo, Brazil has been the top scoring team of the tournament with 13 goals. Ronaldo and Rivaldo have combined to score nine of the goals. Ronaldo has a tourney-high five, and Rivaldo four.
England, meanwhile, has been rock solid so far on defense, allowing only one goal in four World Cup matches. One of England's best defenders, Sol Campbell, said the team will have to play "the game of our lives" to beat the Brazilians.
England is one of four European teams to advance to the World Cup quarterfinals. That's a number not seen at a World Cup in more than 30 years.
"This is the lowest number of European teams that we've had in the quarterfinals since 1970, " said Keith Cooper, director of Communications for the International Football Federation (FIFA). "In 1970, there were only four, including Germany and England, but also Italy and the Soviet Union. More recently, since 1970, there have been far more European teams in the last eight. This is also the first time that five different (football) confederations have been represented in the last eight teams. We have not only Europeans, but also Senegal from Africa, Brazil from South America, Korea from Asia, and the United States from Central and Northern America. So this is the first time in the history of the World Cup that the last eight teams have contained at least one team from each of the five confederations."
Taking a look at World Cup history, Brazil has been a fixture at football's premier event. It's the only team to have qualified for all 17 World Cups. England, meanwhile, is making its 11th World Cup appearance. After Friday's match, though, one of the two traditional powers will be heading home, and the other will be two victories away from another World Cup championship.