BRAZIL versus England is and always will be one of the great World Cup ties.
Come Germany 2006, the two most popular footballing nations could come face to face once more to settle a few old scores.
And of all people, it was Carlos Alberto Torres, who lifted the Jules Rimet Trophy in 1970, who started the ball rolling by declaring that Sven-Goran Eriksson has the best midfield in the world after the Three Lions cruised to a 2-0 victory over Azerbaijan in March.
Then, the quartet of David Beckham, Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard and Joe Cole were in top form as they ran circles around the Azeris.
Perhaps, Carlos Alberto had jumped the gun. Perhaps, he had overlooked something.
More precisely, if a direct comparison is to be made, England’s engine room will be put in the shade by that of Brazil’s.
For star quality, sheer team-work and pure fantasy football, look no further than the hot bods clad in those famous canary yellow and green Nike shirts.
With Rolex timing, precision passing and a generous amount of flair, the “selecao” romped to a 4-1 World Cup Qualifier win over Paraguay to stay one point behind leaders Argentina.
And central to the convincing victory was the outstanding performance of midfield unit that could really give the England stars a run for their money.
Back in the hometown of Porto Alegre and watched by 55,000 fans, Ronaldinho produced a five-star performance as his supernatural skills had the visitors tied up in knots.
The reigning Fifa World Player of the Year deservedly earned the plaudits for a pair of expertly-taken penalties and his excellent all-round play that make him more than worthy of the famous No 10 shirt.
If Ronnie’s form could hit new heights, England had better watch out, especially after getting a taste of what the buck-toothed one could do in Japan three years ago.
What about Kaka?
It will be a crime to label him as a supporting cast given his world-class talent.
AC Milan’s brilliant young playmaker is threatening to be the best in the business and he would have done his reputation no harm at all by conjuring up two assists to put the game beyond Paraguay’s reach.
Squaring the ball for Ze Roberto in the 70th minute, the Bayern Munich midfielder taunted and teased his markers along the fringe of the box before curling a left-footer into the top corner.
Kaka’s second creation was even better, fully demonstrating his outstanding spatial awareness and quickness of thought.
With defenders regrouping and closing the gaps, the 23-year-old bisected the rearguard with the most majestic of through balls, sending Robinho clear to slot home his second international goal.
Besides this world-class creative axis of Ronaldinho and Kaka, Carlos Alberto Parreira must be the luckiest coach on earth as he thank the heavens as he is really spoilt for choice in the midfield department – a privilege not enjoyed by his counterpart Eriksson.
Jermaine Jenas, Owen Hargreaves and Kieron Dyer have yet to stamp their class on the international stage while the England boss seems reluctant to sacrifice Beckham in favour of the exciting Shaun Wright-Phillips.
In stark contrast, Parreira’s order of battle makes scary reading.
Ronaldo’s absence has allowed him to tinker with a new 4-5-1 system, beefing up his midfield and leaving Adriano as a lone striker while Robinho tucked away on the right flank.
The 20-year-old, said to be the reincarnation of Pele, gave a good account of himself and with more matches and grooming, he could make a serious impact in Germany next June.
Whatever Lampard could do with his right foot, Ze Roberto could do with his left as the Bayern Munich man’s goal highlighted the deadly accuracy packed into his favoured boot.
Sitting behind the freestylers is Emerson, the rugged enforcer and conduit between midfield and defence whom some say is light years ahead of Nicky Butt.
But it is Brazil’s strength in depth which could potentially overwhelm England, or anybody else for that matter.
Such is the embarrassment of riches that Parreira could not even find a place in the first XI for the outstanding Juninho Pernambucano, whose free-kicks are worth the admission price alone.
Missing out, too, was anchorman Gilberto Silva, the neat and tidy Edu, the enigmatic Diego, future star Alex, the hard-working Kleberson and…Julio Baptista.
Baptista, the Seville sensation, deserves special mention as he could well be his country’s secret weapon next year.
Playing in an advanced role, the man mountain has the physique and ability to succeed. And he has scored a startling 22 goals in the Primera Liga this season.
It will be hard for the rest of the world, England included, to stop the samba masters, who just seem to have these awesome talents available on tap.
What a selection headache to have!