TERESOPOLIS (Brazil): Brazilian forward Rivaldo has criticised the decision by FIFA that has forced his country to qualify for the 2006 World Cup, even though they are defending champions.
“This criterion is completely wrong,” he told reporters at Brazil's mountain retreat near Rio de Janeiro on Wednesday.
“We have to travel here, there and everywhere and it's a tremendous sacrifice.”
Five-times champions Brazil launch the defence of their crown away to Colombia on Sunday in the steamy Caribbean port of Barranquilla. Three days later, they play their second qualifier at home to Ecuador in Manaus, on the banks of the Amazon river.
The South American team will play 18 qualifiers over the next 30 months as they attempt to maintain their record of being the only country to have played at every World Cup.
Until now, the defending champions have always been guaranteed an automatic place at the finals, but FIFA decided to change the rules before the last World Cup.
However left-back Roberto Carlos, who like Rivaldo made transatlantic trips virtually every month to play in the qualifying competition for 2002, is confident Brazil would regain their best form.
“The first image is the one that stays,” he said. “This is the first step for the 2006 World Cup. The prestige of the five-times world champions is at stake.
“Brazil only lose to themselves. If we play as we did at the last World Cup, it will be very difficult to beat us.”
Carlos added that motivation would be sky-high.
“It's only when you're part of it that you understand what the Brazilian national team is all about,” he said.
“We're not short of enthusiasm. I'm proud to be part of the team. When the CBF (Brazilian Football Confederation) arrives at my house, I jump up and down with happiness.
“The first thing I did when I got here was to look at the badge of the CBF to see if they had put on the fifth star,” he added, referring to the stars which each symbolise a World Cup title. – Reuters