Pele backs Ronaldo, says Brazil will peak on time
The Black Pearl said that whoever faces Germany will have a problem and hoped that Brazil avoid playing them before the finals.india Updated: Jun 23, 2006 15:56 IST
Even in the land of Der Kaiser, he is king. He is nobody at FIFA but omnipresent at every World Cup finals. Or for that matter, any major football event. Even Claudia Schiffer gets the jitters when it comes to walking alongside him. It isn't without reason that Pele was once described by a journalist as the world's most famous four-letter word.
In an interview released on the FIFA media channel, Pele shared his thoughts on the World Cup so far and defended putting his foot on Colombia in 1994 among other things.
A lot of people had fun because I got it wrong but they played well in the qualifiers and even in the first two games of the World Cup, he said explaining why he had thought Colombia could go all the way.
"Before this particular tournament, nobody even mentioned Ecuador. People were only talking about Brazil and Argentina and I said that I have seen Ecuador play and that they could get through the first phase. And Ecuador are there," he said.
Known to speak his mind, Pele agreed that Argentina have done well but said the team that impressed him most so far is going home early. "Cote d'Ivoire matched two good sides, they just didn't have the luck needed to win."
Asked to choose an opponent in the round of 16 for Brazil, Pele said whoever play Germany will have a problem. "It is best avoiding them. Brazil and Germany can't meet before the final and that's crucial."
Beckenbauer may have felt referees are being a touch card-happy but Pele said "the discipline and consistency" shown by the referees this time has led to the 2006 edition getting off to a better start than four years ago.
France has disappointed him, Pele said "because they came here to rectify the lacklustre impression they left behind in the last World Cup… Up to now they haven't done that."
German full back Phillip Lahm and Argentina's Javier Mascherano have caught his eye even though no one has really stood out. If Argentina go to the final, it would be difficult to keep Lionel Messi from getting the first FIFA Young Player award though Cristiano Ronaldo could give him the Argentine some competition, Pele said.
Pele also urged Sven Goran Eriksson to give Theo Walcott a chance "because I was 17 when I scored my first World Cup goal in 1958" adding that he wouldn't mind Walcott supplanting him as the World Cup's youngest goal scorer "so long as Brazil wins the title."
The important thing for Brazil, he said, was to qualify for the next round and they have done that.
Fans may be disappointed at them for not putting up a show but "now things will start to assume more importance for Brazil."
Pele is still banking on Ronaldo to break Gerd Mueller's record of 14 World Cup finals goals "with a bit of luck, like Fred had against Australia. Or the kind of luck, Miroslav Klose is enjoying now.
"He (Klose) could end up as being the top score. He should keep doing what he is doing."