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Brazil will defend its Cup after beating Dutch in penalty kicks.

By Paul Oberjurge
Gannett News Service

MARSEILLE, France (Tuesday, July 7, 1998) -- It wasn't the kind of shootout Brazil expected to win, but the world champions are nothing if not adaptable. Goalkeeper Claudio Taffarel made two diving saves as Brazil defeated The Netherlands 4-2 on penalty kicks Tuesday night to advance to the championship match Sunday of the World Cup. "That was God helping me," he said. Brazil, seeking an unprecedented fifth crown, will play the winner of Wednesday's game between France and Croatia.

A surprisingly tame match was tied 1-1 after 120 minutes. "There were times when we were afraid and Holland were afraid also," Brazil midfielder Rivaldo admitted. "That's why the match went to penalties."

Ronaldo scored in the 46th minute for Brazil, and Patrick Kluivert equalized for the Dutch in the 87th minute as the widely anticipated end-to-end slugfest between the tournament's highest-scoring teams never really materialized.

"This was very, very difficult, but now we have another match to play," said Taffarel, who came through in the clutch just as he did in 1994, when Brazil defeated Italy in a shootout in the championship match. "Brazil deserves a moment of joy. We take a lot of momentum into the final. We're ready now."

Ronald de Boer missed the final shot for the Dutch, hitting a soft ball that Taffarel managed to get his right glove on, sealing the victory. "It's a horrible feeling," de Boer said. ``We could have won. The dream is over. It's a pity.

"I don't think we played as well as we did (in the quarterfinal) against Argentina. We should have played a bit calmer . . . But we did our best."

Ronaldo, Rivaldo, Emerson and Dunga all beat Dutch goalkeeper Edwin Van Der Sar in the shootout. Frank de Boer and Dennis Bergkamp converted for The Netherlands to make the score 2-2, but Taffarel pushed away the mediocre efforts of both Phillip Cocu (diving to his left) and Ronald de Boer (diving to his right).

"Right now, everyone in Brazil is celebrating, but we have to wait for the final," Brazil coach Mario Zagallo said. "I'm confident we will win." He conceded Brazil played defense-first soccer, particularly in the first half. "We didn't have many opportunities," he said.

A flash of Brazilian brilliance produced a Ronaldo goal and a 1-0 lead in the first minute of the second half. The striker dashed behind the Dutch defense, caught up to a through pass from midfielder Rivaldo, shook free of Cocu, and from 10 yards out put the ball between the legs of the charging Van Der Sar.

Ronaldo, widely considered the best player in the world, has four goals in France '98, as does Croatia's Davor Suker. Italy's Christian Vierri and Argentina's Gabriel Batistuta each have five, but they are out of the tournament.

Brazil had two good chances to take a 2-0 lead. Ronaldo had the first, a breakaway in the 73rd minute in which he carried the ball too long and allowed Dutch midfielder Edgar Davids to catch him inside the box and knock the ball over the end line. Rivaldo had the second moments later, receiving the ball two yards in front of the goal, but his shot was smothered by Van Der Sar.

Kluivert, given numerous chances to score, finally converted in the 87th minute. With the Dutch in the attacking third, the ball was knocked wide right to Ronald de Boer, alone in the area Roberto Carlos normally would patrol. He knocked a crossing pass just inside the penalty spot, where Kluivert split flat-footed defenders Aldair and Junior Baiano and headed the ball into the upper-right corner of the goal.

Brazil had slightly the better of the extra 30 minutes. Ronaldo had two good chances, including a bicycle kick that would gone in had not Frank de Boer cleared it off the goal line. Kluivert had a good chance the end of the first 15-minute segment, barely missing the far post on a low shot.

Brazil is the only nation to win a World Cup outside its hemisphere (Sweden, 1958) and it has a chance to make it two Sunday at the Stade de France.

The game was surprisingly limp given the striking power of the two sides, who between them scored 24 goals while reaching the semifinals. The first half was so uninspiring, the crowd of 60,000 at the Stade Velodrome was doing the wave by the 37th minute.

The Dutch, who have never won the championship, played with more urgency after Brazil scored. Kluivert forced Taffarel to make a diving block in the 52nd minute, and he got a nice pass from Dennis Bergkamp and put a short shot right at the goalkeeper in the 67th minute.

Brazil hasn't always impressed here. There was the rocky 2-1 victory over Scotland in the opener, and a 2-1 loss to Norway after Brazil already had clinched the top spot in Group A.

The midfield often has struggled to get the ball to its superstar striker Ronaldo, and he often seemed uncomfortable working with Bebeto at forward. "The Netherlands was much more difficult," Zagallo said. "They were more aware, more organized than Denmark (a 3-2 Brazil quarterfinal win). This was a much more difficult match."

Brazil 1, Netherlands 1 (Brazil wins on penalty kicks 4-2)

Brazil - Taffarel, Ze Carlos, Aldair, Junior Baiano, Roberto Carlos, Cesar Sampaio, Dunga, Leonardo (Emerson 85), Rivaldo, Ronaldo, Bebeto (Denilson 70).
Netherlands - Edwin van der Sar, Michael Reiziger (Aron Winter 56), Jaap Stam, Frank de Boer, Phillip Cocu, Ronald de Boer, Wim Jonk (Clarence Seedorf 111), Edgar Davids, Boudewijn Zenden (Pierre van Hooijdonk 75), Dennis Bergkamp, Patrick Kluivert.
Goals: Brazil - Ronaldo (46). Netherlands - Kluivert (87).
Shootout goals: Brazil - Ronaldo (G), Rivaldo (G), Emerson (G), Dunga (G). Netherlands - Frank de Boer (G), Dennis Bergkamp (G), Phillip Cocu (NG), Ronald de Boer (NG).
Shots at goal: Netherlands 18. Argentina 8.
Shots on goal: Brazil 18, Netherlands 18.
Offsides: Brazil 5, Netherlands 5.
Fouls: Brazil 10, Netherlands 24.
Corner kicks: Brazil 5, Netherlands 6.
Yellow cautionary cards: Brazil - Ze Carlos 31, Cesar Sampaio 45. Netherlands - Michael Reiziger 48, Edgar Davids 60, Pierre van Hooijdonk 90, Clarence Seedorf 118.
Referee: Ali Mohamed Bujsaim (United Arab Emirates).
Attendance: 54,000 (estimated).

Paul Oberjuerge writes for the San Bernardino County (Calif.) Sun.