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Brazil braces for motivated host

BRAZIL is expecting a hard time in the Confederations Cup semifinal against a fully motivated South Africa.

The Brazilians know they are the favorites, but they also know they will have to be extra careful against a team that is playing at home and has nothing to lose.

"They have no responsibility to win. If they lose to Brazil it's a normal result," striker Luis Fabiano said in Johannesburg yesterday. "And if they win it's going to be a holiday in South Africa. They have no pressure."

South Africa avoided disappointment after barely advancing from the group stage of the World Cup warm-up tournament, but now much of the pressure is off, and victory against the five-time world champion will likely be considered a bonus instead of an obligation.

Brazil has to avoid an upset tomorrow at Ellis Park to keep alive its hopes of winning its second consecutive Confederations Cup, and possibly secure a much-anticipated final against Spain, which plays as the favorite in the other semifinal against the United States today in Bloemfontein.

South Africa is coming off a 0-2 loss to Spain, while Brazil is boosted by two consecutive 3-0 wins over the US and world champion Italy.

"We can't think that it's going to be easier to play against South Africa because it has less tradition than Italy," Brazil left back Andre Santos said. "We can't be fooled by that, each team has its quality. Being the host country, we know they will come out playing very hard against us. We can't underestimate anybody."

Brazil is also worried about the advantage the South Africans may have because of coach Joel Santana, who is a Brazilian. "They are motivated and they have a Brazilian coach who knows a lot about our team," Santos said.

Santana coached Dunga when the Brazilian played for Vasco da Gama in 1987, and he was in Brazil coaching Flamengo just before taking the offer to lead the South Africans at the Confederations Cup and next year's World Cup.

Santana and the South African players have been saying they want to repeat the example of Egypt, which played well against Brazil in a last-minute loss in the teams' opener and then beat Italy 1-0.

It will be only the third match between Brazil and South Africa. The teams played two friendlies in Johannesburg, with Brazil coming out victorious 3-2 in 1996 and 2-1 in 1997.


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