PASADENA, Calif. -- It's been a vicious cycle for Brazil since its last World Cup appearance in the final 24 years ago. The Brazilians come, they samba, talk trash, self-destruct and then go home as national failures.
It was different last night in the hills of Pasadena, where the Brazilians are probably still partying.
Brazil positioned itself to become the first team to win four World Cup titles by defeating Sweden, 1-0, before a Rose Bowl crowd of 84,569.
Brazil star forward Romario scored on a header inside the right post on a fluttering pass from defender Jorginho at the 80th minute.
Brazil will play Italy, which along with Germany, also has won three World Cup titles, Sunday afternoon here for the championship.
"It will be two great schools of soccer showing up to decide who is best," said Romario. "I see Brazil with all kinds of good possibilities to win."
Brazil possibly has the game's greatest legacy. It is Brazil that won the first World Cup, has played in every World Cup tournament, had the greatest player ever in Pele and a style that is copied throughout the world.
But its storied reputation has not silenced its 150 million countrymen who are edgy for a title.
Brazil coach Carlos Alberto Parreira guaranteed it last night.
"Brazil is the team which scored the most, played better defense and for sure this Sunday, will come up the winners, with respect to Italy," Parreira said.
The Brazilians deserved to talk a lot last night. They dominated Sweden, a team that had tied Brazil, 1-1, in the opening round.
But Brazil was relentless this time, pressuring Sweden goalie Thomas Ravelli with shots from all angles. Then, when Sweden defender Jonas Thern was ejected for an uncompromising challenge in the 63rd minute, Brazil went for the kill with Romario's goal.
"I thought the play earned a yellow card, but not a red," said Sweden coach Thomas Svensson, whose team had its best tournament showing since 1958. "I can only say that I do not really understand the call."
Romario said: "I was quite sure we would score no matter how long, even if it was at the last minute. We won't be frustrated or intimidated."
That was always a major criticism of Brazil. Once the Brazilians got big leads, they became lethargic. If they didn't score early, they became frustrated and folded.
"When we are finished, maybe people will talk about our heart," said Bebeto. "We refuse to die."
Brazil played well in the first half, but it couldn't come up with the last pass to finish scoring opportunities, and the teams were tied 0-0 after 45 minutes.
The Brazilians controlled the pace by creating space and dominating play at the midfield. They were neat, fancy and dynamic, a contrast of Sweden's style of using the long pass.
Bebeto, with his back to the goal, gave Zinho a perfect give-and-go from the top of the penalty area at the 14th minute, but Zinho's shot from inside the area went wide right.
Brazil's best chance came at the 26th minute when Romario got a loose ball in the Swedish end, worked a little magic to free himself, then faked out a fallen Ravelli a few yards in front of the goal.
But Sweden defender Joachim Bjorklund came sliding along the goal line and kicked away what seemed to be a sure goal for Romario.
Brazil's Mazinho caught the carom on the right of the goal, but his follow-up kick was wide and high.
Romario had other chances in the half. He missed a shot at the 30th minute, and then nearly three minutes later, Bebeto gave him an excellent pass to the right of the goal. Romario had beaten Ravelli, but once he hesitated on the shot, Ravelli crawled back into position to make the save.
While Sweden was outplayed, its morale had to be high at the half. The Swedes had held Brazil scoreless, and kept the pro-Brazil crowd out of the game. Brazil had won 26 of 28 matches in which it had scored first.
Brazil kept up the pressure early in the second half, but Ravelli was hot. He stopped a Rai shot early in the half, and got a hand on a high shot by Zinho a few minutes sending the ball over the goal.
Shortly after Thern's ejection, Romario fired a short-range shot, but Ravelli came up big again with another save.
Romario wasn't going to miss the header.
"We had to keep trying to go up the flanks," said Romario. "We tried several times until it finally paid off."