PASADENA, Calif. -- Sometimes they are so creative, artistic and histrionic that their fierce competitiveness and relentless drive for greatness are forgotten.
Brazil positioned itself to become the first team to win four World Cup titles by defeating Sweden, 1-0, last night in a semifinal game at the Rose Bowl.
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.
But it is Brazil that possibly has the game's greatest legacy. It is Brazil that is the only team to appear in every World Cup, win the first Cup, have the greatest player ever and a style that is unparalleled throughout the world.
But few ever talk about the Brazilian players heart, often lost in the criticism about their selfishness and ability to self-destruct during the last decade.
But Brazil has been far from that form this tournament. The Brazilians had that opportunity when the Americans frustrated them earlier in this tournament, and could easily have folded last night after a scoreless first half.
Instead, the offense was relentless, and when Sweden's Jonas Thern was ejected in the 63rd minute, Brazil -- led by Romario -- moved in for the kill.
"When we are finished, maybe people will talk about our heart," said Bebeto. "We refuse to die."
"We took the initiative, we kept banging and we created all the situations and opportunities to score," said Carlos Alberto Parreira, the Brazilian coach.
Brazil played well in the first half, but it couldn't come up with the last pass to finish scoring opportunities, and it resulted in a 0-0 tie at the half.
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 which is to use the long pass.
Sweden came out with early pressure, but it didn't take Brazil long to take control as Brazilian defender Branco took a long shot in the eighth minute that was stopped by Swedish goalie Thomas Ravelli.
Sweden forward Hakan Mild almost got a shot past Brazil goalie Taffarel at the 10th minute, and that was just about all the offense Sweden had in the first half.
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 a save on the shot.
While Sweden was outplayed, it's 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 has scored first in the first half.
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.
Italy 2, Bulgaria 1
Bulgaria ... 1 ... 0 ... -- ... 1
Italy ...... 2 ... 0 ... -- ...2