YOKOHAMA, Japan, AP
When it comes to goalkeepers, nearly everyone agrees that Oliver Kahn gives Germany an edge over Brazil in Sunday’s World Cup final — even his adversaries.
“For me, Kahn is the best,” Brazilian ‘keeper Marcos said Saturday. “I have no problem admitting that.”
Kahn’s numbers are beyond argument. The 33-year-old Bayern Munich ‘keeper has yielded just one goal in six games and is a big reason why Germany’s workmanlike team is in the final.
In the semifinals, his amazing reflex stop against South Korea’s Lee Chun-soo was probably the top save of the Cup and preserved Germany’s 1-0 victory.
“Kahn will be a tremendous obstacle,” said Rivaldo, who has scored five goals against five different goalkeepers. “He’s fantastic and is always well positioned.”
Yet Marcos isn’t far behind. He has allowed four goals on a far more offensive-minded team — three of them in the first round, when Brazil was more concerned with scoring than defending.
“When you attack as much as we do, you’re always going to take some heat behind,” Marcos said after Brazil’s 5-2 shootout with Costa Rica in its final first-round game.
Since then, Marcos has been a rock, shutting out Belgium 2-0 and Turkey 1-0. The only goal in the knockout round was a result of Lucio’s defensive blunder in a 2-1 win over England, and Marcos slammed the door in the second half when Brazil was a player down.
Goal traditionally has been a weak position for Brazil. It’s where kids usually put the worst player on the team. Ask anyone to name off Brazil’s best players — from Pele to Ronaldo — and there probably won’t be a goalie on the list. But Marcos has given Brazil security in the spot. At 1.93 meters (6 feet, 4 inches), he’s surprisingly agile, comes off his line well and is tough to beat in the air.
Coach Luiz Felipe Scolari, who coached Marcos on the 1999 Palmeiras team that won the Copa Libertadores, picked him over veteran Dida for the starting spot.
In the final, the Brazilians are concerned with Germany’s air game and will try to prevent crosses to star striker Miroslav Klose, a heading specialist who has scored five goals.
“The duel will happen, of course,” said Marcos. “He surely will reach the goal, but my defense has played well so far.” What if Brazil falters in the final, as it did against France in ‘98?
“Falter is word that can’t be used,” Marcos said. “Just getting this far is something to commemorate. We know how hard it was to get here, and our opponents merit respect, they also deserve to be here.”
If Kahn now is getting all the attention, that doesn’t bother Marcos.
“I didn’t come to the World Cup to be chosen as one of the best goalies,” he said. “I know my function on the team is important and I am sure I helped my team get this far.”
Besides, he said, it’s Kahn who has to face Ronaldo, Rivaldo and Co. today.
“Kahn will have some work against us,” Marcos said.
“I believe, and I’m almost sure, that the champion will be me.”