Could football legend Pele’s recent
comments be an elaborate plot to confuse the Socceroos about their own ability?

First Pele said that Australia has what it takes to beat the national team of his homeland, Brazil. When asked if he
felt the Socceroos were any chance of beating Brazil in their group match in
Munich, Pele said: “I think yes. They beat Uruguay, so why not?”

But he also
dished out a warning: “I think it will be a little bit different here though.”

Perhaps
the 65-year-old, often called the king of football for his career studded with
World Cup triumphs in 1958, 1962 and 1970, was referring to the fact he fancies Japan’s chances of doing better in Germany ’06.

French firebrand Philippe Troussier led
Japan to the last-16 round in 2002 while South Korea went on the semi-finals
under Dutchman Guus Hiddink, the brains behind Australia’s return from the
World Cup finals wilderness.

“But this time I expect the roles to be
reversed and for Japan to go a step further,” Pele wrote in the mass-circulation
Japanese daily Yomiuri Shimbun yesterday. “Zico is an experienced trainer who knows
all about playing World Cups from his days doing just that for Brazil.”

Hang on, it could safely be assumed that
Pele is expecting his own Brazil to get through to the next round to avoid
claims of being unpatriotic or even blasphemy, in a nation where football is a
religion. And if the great thinks Japan’s in with a
chance, then that leaves the Socceroos out of the picture, with only two teams
progressing from the group – which also includes Croatia – to the final 16.

Pele
said the going will be tough for Brazil, the defending champions, as their
rivals become “all the more determined to spring a surprise.”

Australia’s
best football scribe, Mike Cockerill, reminds
us that we’ve upset Brazil before. Rewind to the 2001 Confederations Cup.
Australia 1 Brazil 0.