A five-time champion or a first-time winner?

Brazil, the defending champion and the most successful World Cup team of all time, aims to hold onto the trophy, while the other three semifinalists, Netherlands, France and Croatia, have never won it before.Croatia, which became a nation just seven years ago after breaking away from Yugoslavia, has gone all the way to the final four in its first World Cup. Now the team will try to beat host France for a spot in the final.

Brazil, winner in 1958, '62, '70 and '94, meets the Netherlands, losing finalist in 1974 and '78, in Marseille on Tuesday. The France-Croatia semifinal is the next night in Saint-Denis, outside Paris.

A look at the four semifinalists:


Coach Mario Zagallo has a wealth of talent in attack and midfield, but his defense has shown alarming weaknesses.

Four Brazilians have their own goal-scoring race going with Rivaldo, Bebeto, Ronaldo and Cesar Sampaio all with three goals. Ronaldo has shown himself to be an impressive playmaker rather than scorer, while Rivaldo and Denilson have unlocked defenses with their weaving runs.

But the defense was repeatedly caught out by Denmark's fast forwards, and the Dutch, who also have talented strikers like Dennis Bergkamp, Patrick Kluivert and Marc Overmars, will relish the opportunity to attack Junior Baiano and Aldair at the heart of the Brazilian defense.

Roberto Carlos was guilty of a glaring blunder against the Danes, missing his overhead kick when he tried to clear the ball in front of goal, and will want to make up for that. Probably with one of his trademark long-range free kicks.


The attacking duo of Bergkamp and Overmars has been embarrassing defenders all through the World Cup, and Bergkamp's last-minute goal to oust Argentina in the quarterfinals was one of the best goals of the championship.

Kluivert, ejected in the opening game against Belgium, looked sharp on his return, and Edgar Davids, Philip Cocu and Ronald de Boer are influential support players.

But Jaap Stam, hailed as the world's most expensive defender after his $16.7 million move from PSV Eindhoven to Manchester United, has been guilty of errors that gave away goals.


After scoring nine goals in three first-round group games, the French forwards seem to have forgotten how to score.

Although midfield stars such as Zinedine Zidane, Youri Djorkaeff and Emmanuel Petit have supplied plenty of ammunition, strikers David Trezeguet, Thierry Henry, Bernard Diomede and Stephane Guivarc'h couldn't score against Paraguay or Italy. The lone French goal in those games came from defender Laurent Blanc.

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On the flip side, the defense, with Blanc and Marcel Desailly looking consistent, has only given up one goal in five games.


The complete outsider left in the competition upset three-time champion Germany 3-0 in the quarterfinal.

Robert Jarni, Goran Vlaovic and Davor Suker hit the goals after the Germans had a player ejected. But the Croatians have stars from big Italian and Spanish clubs who have tested club soccer at the highest level and won't feel out of place, even against the home team.

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