Sat, Jul 12, 2003 - Page 19 News List

Young samba stars look to make early impact in Gold Cup

AP , MEXICO CITY

The promising soccer stars of Brazil dislike comparisons to their famous predecessors, but they have the confidence to live up to their hype.

Kaka, Robinho and Diego -- in Mexico for the Under-23 Gold Cup -- have been hailed in the Brazilian media as the gifted talents who will be in the senior side at the 2006 World Cup in Germany. They've even been compared to greats such as Pele and Garrincha.

"I don't like this kind of comparison because I have a long way to go before arriving at the level of the king of soccer," Robinho said at Brazil's training on Thursday. "But I know I have the qualities and ability."

Robinho and Diego, teammates for Brazilian champion Santos, were taken off the Brazilian senior team to play in the next Under-21 World Cup. According to the team's coach, both players "are well beyond the average of other players in this category."

Kaka, captain of Brazil's under-23 side, made his senior debut for Brazil during a friendly against Mexico two months ago. He plays for Sao Paulo, one of the biggest teams in Brazil.

Robinho, the most acclaimed of the three, is considered the greatest discovery in Brazilian soccer since Ronaldo.

The 19-year-old is a lanky 1.72m tall, and only 60kg. Yet he's a magician with a ball at his feet. During training recently, he showed off what Brazilians call "a gift from God" -- lifting the ball from the ground and performing tricks that dazzled reporters gathered at the edge of the field.

Santos has slapped a US$35 million price tag on the talented, right-footer, who is constantly courted by Europe's big teams.

He said he planned to stay with Santos for now, but "I have dreamed of playing for Barcelona since I was little, and I hope that becomes a reality in the future."

Brazil plays Mexico and Honduras in Group A of the Gold Cup in Mexico City.

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