SPORTS

Brazil says stars will go to Confederations Cup

RIO DE JANEIRO – Brazil’s top soccer authority refuted reports that its elite stars might skip the Confederations Cup in Germany this summer to rest for the World Cup next year. The Brazilian Soccer Confederation, or CBF, said no one had been released for the tournament, to be held from June 15-29. It specifically denied reports that FC Barcelona star Ronaldinho – voted the world’s best player in 2004 – would not be summoned for the tournament. «Recent reports that Ronaldinho had been released. .. are not true,» the confederation said in a statement. «The CBF was not consulted by any club seeking the release of athletes.» Brazil wants to avoid a repeat of its disastrous showing in the 2003 Confederations Cup, when it fielded a mixed squad and was eliminated in the first round. Brazilian media called the team’s play «disgraceful.» But national coach Carlos Alberto Parreira doesn’t want to deprive his top players of a vacation in their last summer before the 2006 World Cup, which Brazil has won a record five times. «I could test a few players,» Parreira said in a recent interview with the Rio daily O Globo. Ronaldo, Ronaldinho, Kaka and other Brazilian stars play in Europe, where the soccer season ends soon. If they are summoned for the Confederations Cup, they will not have had a lengthy vacation for nearly two years by the time of the World Cup in Germany. But the CBF sees the Confederations Cup as a good dress rehearsal for the World Cup. Eight teams will play in Cologne, Nuremberg, Leipzig, Hanover and Frankfurt, at stadiums that will also be used for the World Cup. «The CBF’s position is the same as ever, to take Brazil’s main national team to the Confederations Cup,» the CBF said. Brazil is in Group B with Euro 2004 winner Greece, Asia champion Japan, and Gold Cup winner Mexico. Argentina, Germany, Tunisia, and Australia are in Group A. Brazil is in second place in the South American qualifying group for the ’06 Cup, four points behind leader Argentina. The top four teams qualify for finals in Germany, while the fifth-placed nation plays the Oceania winner for another spot.