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Workrate replaces tricks

Brazilian pair roll up sleeves in Europe

Miroslav Klose and Toni Kroos scored the goals to earn Bayern victory in Belgrade, but general manager Uli Hoeneß singled out a different individual for special praise. “Lucio was the best player on the pitch. He was world-class, grade one with distinction,“ the board director declared afterwards.

Lucio was indeed a towering defensive presence in a fierce battle on a totally unpredictable surface. His excellent positioning and solid tackling thwarted the Serbs time and again. “He was our driving force in defence,“ agreed Ottmar Hitzfeld. The Brazil star also unleashed the shot which led to Klose’s first-half equaliser.

Model captain

Lucio has curbed his fondness for advancing beyond the half-way line in recent months, but he made on exception on Thursday and loosed off a 30-yard drive which Belgrade keeper Randjelovic could only fumble into Klose’s path. “Lucio shouldered the responsibility and showed his class as a captain,“ Hitzfeld enthused.

In Oliver Kahn’s continuing absence, Lucio has worn the captain’s armband with distinction. “But that’s not what matters to me. My job is to do my best and help the team. We all worked extremely hard and played as a unit,“ the 29-year-old modestly commented.

Hitzfeld: Zé was world class

Lucio’s fellow-countryman Zé Roberto came a close second in the man of the match stakes after another fine exhibition of ball-winning and distribution. “Zé’s quality as a world-class holding midfielder isn’t a secret any more. I’m delighted he rejoined the club,“ Hitzfeld observed. The 33-year-old not only grafted away in the enforcer role, but also mastered the horrendous conditions sufficiently to show flashes of his outstanding technical ability. “I actually believe he may have been assisted by the heavy pitch, because he’s nimble and an effortless runner,“ the head coach mused.

Nevertheless, chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge was not the only observer to find it “curious, that our Brazilians were the best players while some of the others had big trouble.“ Perhaps it was no surprise after all: the game took place in a stadium known locally as the Marakana, albeit the local version of the imposing original in Rio de Janeiro.