CAN THE WOMEN SUCCEED LIKE THE BOYS FROM BRAZIL?

Published: Tuesday, June 6 1995 12:00 a.m. MDT

      Roseli and Romario have a lot of things in common. They both have No. 11 on their jerseys, they score a lot of goals - and they're "Swede killers."

      Romario's goal with nine minutes left gave Brazil a 1-0 win over third-place Sweden in the World Cup semifinals in the United States last year. The Brazilians beat Italy in the final.Roseli's 38th-minute lob over the Swedish goalie gave Brazil a 1-0 triumph Monday over 1991 bronze medalist Sweden in their Group A women's World Cup opener in Helsingborg.

      "We didn't expect to win," said Roseli, a forward who started playing soccer with boys at age 5 in the Sao Paolo slums. "It was a big surprise. The Swedes put the pressure on after we scored.

      "It was an important win for our confidence and Brazilian women's soccer. Our goal is to make the quarterfinals, so we can qualify for the Olympic tournament next year in Atlanta."

      The defending champion United States, which lost just one game during the long buildup to the tournament - 2-0 loss to Denmark in March during the Algarve Cup in Portugal - begins defense of its title in a Group C game against China today in Gavle, central Sweden.

      "There are 12 teams and they are all capable of winning the title," said forward Michelle Akers, who scored both goals in a 2-1 win over Norway in the 1991 World Cup final and is considered the world's top female player. "The team with the best preparations, the best luck and the greatest commitment will win."

      No other team can match the Americans' preparation. Coach Tony DiCicco brought 26 players into camp in Florida in late February and they've been training on a full-time basis since.

      "This team is better and more professional than the one we had in 1991," said Akers, one of nine veterans returning from the championship squad. "But that goes for all participating teams since women's soccer standard is much higher today than four years ago."

      European champion Germany struggled to a 1-0 victory over Japan in the other Group A match Monday at Karlstad, western Sweden.

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