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Samba fever sweeps Harare

HARARE, June 2 – Five-time World Cup winners Brazil arrived here late Tuesday to a tumultuous welcome ahead of a friendly clash with Zimbabwe.
The South Americans boast stars like Dani Alves, Julio Cesar, Robinho, Lucio, Maicon, Kaka and Luis Fabiano and were met at the airport by cabinet ministers, government officials and supporters wearing the famous yellow and blue strip.

Coach Dunga, captain of the 1994 World Cup-winning side, were also welcomed by fans chanting "Kaka, Kaka, Kaka" in tribute to the Real Madrid midfield star.

Among those who cheered the Brazilians was a teenage son of long-serving President Robert Mugabe.

The 70-strong delegation, comprising coaches, players and officials, boarded a luxury white bus and police escorted them to a city hotel ahead of their game against Zimbabwe Wednesday at the 60,000-capacity National Stadium.

Zimbabwe have chosen 13 foreign-based professionals plus local stars and the ‘Warriors’ will be led by out-of-favour Manchaster City striker Benjamin ‘Benjani’ Mwaruwari against one of the favourites for the 2010 World Cup which kicks off on June 11 in South Africa.

Shariff Mussa, the Zimbabwe team manager, said his team was well prepared for the South American giants.

"The guys are bubbling with confidence," Mussa told AFP. "We know the magnitude of this match as we are playing Brazil, but the ball is round and anything can happen."

The ‘Samba Boys’ rarely play against African teams and Zimbabwe will become only the fifth to face them during the past 30 years after Cameroon, Egypt, Nigeria and South Africa.

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Brazil are with 2006 semi-finalists Portugal, Didier Drogba-led Ivory Coast and tournament outsiders North Korea in Group G, labelled the ‘Group of Death’ after the Cape Town draw last December because of its strength.

Tanzania host Brazil in another warm-up on June 7 in Dar es Salaam – eight days before the South Americans kick off their World Cup campaign against North Korea in Johannesburg.

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