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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

England, Brazil Shape Up for Epic

APEngland's David Beckham training on Thursday in Shizuoka, Japan, before his team's World Cup quarterfinal against Brazil.
SHIZUOKA, Japan -- The eyes of the soccer world will turn to the elegant Ecopa Stadium in Shizuoka on Friday as England and Brazil line up for a World Cup quarterfinal match that has all the makings of a classic.

The two teams will walk out onto the pitch not only with the weight of famous past encounters on their shoulders but also knowing that, in light of upsets in other parts of the draw, the winner of this game will have a great chance of carrying off the World Cup trophy come June 30.

Even the great Pele, who starred in the epic match between these two sides in Mexico in 1970, has been joining in the hype.

"Brazil is the greatest nation in World Cup history and England is the home of football," he was quoted as saying by The Japan Times. "This game would be worthy of the final itself."

Much of the attention before the match has been focused on Michael Owen's groin, which he tweaked in England's 3-0 victory over Denmark last Saturday.

For most of the week, Owen looked doubtful to play but by Thursday he was fit enough to take part in a training session at the stadium along with England's other injury worry, Paul Scholes, who turned an ankle against the Danes.

"He [Owen] is fully fit and it will not be a gamble to play him," England coach Sven Goran Eriksson said Thursday. "It is a big boost to us that he is fit."

Losing Owen would be a massive blow for England because the team will be relying on his pace to pose stern questions of a Brazilian defense that looked unconvincing against Belgium on Monday.

Several England players watched that game from the stands and will have come away encouraged by a disjointed performance from the Brazilians, who needed the help of the referee in disallowing a legitimate goal by Belgium and a deflection for Rivaldo's goal to win the game.

England will want to take a leaf out of Belgium's book by closing down the Brazilian midfield and cutting off the supply lines to Rivaldo and the resurgent Ronaldo, a job that Scholes and Nicky Butt will be confident of carrying off against the lightweight pairing of Juninho and Gilberto Silva.

What the English will not want to do is to give the ball away as much as they did against Denmark. Disguised by the one-sided scoreline was the fact that England had just 37 percent of possession against the Danes, and if the team is as generous toward Brazil it will find things tough-going, particularly if the weather forecasters are correct in predicting a warm and humid afternoon.

Such conditions are likely to suit Brazil, although England has had the advantage of two extra days to recuperate from its last match.

Another plus point for the English players is that they will once again enjoy the vast majority of the Japanese support, which has virtually turned this World Cup into a home tournament for them. By the end of the game, they will be hoping that the English brass band has silenced the samba beat of the Brazilian drums.

Following South Korea's amazing win over the Italians on Tuesday, the three other quarterfinal ties are dominated by unfamiliar faces.

The Koreans, Turkey and Senegal are all first-time quarterfinalists, while the United States is making its second appearance at this stage of the tournament after reaching the semifinal of the inaugural World Cup in 1930.

Having defied the odds in reaching the last eight, the Americans have been in bullish mood ahead of their match against an uninspiring German side at Ulsan, South Korea, on Friday.

In Michael Ballack, however, Germany will have the only world-class outfield player on the pitch, and if he is in form, the Germans should make it through to the semifinal.

Saturday's games see Spain take on co-host South Korea in Gwangju, South Korea, and Senegal play Turkey in Osaka, Japan.

The Koreans have already knocked Portugal and Italy out of the World Cup and, with the backing of their fanatical home support, they are capable of making it a memorable Mediterranean treble against the Spanish.

In its match against Ireland on Sunday, Spain looked slow in defense and flimsy in midfield, and to add to the team's problems, top striker Raul is looking doubtful for the quarterfinal after sustaining a groin injury in the same game.

Senegal, meanwhile, has provided one of the feel-good stories of the World Cup, and the team demonstrated in its performance against Sweden that it has the mental strength as well as the natural ability to last even longer in the tournament.

Turkey also showed character in knocking co-host Japan out of the World Cup in front of a partisan crowd Tuesday, but the team lacks the effervescent skills of players like Pape Bouba Diop and Henri Camara, which have lit up the World Cup since Senegal's opening-day victory over France.