Brazil mobbed on arrival in Zimbabwe

HARARE - Brazil got a rapturous welcome when they arrived in Harare on Tuesday night for a friendly with Zimbabwe as local fans tried to catch a glimpse of the squad.

The five-times World Cup winners, widely tipped to win the first finals hosted on the African continent, flew in from South Africa for Wednesday's high-profile warm-up match.

Brazilian officials said Zimbabwe, whose team stand a lowly 110th in the world, was chosen to host the top-ranked side because of its proximity to South Africa, the country's southern neighbour which stages the month-long tournament from June 11.

Harare's altitude, at nearly 1,500 metres above sea level, is similar to South Africa's highveld region which will host a number of World Cup games including the final in Johannesburg.

Hundreds of cheering fans beating drums mobbed Brazil coach Dunga and his players, including former World Footballer of the year Kaka and Robinho, as they entered a Harare hotel under tight police guard.

"This is unbelievable! Hosting this team is as good as having our own small World Cup in Zimbabwe," screamed one fan as the Brazilian players were ushered into the five-star hotel.

Zimbabwe's tourism and soccer authorities are hoping the match will send a positive message about a country that has endured more than a decade of political and economic upheaval.

"This is the best thing ever to happen to Zimbabwean football," the Zimbabwe Football Association's chief executive Henrietta Rushwaya told reporters.

"I hope this is the beginning of many good things to come."

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