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By ESPN Staff

Scolari: Rivaldo was World Cup's best

PARIS, Dec 31 (Reuters) - Looking back on Brazil's World Cup victory coach Luiz Felipe Scolari paid homage to European Footballer of the Year Ronaldo but singled out Rivaldo as the competition's best player.

'I always put the squad first,' Scolari told soccer magazine France Football in an interview published on Tuesday. 'But the success of a squad is only possible if great players help it.

'That was the case with Rivaldo who, for me, was the best player in the World Cup. Tactically as well as in his shots, he was very strong. and I'm not mentioning his new frame of mind.

'He changed his approach to football,' said Scolari, who has quit the Brazil team to take over as coach of 2004 European championship hosts Portugal.

But Scolari also paid homage to Ronaldo and to Brazil's medical staff who made it possible for the Real Madrid striker to make it back to his best after years plagued by a knee injury.

'Team doctor Jose Luis Runco (...) promised me that Ronaldo would be fully operational for the World Cup and I believed him. Ronaldo's progress, his weight, his muscles, everything was closely monitored.

'Everything was planned for his return to competition during the World Cup to be as smooth and regular as possible,' he said.

He added that Ronaldo's intelligence did the rest.

'A team is not a man. There were other solutions in his position. But everybody knows that when Ronaldo is on a pitch, the opposition defence are scared because he can be dangerous until the last minute.'

Scolari said that, like Rivaldo and the other leading players in his squad, Ronaldo put team spirit ahead of his own performance.

'Not only did he score eight goals, but like the other stars in the team, he put himself at the team's service.

'More than a personal revenge from the previous World Cup, Ronaldo sensed how important that World Cup was for the Brazilian people,' Scolari said. Ronaldo was in the Brazil side that lost the 1998 final to France in Paris.

'It proves how very intelligent Ronaldo is.'