Brazil wins, yet still searches for its samba
A team reckoned to be one of the most talented in the country's unrivaled soccer history again couldn't stage the show everyone had been expecting.india Updated: Jun 19, 2006 13:09 IST
Two matches into this World Cup, Brazil is still searching for its samba.
A team reckoned to be one of the most talented in the country's unrivaled soccer history again couldn't stage the show everyone had been expecting, but still advanced to the second round with a shaky 2-0 win Sunday over Australia.
The lack of flair may bother Brazilian fans who expect not just wins but works of art. It doesn't bother coach Carlos Alberto Parreira.
"We are in the round of 16," Parreira said. "The importance of this match was to guarantee our participation in the (next round)." The five-time champion and current No. 1 in FIFA's rankings hasn't been eliminated in the first round since 1966. Brazil also hasn't scored as few as three goals in its first two World Cup matches since the 1990 tournament in Italy, when Argentina eliminated its South American rival in the second round. Sunday's game started slowly.
Level at halftime and laboring throughout the match, Brazil led in the 49th minute when Adriano whipped a low shot past Australia goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer. Then the team with a field full of stars hung on for a record ninth consecutive World Cup victory. Toward the end, Australia had as many good chances as the heavily favored Brazilians. Goalkeeper Dida was tested repeatedly, and only a great save and several shots just off target kept the Australians goal-less.
In the end it was Brazil that got the late score when reserve forward Fred knocked a rebound into an empty net. Brazil ended with one goal more than its 1-0 opening match victory over Croatia. But this win was at least as lethargic and lacked panache. After an unremarkable first half, Adriano unloaded a left-footed shot from the top of the penalty area after clearing a defender. With the ball in the net, he was joined by his teammates in a "rocking the baby" celebration _ his son, Adriano Junior, was born in Brazil on Friday.
Ronaldo, who improved slightly from his dismal performance in the opener, set up Adriano with a ball across the penalty area. Though Brazil's fans chanted "Ronaldo, Ronaldo, Ronaldo" whenever the striker made a play, he again was replaced in the second half by Robinho.
It was Robinho who hit the right post in the 89th minute, and ball ricocheted across the goalbox into the path of Fred, who entered the game a minute earlier for Adriano and tapped it into the net.
"This is an incredible debut in the World Cup. I couldn't have expected something like this," Fred said. "I am going to give this ball as a present to my father."
The Brazilians were hoping to redeem themselves against Australia and prove they are still worthy of the hype. But except for Adriano, Brazil saw its "magic quartet" held in check for the second straight game.
Two-time FIFA player of the year Ronaldinho was heavily marked from the beginning and struggled to find space. Ronaldo was more active than in his first match, looking more dangerous and creating chances.
"I'm happy with my improvement and with the national team's victory," Ronaldo said.
But he still was far from the Ronaldo who led Brazil to its fifth title in 2002 with eight goals in seven matches. He misplayed easy balls and was late getting to others.
"We kept him (Ronaldo) quiet, which was great," defender Lucas Neill said. "Ronaldinho didn't really hurt us. Kaka was huffing and puffing. But overall I think it was just two lapses in concentration."
The Australians, playing in their first World Cup since 1974, gave Brazil fits for much of the second half.
Orchestrating the attack, captain Mark Viduka nearly tied it in the 86th minute, but his chip over Brazil goalkeeper Dida missed just high.
Dida also had a great diving save in the 79th on a side volley by substitute midfielder Marco Bresciano. Harry Kewell missed the open net in the 57th after Dida failed to hold onto a high ball inside the area.
After an opening 3-1 win against Japan, the Socceroos' performance had the look of a team that belongs in the second round. A win against Croatia on Thursday would get them there. Coach Guus Hiddink spoke proudly of his players, saying they had forced the world champions to play on the counterattack. "The morale is very high," he said of his team. Brazil captain Cafu played in his 18th World Cup match, tying a national record held by Dunga and Taffarel. With 14 victories, Cafu has already won more World Cup matches than any other Brazilian, and has played a record 148 games for his country. He has lost only 19 of those matches.