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Archive for Friday, June 23, 2006

Brazil wins convincingly; Italy ousts Czech Republic

June 23, 2006

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— Ronaldo found his goal-scoring touch to give Brazil the kind of convincing victory many expected to be routine in this World Cup.

Ronaldo scored twice to tie the all-time record with 14 career World Cup goals, and Brazil clinched Group F with a 4-1 victory that eliminated Japan from the tournament Thursday night.

With its second-round berth already secured, Brazil fielded five reserve players and got goals from two of them, Juninho and Gilberto. But it was Ronaldo who was the star in Brazil's record 10th straight World Cup win.

Criticized for his weight and sluggish performances in early games, Ronaldo appeared close to top form.

"I'm very happy with my performance, with the two goals and with Brazil's victory," Ronaldo said. "Now it's time to rest and think about the round of 16."

He tied the game at 1 with a header a minute into first-half injury time. He was set up by Real Madrid teammate Cicinho, who sent him the ball with a header across the area. Ronaldo scored his second goal in the 81st, with a right-footer from 20 yards after a set up by defender Juan.

The first goal moved him past Pele as Brazil's all-time scoring leader in the competition and the second tied the record held by Gerd Mueller of Germany.

Brazil's Ronaldo celebrates a goal as Japan goaltender Yoshikatsu Kawagushi stays in the net. Brazil won, 4-1, Thursday in Dortmund, Germany.

Brazil's Ronaldo celebrates a goal as Japan goaltender Yoshikatsu Kawagushi stays in the net. Brazil won, 4-1, Thursday in Dortmund, Germany.

Brazil will play Ghana in the second round Tuesday back in Dortmund.

Japan is headed back home after finishing last in the group with one point, failing to repeat its second-round appearance from when it co-hosted the 2002 tournament. The Japanese, coached by former Brazilian all-star Zico, needed to defeat the five-time champions to have any chance to advance.

Zico changed both his starting strikers to try to boost the attack, and it seemed to work when the Japanese surprisingly took the lead despite being outplayed by Brazil.

Keiji Tamada, one of the new forwards, put Japan ahead in the 34th minute with a powerful left-footer from inside the area, completing a through pass by Alessandro Santos. Tamada received the ball unmarked, then quickly fired into the left-upper corner of the net.

After Ronaldo tied it at the end of the half, Brazil took the game over in the second half.

Italy 2, Czech Republic 0

Hamburg, Germany - Italy took care of its own business this time and knocked the Czech Republic out of the World Cup. Substitute Marco Materazzi headed in a corner kick in the 26th minute to help Italy win Group E and likely avoid a second-round matchup with Brazil.

Materazzi scored his first goal in 29 appearances with the national team and Filippo Inzaghi added a score on a breakaway in the 87th minute for Italy, which won the group with seven points.

The Czechs, ranked second in the world, were eliminated from the tournament, finishing with only the three points they earned in their opening 3-0 win over the United States.

Italy plays Australia on Monday in Kaiserslautern.

Croatia 2, Australia 2

Stuttgart, Germany - It took the Socceroos 32 years to get back to the World Cup. No wonder they wanted to prolong their stay.

Harry Kewell scored from close range to give Australia a second-round berth.

Croatia took the lead in the second minute on a dipping free kick by Dario Srna. Craig Moore equalized for Australia with a penalty kick in the 39th minute after Stjepan Tomas handled the ball in the box.

Croatia went up again in the 79th minute on a goalkeeping blunder by Zeljko Kalac, who started for regular goalie Mark Schwarzer. Croatia captain Niko Kovac shot from about 20 yards and the ball rolled over Kalac's hands. But Kewell put home a short shot off a scramble in the area.

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