Brazil, the five-times winners have looked a shadow of their true selves
Posted by ssbg on June 18, 2006
Brazil's Adriano scores the opening goal of the game
Two games, six points. Rather like England, Brazil are working their way through a World Cup crackling with excitement elsewhere without reaching anything like the standards they are capable of.
In successive outings now, the five-times winners have looked a shadow of their true selves, struggling to break down determined opponents who refused to be cowered by the lofty status of the individuals wearing those famous yellow shirts.
The difference between a defeat and a draw for Australia was minimal. Avoid defeat against Croatia next Wednesday and the Socceroos will go bouncing into the knockout phase. But Adriano's well-taken 49th-minute strike and Fred's late tap-in meant there was scant justice for wholehearted Australian endeavour. And, on the plus side, if a team comprising seven Premiership players, plus second-half substitute Harry Kewell, can deny Brazil, there is hope for England yet should they eventually meet the South Americans later in the competition. In the same way as Sven-Goran Eriksson is attempting to squeeze round pegs into square holes, Brazil coach Carlos Alberto Parreira must find a way of facilitating four wondrous strikers. The main centre of current debate surrounds the heavyweight force that is Ronaldo. Despite the criticism of the striker's size and his midweek visit to a Frankfurt hospital after a worrying attack of dizziness, Parreira clearly still has plenty of faith in the man who won Brazil the last World Cup four years ago. There is no doubt Ronaldo's best days are behind him and, given his burly frame, there has to be a major question mark over his professional hunger. Yet he remains capable of producing sublime football few could ever hope to match. The chested control, then overhead return ball that set up Kaka in the contest's opening minutes was pure genius. And had Kaka's first-time volley found the corner of the net rather than the advertising hoardings, fans would have been drooling over it forever more. The way he toyed with the Australian defence before setting up Adriano for Brazil's opener was a joy to behold too. Unfortunately, nowadays for Ronaldo, with the sublime comes the ridiculous. Eight minutes before half-time, a teasing pass from Ronaldinho invited Kaka to flick a pass to his senior striker. It might have been asking a lot for Ronaldo to volley home, but he did not even make contact and once again his contribution ended midway through the second-half. The gulf in skill may be wide but if there are a couple of areas the Socceroos could match their illustrious opponents, they were discipline and effort. Wily coach Guus Hiddink played on this to the full. Deploying Brett Emerton and Scott Chipperfield to pick up Kaka and Ronaldinho depending on which side of the pitch they entered, the two most influential players in this Brazilian side were denied room to breathe. Only once during the opening period did Ronaldinho get up a head of steam and the outstanding Lucas Neill slid in to rob him on the edge of the box with a magnificently-timed tackle. Kaka got on the ball more often but on too many occasions he was running from deep where his deft control caused less damage. That is not to say all Australia's first-half heroes were in defence. Jason Culina never stopped running – forwards or backwards – in midfield, let down only by a woeful series of free-kicks and corners. And Marco Bresciano, introduced by Hiddink when Tony Popovic limped off midway through the opening period, came as close as any Brazilian to grabbing the first goal with a curling effort which sailed just over in stoppage time. It seemed Australia could have done without the interval though because within four minutes of the re-start, they were behind, concentration levels having lapsed for that decisive moment. There appeared little danger when Ronaldinho played a pass to Ronaldo on the edge of the area. But, after turning and holding the ball up despite being faced by three would-be tacklers, Ronaldo rolled a fine ball to Adriano, who took maximum advantage of Chipperfield's failure to close him down and drilled a shot into the bottom corner. Brazil continued to dominate possession but it was not until Australia threw off their defensive inhibitions in the final 15 minutes that the chances began to come – and then they were at both ends. Kaka headed against the bar and Adriano sent an overhead kick skimming wide. But Bresciano's curling free-kick gave Brazilian fans a scare before Mark Viduka's lob landed on the roof of the net with goalkeeper Dida beaten and fearing the worst.The cruel twist came right at the end for Australia when Robinho struck a post, allowing Fred to tape home a second Brazil scarcely deserved.