18 June, 2006

Southern Balls: Brazil 2 Australia 0

The reputation of Brazil is such that they are consistently named as favourites for virtually every World Cup, regardless of the quality of their team at the time. As they proved in 2002, however, they are capable of winning the World Cup whatever the quality of their team.

This Brazilian side, and especially Ronaldo, have come in for some criticism recently, but they are undoubtedly a force to be reckoned with. Against Australia (represented in the ITV studio by Shane Warne, Rolf Harris presumably being unavailable) they look good in midfield, playing the skilful passing game we expect from them, but they show no inspiration and are unable to pick the lock. Australia are content to sit back and wait for an opportunity to attack on the break. They make no real chances but their defence, and especially the full backs, are solid.

On the half hour Ronaldo is pointlessly booked when he boots the ball into the net after the whistle has blown for offside, and five minutes later he falls over in the box after failing to connect with a straightforward ball. He looks clumsy and slow and Brazil are much the weaker for it. On 42 minutes he has a decent strike, but the ball goes wide.

In injury time Australia come close when Marco Bresciano shoots over the bar. It has been a drab first half and it ends without a goal.

The second half starts better for Brazil and for Ronaldo, who sets up Adriano with some skilful play. Adriano finishes decisively. The goal gives Brazil a lift and they look brighter, but Australia respond well. Harry Kewell has only been on the pitch for a few seconds when he misses a great opportunity to score, after Dida fumbles the ball. The goal is wide open and it looks harder to miss, but Kewell somehow manages it.

The football is much more entertaining as Australia chase the goal. For a short while they have the better of the game, but are unable to make any genuine chances. Robinho replaces Ronaldo after 70 minutes, but the Brazilians look like they need something more in defence rather than attack.

That, however, is not the Brazilian way, and a few minutes later they regain the impetus with a good spell of attack. It doesn't last long though - an Australian free kick sees the ball going just the wrong side of the post and a lob by Mark Viduka lands on the roof of the net.

Australia seem so close but they just cannot finish. They are finally defeated on 89 minutes when Fred finds himself with the ball at his feet and an open goal in front of him following a rebound. The goal might spark further discussions about active and passive players in offside decisions, but it stands and the game is won 2-0.

It has been a good display, though not a vintage one, from the Brazilians, who are now certain of qualification. They are certainly strong but they will need to do more to justify the hype.

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