A Ronaldo-inspired Brazil battled back from a goal down to beat Japan and eliminate the Asian champions from the tournament.
The Real Madrid forward equalled Gerd Muller's World Cup scoring record of 14
with a goal in each half after Keiji Tamada had given Japan an unlikely lead in
the 34th minute.
Japanese goalkeeper Yoshikatsu Kawaguchi frustrated Brazil with a string of
fine saves until first-half injury-time when Ronaldo equalised.
Second-half goals from Juninho Pernambucano and Gilberto guaranteed Brazil the
win before Ronaldo rounded off the victory with a curling finish from the edge
of the area.
The result was no less than Carlos Alberto Parreira's team deserved after a
marauding opening to the Group F game which somehow failed to yield a goal for
the world champions.
With four minutes on the clock, Kaka crossed into the centre and Ronaldo beat
Yuji Nakazawa to the ball - but the Real Madrid man glanced his header wide of
That was a taste of things to come for the Japanese defence, however, and
three minutes later Ronaldo was fed by Ronaldinho - but his left foot shot was
pushed around the post for a corner by Kawaguchi.
It was the first of a string of saves for Kawaguchi as the Japan goalkeeper
almost single-handedly kept the illustrious Brazilian strike-force at bay.
In the 11th minute the former Portsmouth goalkeeper parried Robinho's effort
to safety and a further five minutes later he again denied the Real Madrid
forward, this time pushing the ball over the crossbar.
Next up it was Ronaldo's turn to test the resolve of the Japan defence and
once again Keisuke Tsuboi was found wanting, although Kawaguchi saved his team
again as he steered another goalbound effort around the post.
The Kawaguchi show continued midway through the half when he tipped Juninho's
drive over the bar and it looked like it might not be Brazil's night.
That sense was heightened in the 34th minute when the Japanese took the lead.
Seiichiro Maki had earlier glanced a header across the face of goal but it was
with the team's first real strike on goal that Keiji Tamada gave the Asian
champions the advantage.
A perfectly weighted through ball from Brazil-born Alex released Tamada, who
turned to lash a first-time left-foot effort over Dida's head, sending the Japan
fans into raptures.
Despite being behind, though, Brazil maintained their composure and, with the
clock ticking into injury-time, they pulled level with a goal engineered by
The Barcelona man ran at the Japan defence before picking out Cicinho on the
right side of the penalty area and his header back across the face of goal was
nodded home by Ronaldo.
If the first half was about heroic goalkeeping and missed chances, the second
half saw Brazil make amends.
Six minutes after the restart Ronaldo went close with a curling effort but in
the 53rd minute Brazil finally took the lead as, for the first time in the game,
Kawaguchi took his eye off the ball when Juninho let fly from distance and his
effort found the back of the net as the goalkeeper flapped at the shot.
By the 59th minute the game was as good as over as a contest as Ronaldinho's
delightful ball through the midfield found a rampaging Gilberto down the Brazil
left and he cracked home a low shot which gave Kawaguchi little chance.
With nine minutes remaining Ronaldo completed the scoring with his second goal
of the evening after a neat exchange of passes with Juan and the burly Brazilian
curled an exquisite shot past the goalkeeper from the edge of the area.