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Monday, June 05, 2006

Brazil issue warning with 4 goal display over New Zealand


World champions Brazil at last broke cover today and in a 4-0 defeat of New Zealand showed glimpses of their unique brand of attacking football that makes the start of the FIFA World Cup™ in five days time such an mouth-watering prospect. It did not prove anywhere near such a good day for the Netherlands however as they were held by Australia and saw three key players limp off with midfielder Wesley Sneijder’s ankle problem described as “serious”. Japan and Côte d'Ivoire also found the way to victory while Ghana created something of a surprise with a 3-1 win over the Korea Republic.

Having not surfaced as a team involved in serious action since 1 March when they beat Russia 1-0 in Moscow, there was naturally considerable interest in the way Brazil went about the challenge posed by New Zealand, in their only warm-up match before the real thing starts in Germany.

There was particular interest in the form of Ronaldo, the player who put behind him a long period on the sidelines to become the adidas Golden Shoe winner in Korea/Japan 2002. Injury has again been a regular companion for the Real Madrid marksman this season but a 43rd-minute opening goal will make him feel a whole lot better.

Ronaldo also struck the post with a sublime chip over the goalkeeper and, not to be outdone, his strike partner Adriano added a searing drive in the second half to double the Seleção’s advantage. That followed a neat set-up by Robinho while further goals arrived in the final minutes, through Kaka and Juninho Pernambucano.

Australia, who will meet Brazil in Group F on 18 June were also in action and gave a boost to their confidence as they held the Netherlands to a 1-1 draw in Rotterdam. It was a rugged affair and it left the Dutch counting their wounded afterwards. Besides the impressive Sneijder, Phillip Cocu and Giovanni van Bronckhorst were also forced to limp off.

Before the injuries began to disrupt things, the home team, starting with an all-Premiership strike force of Ruud van Nistelrooij, Arjen Robben and Robin van Persie, looked in good shape and took the lead when Van Nistelrooij seized on a rebound.

The equaliser arrived in bizarre fashion for the Socceroos who finished with ten men after Luke Wiltshire was dismissed in the 61st minute. Mark Viduka, who earlier hinted that this FIFA World Cup competition might be his farewell to international football, saw his penalty rebound from the bar and come down onto Edwin van der Sar’s body. After a further rebound it eventually fell for Australia substitute Tim Cahill to ram home.

Côte d'Ivoire completed their preparation with a 3-0 victory over Slovenia in France with Didier Drogba scoring twice before Kanga Akale added a third. It was a timely return to form for The Elephants who had drawn their previous two friendlies against Switzerland and Chile and are in arguably the toughest group of all alongside Argentina, Netherlands and Serbia and Montenegro.

Like the Ivorians, Ghana will be making their debut in this FIFA World Cup and they raised their hopes significantly with a 3-1 win over 2002 semi-finalists South Korea in which Asamoah Gyan, Sulley Muntari and Michael Essien all scored. Lee Eul-Yong had equalised for Korea early in the second half.

Japan, who will be lining up in Group F with Brazil and Australia, had shocked FIFA World Cup hosts Germany five days ago by forging 2-0 ahead before Jurgen Klinsmann’s team recovered to earn a 2-2 draw. Without the injured Naohiro Takahara – who scored twice in that game – they had to be satisfied with a 1-0 victory over Malta in Dusseldorf thanks to a first-half strike from Keiji Tamada.



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