Ronaldo won and
converted a hat-trick of penalties to give Brazil a 3-1 victory over
Argentina in World Cup qualifiers on Wednesday to go top of the South
American group with one third of the competition completed. Meanwhile
Colombia lost again, going down 2-1 to Ecuador.Real Madrid striker
Ronaldo emphatically answered media speculation that he might be putting
on weight as the world champions overtook their bitter rivals.
"The goals were
all normal, they were all penalties, and Ronaldo is still the player who
makes the difference," Brazil coach Carlos Alberto Parreira told
reporters in Belo Horizonte.
bottom after they were sunk by Franklin Salas's second-half winner in
Quito, their fourth defeat in six outings.
and Argentina look firm favourites to take two spots, this week's
results have left the other places wide open with only four points
separating Argentina, second with 11 points from six games, and
Chile (10 points),
Paraguay (10), Venezuela (9), Peru (8) and Ecuador (7) are sandwiched in
between. Bolivia (6) are ninth with Colombia (4) bottom.
The top four
teams qualify directly and the fifth plays off against the Oceania
region winners for another place at the finals in Germany in 2006.
Brazil (12 points)
are the only unbeaten team after yet another extraordinary Ronaldo
performance, a happy return to form after Real Madrid's dismal season.
The striker had
barely touched the ball when he burst into the penalty area in the 17th
minute and was upended by Gabriel Heinze's late, sliding tackle.
Ronaldo took the
penalty himself and sent his kick low to Pablo Cavallero's left only for
it to be disallowed because his team mates were inside the area. For the
retake, he converted an almost identical effort.
He stroked home
his second in the 68th minute after being tripped by Javier Mascherano
and completed his treble deep into injury time after falling over
Cavallero's clumsy dive for the ball.
Juan Pablo Sorin
pulled a goal back in the 80th minute and Argentina threatened to snatch
a late point before Ronaldo had the last laugh.
"Ronaldo was the
determining player in the game, I have nothing to object to in the
refereeing," said Argentina coach Marcelo Bielsa, whose players
surrounded Colombian referee Oscar Ruiz to protest at the end.
Southampton striker Agustin Delgado scored his first international goal
since the 2002 World Cup to give Ecuador a third-minute lead against
Colombia in Quito.
equalised 10 minutes into the second half with an almost identical goal,
a header from a corner, but Salas settled the match with a well-taken
effort in the 66th minute.
Colombia's second coach of the campaign, refused to be downhearted. "There's
still a long way to go," he said. "We mustn't drop our heads."