Ronaldo and Brazil have the
opportunity to set or extend many individual and team World Cup records
in Tuesday's second-round match against African newcomer Ghana at
Yet, those accomplishments will be secondary
to the "Selecao" taking another step toward a sixth title.
As expected, Brazil swept through Group F by posting victories over
Croatia, Australia and Japan by a combined 7-1 margin. After two narrow
victories, the "Selecao" brought back the free-flowing "jogo bonito"
style of soccer in Thursday's 4-1 rout of Japan that capped group play.
The game also proved temporary vindication for Ronaldo, whose two goals
gave him 14 at the World Cup, tying him with Germany's Gerd Mueller atop
the all-time list. Intensely criticized by Brazil's media for listless
and lazy play in the first two matches, Ronaldo scored his second goal
with a world-class effort - a 20-yard right-footed strike that came off
a quick turn above the penalty area.
"It's always nice to break records," said Ronaldo, who passed Pele as
Brazil's all-time World Cup scorer with his first goal and France's Just
Fontaine with his second.
"But our main goal will always be to win the World Cup."
Ronaldo is seeking his third World Cup title with Brazil, which is just
two goals shy of becoming the first team to score 200 at this tournament.
Brazilian defender Cafu will make his team-record 19th World Cup
appearance and is two games shy of 150 with the national team. He's four
victories short of being the first player in history to captain two
World Cup-winning teams and three away from making his fourth finals
"It's fabulous," said Cafu, part of 15 World Cup victories. "I'm very
proud of these numbers."
This is the fifth World Cup and 20th match overall for coach Carlos
Alberto Parreira, who led Brazil to the 1994 title. The 63-year-old
Parreira also has led Kuwait (1982), the United Arab Emirates (1990) and
Saudi Arabia (1998) to the World Cup, but started his coaching career in
Ghana as he helped establish a foundation for soccer in 1967-68.
"Ghana was very amateur ... they were innocent then," Parreira said. "They
are not anymore. Now they are much more professional."
Parreira is expected to make one change to Brazil's lineup, restoring
midfielder Adriano to replace the injured Robinho, who suffered a thigh
injury in practice Saturday.
"It improved but he still is feeling pain," Brazil trainer Jose Luiz
Runco said Sunday. "He will undergo a magnetic resonance test ... and
then we will make a decision for the next match."
Robinho started Thursday's match when Parreira rested some of his
starters, and his speed was able to create gaps in Japan's defense that
Ronaldo was able to exploit up front.
Ghana is the lone African team in the round of 16 after finishing
runner-up to Italy in what was a difficult Group E, and the presence of
the "Black Stars" marks the sixth consecutive World Cup an African team
has reached the knockout round. They are trying to become the third
African team to reach the quarterfinals, joining the 1990 Cameroon and
2002 Senegal squads.
"We saw a lot of old players come to our dressing room," said Stephen
Appiah, who scored the decisive penalty kick in Thursday's 2-1 victory
over the United States that sent Ghana into the second round. "It
motivated us because we want to be like them. We have to go in and
represent not only Ghana but represent the continent as well.
"After the (U.S.) game, friends called me from Senegal, Togo, Nigeria,"
Appiah added. "That tells me we are playing for Africa. There's no
rivals. Africans are proud of Ghana playing in the World Cup."
But passage into the round of 16 came at a heavy price for the "Black
Stars," who will be without star midfielder Michael Essien in this match
due to a yellow card suspension. His absence denies Ghana a vital
offensive link midfielder, a role which Shelley Muntari must assume as
he plays behind Appiah and Asamoah Gyan, who missed the U.S. match due
to a yellow card suspension.
"We're under no pressure. We have to show Brazil we're here for business,"
said midfielder Razak Pimpong, who drew the foul that led to Appiah's
Ghana is expected to play a physical style to slow and frustrate Brazil.
The "Black Stars" committed 76 fouls in group play - the most of any
World Cup squad - and their 12 yellow cards trailed only Tunisia.
Accordingly, Parreira has made a public plea to protect his skilled
"They play very aggressively," Parreira said. "We have seen the
statistics and I hope the referees are able to curb this, especially to
protect the soccer played with quality."
Brazil won the only match between the teams, 8-2 in a 1996 friendly.
Ronaldo also rallied the Under-23 Brazil squad to a 4-2 quarterfinal win
over Ghana in the 1996 Olympics, scoring twice.
The winner of this game will play either Spain or France in the
quarterfinals on Saturday at Frankfurt.