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Ronaldo magic helps Brazil edge out spirited Koreans

Seoul: Two goals from Ronaldo and a late Ronaldinho penalty earned world champions Brazil a 3-2 victory against South Korea Wednesday.

Ronaldinho’s 90th-minute spot kick after Ronaldo had been brought down, finally subdued the hosts who had twice taken the lead in front of a crowd of 63,000.

“They are a strong team,” Ronaldo, the leading goalscorer at the World Cup finals, said.

The Real Madrid striker struck a goal in each half as South Korea, surprise semi-finalists at the World Cup, often outplayed the Brazilians on a bitter cold day.

Ronaldinho was also quick to pay tribute to the Koreans.

“Whoever is going to play against the Korean team in the next World Cup should prepare a lot,” he said.

South Korea took the lead in the seventh minute when striker Seol Ki-hyeon got between the Brazilian defenders to head in a free kick from Ahn Jung-hwan after Brazil’s goalkeeper Dida had been penalised for picking up a back pass.

Ronaldo struck in the 16th minute, finishing well after Ze Roberto had threaded a pass neatly through the middle.

South Korea came back strongly in the second half despite a string of substitutions and World Cup hero Ahn put them back in front in the 58th minute.

Brazil looked dangerous on the break, however, and Ronaldo, nominated for Fifa’s World Player of the Year award, scored his second nine minutes later.

The match was the international swangsong for Korean captain Hong Myung-bo and striker Hwang Sun-Hong, who both bowed to all four sides of the ground after the final whistle.

“I’m happy that it ended honourably. The weather was not in our favour. There are talented athletes (in the Korean team) but they must not be complacent,” Hong, who made his international debut in 1990, said.

Brazil and South Korea have met three times previously. In their last clash in March 1999, South Korea won 1-0. The previous meetings in 1995 and 1997 were both won by Brazil, 1-0 and 2-1 respectively.

Teams

South Korea: Lee Woon-jae (Kim Byung-ji 85); Hong Myung-bo (Kim Dae-eui 72), Kim Tae-young, Choi Jin-cheul, Song Chong-gug (Choi Tae-uk 52), Yoo Sang-chul, Kim Nam-il, Lee Young-pyo (Hyun Young-min 86), Lee Chun-soo (Kim Do-hoon 80), Ahn Jung-hwan (Choi Yong-soo 59, Hwang Sun-hong 88), Seol Ki-hyeon (Cha Du-ri 74)

Brazil: Dida; Cafu (Belletti), Edmilson, Lucio, Roberto Carlos, Gilberto Silva, Kleberson, Ze Roberto, Ronaldinho, Amoroso, Ronaldo.

Referee: Lu Jun (China)

Argentina down Japan

Argentina, playing for the first time since their World Cup debacle, struck twice in three minutes early in the second half to beat Japan 2-0 in a friendly International at Saitama Wednesday.

The Argentines took the lead two minutes into the second half with a goal by midfielder Juan Pablo Sorin and followed up in the 49th minute when striker Hernan Crespo headed in from close range.

The victory in Argentina’s first match since their shock elimination in the first round of the World Cup finals in Japan in June was a successful start to coach Marcelo Bielsa’s second stint in charge.

But the healing process for Bielsa’s team, who had started the World Cup finals among the favourites, will take a long time.

Their fans will expect them to win all such friendlies, the Copa America in Peru in 2004 and the qualifying matches for the 2006 World Cup finals in Germany to make up for arguably their worst ever World Cup performance.

Japan, missing their best European-based players due to club commitments, had the best of a keenly fought first half and striker Naohiro Takahara went close to scoring several times.

The hosts were caught dozing, however, when right winger Ariel Ortega held off a defender in the penalty area and passed to Sorin, who turned sharply and fired past Seigo Narazaki in the Japanese goal.

Juan Sebastian Veron, who initiated that attack, found space in midfield again two minutes later, starting a move that ended with Crespo’s powerful header at the far post.

Crespo, in fine form for his Italian club Inter Milan, will take some satisfaction from his goal after seeing little action in the World Cup finals as Gabriel Batistuta’s understudy even though he scored the equaliser in the 1-1 draw with Sweden in Miyagi that sealed Argentina’s World Cup fate.

In Japan’s best chance of the match in the first half, a miskick by Akira Narahashi found its way to a surprised Takahara, but the striker dragged his shot wide with only goalkeeper Pablo Cavallero to beat.

Japan were without their Brazilian coach Zico, who had to return home after the sudden death of his mother at the weekend.

Teams

Japan: Seigo Narazaki; Yutaka Akita, Akira Narahashi (Nobuhisa Yamada 62), Eisuke Nakanishi, Naoki Matsuda; Takashi Fukunishi, Koji Nakata, Mitsuo Ogasawara (Yasuhito Endo 67), Shunsuke Nakamura (Alex 59); Naohiro Takahara, Takayuki Suzuki (Masashi Nakayama 54)

Argentina: Pablo Cavallero; Facundo Quiroga (Mauricio Pochettino 89), Roberto Ayala, Walter Samuel; Javier Zanetti, Matias Almeyda, Juan Sebastian Veron, Juan Pablo Sorin; Ariel Ortega (Javier Saviola 73), Hernan Crespo (Santiago Solari 82), Claudio Lopez (Kily Gonzalez 65).

Referee: Saad Kameel Mane (Kuwait).

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