Munich, June 18: If it takes a baby to get his players to deliver, Carlos Alberto Parreira would wish each of them one during the World Cup, especially Ronaldo.
Brazil again laboured, pun not intended, to a 2-0 victory over Australia. After a sterile first half, Adriano scored the first goal four minutes into the second period.
He ran to the sidelines to do the rock-the-baby celebration with his teammates. The goal was a dedication to Adriano Junior who was born on Friday in Brazil.
Bebeto and Romario, in the Brazilian squad of 1994, had made this style of celebration famous in that tournament during which Bebeto had a child.
That team had won the World Cup. This one isn’t looking like the champions yet. Those who had put Brazil’s 1-0 show against Croatia in the first match down to the fact that the defending champions were playing at second gear might be worried now that the team has put up another below-par performance today.
Several times Australia came close to scoring: Harry Kewell missed an open net in the 57th, captain Mark Viduka’s chip just floated over the crossbar in the 86th and Brazil goalkeeper Dida made a great save in the 79th.
Despite the loss, Viduka was pleased with his team’s performance. “We played well and on another day it could have been different for us,” he said.
He wasn’t exaggerating.
Brazil controlled the ball but didn’t create too many opportunities and continued to look lethargic up front, though Ronaldo moved better than his frozen performance in the Croatia game. Off a Ronaldinho pass, he also created the chance for strike partner Adriano to score, tapping the ball to him eluding three defenders.
There was another magic moment when Brazil’s hero of 2002, now ridiculed by some for his weight, received the ball on his chest and flipped it over his head hoping to create a goal-scoring chance for a teammate. Still, he was way below his ability and was replaced again by Robinho, who immediately brought speed and purpose to the attack.
Even Adriano was taken off and Fred played his first World Cup game, registering a dream debut by gently nudging the ball into an open net as it came into his path, ricocheting off the post.
At the end of the match, he ran with the ball, saying: “I’m going to give the ball as a present to my father'. I hope I can get everyone else to sign it for him.”
Australia can still go through if it can beat Croatia, which played out an insipid draw with Japan in the day’s first match.
Brazil was through to the last 16, but it would not please Ronaldinho & Co. to know that Argentina, by virtue of the 6-0 drubbing of Serbia and Montenegro, is the most talked-about team of the tournament.
Gary Lineker, the former England striker, described them as “playing football from a different planet”.