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World Cup Diary

GROUP SEX

GAMES 43, GROUP F, JUNE 22, 2006 --DORTMUND
JAPAN 1, BRAZIL 4
FINAL
GAMES 44, GROUP F, JUNE 22, 2006 --STUTTGART
CROATIA 2, AUSTRALIA 2
FINAL

All right... a few minutes late, but here we go. With an intimate confession to start things off... The more important game strategicalli is Croatia-Australia, but I have three eyes on Brazil and just one on that other one: The Australians and Croatians just don;t turn me on that much, nor does their battle for second place

gooooooooooooooooooooooal CROATIA! WHILE Japan builds an improbable attack on the Brazilian box... The Australians began the game with characteristically foolish violenmce, a vicious foul outside the box, a free kick, a whopper of a goal in the second minute...

Back in Brazil's world, again a quieter start than we wanted to see from our men in yellow.

7... Ronaldo is awake! He lumbers into the near side of the box and left-foots a scud that the Japanese keeper manages to save... Good to see Ronaldo at least trying the ultra-slim shot.

Memo to commentarors: There are two games going on live; this is not the time to post-mortem the dead-and-gone Americans.

Brazil's Kaka thinks this is slalomming on grass: a skip past two players, a shot, high above the crossbar.

11... Another great shot, this time by Brazil's Robinho, who ran through the Japanese defense as if it were a cluster of toddlers on a playdate. But saved fantastically by the keeper. And now Ronaldo stumbling through another Japanese cluster, but this time not so successfully. At this rate Japan can be happy if it gets out of this with a shot on goal.

Story of the first half for Brazil--until Ronaldo's correction

14... And it's not as if the Brazilians are taking the Japanese lightly. They double-team them when they put on an attack. Junichi Inamoto with a good-looking strike from a few miles off, above goal. A rocket.

16... Another great run on goal by Brazil, another terrific shot and terrific save. This is the best we've seen of Brazil so far this year. It is ceaseless so far, and rather accurate too, if not for the keeper's perfection.

Over in Stuttgart it has taken Australia 13 minutes to put together its first substantive attack, a Harry Kewell shot that fizzled to fuzz, like Australia's game in general today: it's Croatia that's on the ball, came damn near to a second goal (and escaped a penalty decision).

20... RONALDO AGAIN, he's giving the Japanese defense ulcers, though not yet holds big enough for goal: the keeper Yoshigatsu Kawaguchi has managed once again to mind-read the ball for a great save. But the Brazilians keep coming back.

22... This time it's Brazil's Juninho Pernambucano (who?) getting a wonderful pass from Ronaldo along the top edge of the box, inside the arc, for a hundred-mile-per-hour shot that again the keeper saves. He's been astounding that Yamaguchi, but so have the Brazilian tacklers.

24... Japan builds an attack, and Brazil's Silva almost put it in his own oal, sliding a few feet from the maw to kick off the ball--it barely rolled off long. The Japanese did not pull off a good coenr. Brazil back on the ball. Great game so far.

. The Australians have rediscovered their muscles, they're pummeling the Croatian defense behind Tim Cahill and drawing a couple of successive corners, but the Croatians are holding them off. The tide has turned, for now, in that match. A few words on who needs what in a second. Man, this is the sort of action we wanted in the earlier matches today.

27...Ronaldo again, but smothered.

For Japan to make it into the next round they'd have to beat Brazil by a tanker-full of goals in order to make up their pitiful goal differential with Croatia. Should Australia lose.

The Australians are lining up behind their corners, but so far the Croats are showing their grit.

Ronaldinho and Ronaldo have a nice game going, they're on the same field today in every way, though it's obvious that Ronaldo is still not quite the magician we once knew and genuflected before.

32... There he was again Ronaldo at the edge of the box and inside the arc, receiing the ball, swiveling, shooting: blocked. Japan is surrounding him every time the ball so much as hints at nearing his boot.

HOLY MOTHER OF YAMAGUCHI! GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOAL JAPAN!

34... a Brazilian goal in Brazil's goal: For Brazilian coach Zico, Brazilian-born Santos flicks the ball to Keiji Tama at the far edge of the box, he firs a rocket, no chance: the ball smashes against the upper corner of goal for the 1-0 lead.

Vince Grella, Tim Cahill and Harry Kewell have turned the Australia-Croatia battle into a one-team affair, dominating play and keeping the ball in the Croatian half, but still not managing to find goal... BUT AUSTRALIA JUST GOT A PENALTY SHOT! gooooooooooooooooooooOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOAL AUSTRALIA!

Craig Moore equalized for Australia following a hand-ball by a Croatian in the penalty box (and a yellow for that player).

39... Japan could have had its two-goal lead but for yet another legally blind off-side call by the line judge. We have two superb games going here. The Brazilians still on the attack, the Australians thinking gold.

GROUP F: AS THEY STAND

    P GD PTS
  Brazil 3 2 6
  Australia 3 0 4
----------------------------------------
  Japan 3 -1 4
  Croatia 3 -1 2

How group will end if scores stay as they are until full-time

GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOAL RONALDO! GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOAL RONALDO GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOAAL RONALDO!

Cicino headed it to Ronaldo in the box, and Ronaldo headed it home, finally, and there was the finger-wag, the bare Mona Lisa smile, the subdued, because overdue, celebration, and Brazil equalizes intime for a less than panicky half-time. What a half, what an evening of football at both ends of Germany. I need a rest.

Half-time...

DON'T GO AWAY!

And from our lords and saviors over at the BBC, keeping more than an eye on the Croatia-Australia game: "It's been an absorbing, thrilling contest and, if I was the Croatia coach, I'd be telling them to put some crosses in because their goalkeeper looks very suspect."
BBC Sport match summariser Gavin Peacock.

"It was an enthralling half. Australia played the better football putting crosses in and piling into the box. But then it was a stupid handball that gets them back into the game."
BBC Sport pundit Lee Dixon.

"Viduka was rugby-tackled to the ground, I have no idea how the referee didn't give a penalty." Adrian Chiles, BBC Sport.

Second half... buckle your seatbelts everyone...

 

47... Brazil comes out of the locker room full throttle, Ronaldinho wants his piece of the action in this appropriately dubbed group-sex evening in Germany. The Brazilians are playing, joyfully playing in the Japanese half.

50... Yes, yes yes yes these are the Ronaldos and Ronaldinho we've been waiting for: a terrifically beautiful give and go into the box, with a backheel thrown in there for hell of it, capped in a Ronaldo slammer that missed the goal post by some unlikely intervention of the Japanese gods. Not missed by much. The Brazilians are smiling.

OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOH MY! GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOAL BRAZIL! OH!

by the unknown, by JuninhoPernambucano, what an astounding shot, what an amazing force, from 35 yards out, a sweet pass, the keeper was there but the ball whizzed by him faster than he could ever know. What a goal, what a shot. And they're still coming!

56...AND CROATIA! GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOAL!

59... I CAN'T KEEP UP! GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOAL BRAZIL, GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOAL GILBERTO! GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOAL FOOTBALL'S GODS!

What superb football from Brazil, what heart! Ronladinho sends as perfect a through-ball as you've seen all tournament, the kind of through ball the great Valderamma was famous for, from inside the Brazilian half to a sprinting Gilberto on the far wing, and Gilberto by himself figuring why not: he shoots, after an indiscernible change-up in his pace that commits the keepr and gives Gilberto's grass-skimmer just the deception i9t needed to evade the diving keeper and find goal. Terrific, just terrific.

Meanwhile in Croatia-Brazil, a Croatian goal fired from the edge of the box at a keeper who had his body on it, but the force of the ball was such that it bumped over him and dribbled into goal, Australia in disbelief.

64... Two more straight shots at the Japanese keeper, who's not given up, and nor has his team. Good, great to see.

 

The fate of Australia and Croatia keeps switching places...

GROUP F: AS THEY STAND

    P GD PTS
  Brazil 3 5 9
  Croatia 3 0 4
----------------------------------------
  Australia 3 0 4
  Japan 3 -2 1
How group will end if scores stay as they are until full-time

66... Japan manages a free kick from outside the Brazilian box, the first thing approximation of an attack in the Brazilian half, but it sails off harmlessly.

71... Brazil's Itzhak Perlman (Ronaldinho) is out, a well-deserved rest.

The pace has slowed down here, but not by much. The Brazilian midfield is reorganizing, the photographers are slotting out their lenses: what could really capture this display tonight though? How could it capture the contrast between these evening matches and the ones we saw earlier today? Not to take anything away from Ghana though: Ghana earned its place in the4 second round, unquestionably. But the action, the quality of play, just wasn't in those games--just as it hasn't been in any of the Americans' games, even the one they played against Italy, which was an effective but rather ugly display of football.

75... Brazil still pressing on, Ronaldo using this clinic to shed a few pounds...

Brazil's lingua franca

76... Yes, agreement with the commentators for once: Eric Poulat, the French ref, has been terrific, just letting the players play for once.

80..... GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOAL RONALDO! GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOAL RONALDO! GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOAL RONALDO, A GIVE-AND GO AT THE EDGE OF THE BOX then A SEARING SHOT PAST THE KEEPER THAT GIVES RONALDO HIS 14TH WORLD CUP GOAL, TYING THE RECORD!

AND IN STUTTGART! GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOAL AUSTRALIA! Harry Kewell in the 79th minute, a lob into the box, a header, possibly an off-side Harry Kewell getting his equalizer into goal, and they're off their rockers down under!

The Croatians have just lost themselves a player, a player red-carded for tackling the ref (a bump). Not good news for the Croats, who still can pull off their win.

It's looking grim for Croatia

 

Brazil just blocked a free kick outside the box, and another Japanese tackle: the Japanese are trying, still trying.

Australia just lost a player to a double-yellow, so we're even again in Stuttgart. But celebrating down under:

GROUP F: AS THEY STAND

    P GD PTS
  Brazil 3 6 9
  Australia 3 0 4
----------------------------------------
  Croatia 3 -1 1
  Japan 3 -5 1

 

 

Approaching the 90th minute in Brazil-Japan, certainly the most fun game of this tournament, certainly the Brazil we've been wanting from the start, and the Ronaldo we've been expecting. But keep in mind, this is Japan, an easily outplayed side.

92... Japan with a send-off shot on goal, easily saved.

AND THAT'S IT FOR BRAZIL AND JAPAN! AND IT'S OVER FOR CROATIA, AND ANOTHER COME-BACK FOR AUSTRALIA. What a night, what pair of games, what superb football. And they wonder, in my neighborhood of the world, why the rest of the world is absorbed in this!

 

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