Ronaldinho strikes twice in Brazil win

Agence France Presse

Porto Alegre, June 6:

A Ronaldinho double and further goals from Ze Roberto and youngster Robinho earned Brazil a 4-1 victory over Paraguay here on Sunday to put them within one point of leaders Argentina whom they meet in three days time. Ronaldinho, the 2004 FIFA World Player of the Year, had a superb game and was often in the heart of the action apart from converting two first half penalties. Brazil are now going into their match against arch rivals Argentina in Buenos Aires on Wednesday in good spirits though that cannot be said for their opponents who lost their unbeaten record in a 2-0 defeat away to Ecuador on Saturday. Argentina lead the 10-nation, South American World Cup qualifying table with 28 points and Brazil now have 27 points from their 14 matches. The top four qualify automatically with the fifth-placed team playing off with the Oceania winners.

Brazil coach Carlos Alberto Parreira went ahead and included 21-year-old Santos striker Robinho, as well as Inter Milan’s Adriano, and Ricardo Oliveira was left on the bench. Robinho

benefited from the absence of Real Madrid superstar Ronaldo who asked Parreira to be left out because of his recent separation from his fiancee Daniella Cicarelli. The 50,000 fans in the crowd were simply treated to a goal feast. First up was a 32rd minute penalty from Ronaldinho following a handball. The Barcelona star struck the ball firmly to the left as Paraguay keeper Justo Villar dived the other way. Ronaldinho got another spotkick in the 40th minute when Robinho was brought down in the area, and he again hit it to the left but a

little harder and higher leaving Villar, once again, no chance. Brazil could easily have added another couple of goals early in the second half when Brazil’s Ze Roberto hit the crossbar and a Carlos effort skimmed the left hand post.

With 20 minutes to go, Ze Roberto made up for his earlier miss when he received the ball on the edge of the area and, after controlling the ball, curled it left-footed into the top left hand corner to leave Villar no chance. Roque Santa Cruz pulled a goal back for Paraguay with a header two minutes later but that was a minor blip in Brazil’s fortunes. Robinho, with only Villar to beat, sent him the wrong way in the 83rd minute to leave Brazil fans in a buoyant, party mood. Meanwhile Parreira has something to prove when they meet Argentina on Wednesday as it has been nearly 10 years since they last won in the Monumental stadium in Buenos Aires. Parreira has led Brazil against Argentina seven times but only twice at the Monumental stadium — when they lost 1-0 in 1983 but drew 1-1 in 1993 — and he is out to vastly improve those statistics with a win.