Ronaldo Suddenly Finds Himself a Step Behind

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The New York Sun

MUNICH, Germany – Four years ago, Ronaldo scored eight goals in seven matches as he returned from a long-term knee injury to play a huge role in Brazil’s record fifth World Cup triumph.

After their labored 2-0 win over Australia on Sunday,Brazil coach Carlos Alberto Parreira was asked by a German journalist: “Ronaldo, are you happy with his figure? Is he too thick?”

Unless Ronaldo can find his old magic, pace, and appetite, his place will surely be in jeopardy. Despite Parreira’s faith and public optimism, there seems to be only a slim chance of the 2002 Ronaldo reappearing.

When he was replaced by Robinho against Australia, the world champions had more speed and bite in attack.”You can’t compare a player who starts and plays for an hour and another who comes on as a substitute,” Parreira said. “The circumstances are very different. He just needs games to get fully fit.”

Ronaldo would only say: “I’m happy with my improvement and the team’s victory.”

As well as a running debate over his weight and blisters caused by his new boots, Ronaldo had to be taken to a Frankfurt hospital last week after complaining of dizziness, and was cleared to play against Australia only after tests were negative. Many close to Ronaldo believe that he is suffering psychological problems after his divorce was quickly followed by the end of a second relationship.

As someone used to praise and plaudits, he is finding it difficult to handle the vitriol now coming his way. “Fatty,” “Pathetic,” and “With Ronaldo Brazil played with 10 men” were three headlines after his display against Croatia.

Ronaldo will start in the final group game against Japan because he needs match practice, but Parreira will rest most of Brazil’s other top names.


PACE AND POWER RULE Watching this World Cup unfold, the contrast in attitude with England’s measured approach has been impossible to ignore. The sheer pace and power of the attacking play looks the way forward in this vibrant Cup. Witness the Americans’ wide men racing up and down the flanks against Italy on Saturday, their movement off the ball causing the Azzurri real problems.

The same goes for Ghana, a muscular outfit whose center forward, Asamoah Gyan, is a handful for anybody. Approaching at full speed from deep lying positions, Gyan’s supporting players gave the Czech Republic a real headache.

Yet it isn’t just the underdogs coming over all intrepid.The leading teams have also been going for the jugular, often down the wings.Through Arjen Robben and Robin van Persie, Holland has the wide areas covered in thoroughbred style. So, too, does Argentina. Speeding up the flank from his starting position at left-back, Juan Sorin seems to attack more than he defends. Maxi Rodriguez is another taking full advantage. They play free of inhibition, as if there is no other way in this competition.

The one-touch passing is crisp and sharp to keep the play moving. More importantly, teammates off the ball are working hard to give a credible option.

Perhaps it’s time for England to start thinking about doing the same. Today’s anticipated change in shape, with coach Sven Goran Eriksson expected to deploy Owen Hargreaves in the anchor role and Wayne Rooney seeking out space be hind Michael Owen, might actually lead to more depth and definition distinguishing their play.

Speed on the wings is very much in vogue. So is great movement off the ball. Sooner or later, the English must start getting trendy, lest they simply depend on David Beckham’s set-piece deliveries. In trying to beat Sweden for the first time in 38 years today, England has a good opportunity to practice the kind of slick, dynamic, one-touch soccer that has, up to now, been conspicuous in its absence.

The New York Sun

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