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Brazil Might Be in League of Its Own

June 09, 2002|GRAHAME L. JONES | TIMES STAFF WRITER

With favored France, Argentina and Italy each having been beaten once already in this tournament, Brazil served notice Saturday that it will be anything but easy to deny it a record fifth World Cup.

Granted, the opposition was only China, but the way in which the Brazilians dismantled the Chinese defense en route to a 4-0 victory in front of 36,750 fans in Seogwipo, South Korea, was impressive and intimidating.

This might not be the finest Brazilian team ever, but its strike force ranks with the best.

All the same, it was defender Roberto Carlos, arguably the world's top left back, who first cracked the Chinese wall with a thunderous free kick in the 15th minute. The left-foot shot from 25 yards was in the back of the net before goalkeeper Jiang Jin had time to realize that his defenders had left too large a gap in their ranks.

Roberto Carlos blasted the ball through that gap and it was all downhill from there for the Chinese as Brazil's "Triple R" line took command.

Ronaldinho chipped a cross from the left flank into the goal box in the 32nd minute, and Rivaldo surged in to side-foot the ball past the goalkeeper to make it 2-0 in Brazil's favor.

Seconds before halftime it became 3-0 when Ronaldo was pulled down in the penalty area by defender Du Wei and Ronaldinho stepped up to score on a penalty kick.

Ronaldo completed the scoring in the 55th minute, latching on to a pass from Cafu and beating Jiang from close range. It was Ronaldo's second goal of the tournament and led him to suggest that more will be coming.

"I believe I can now score a goal in every match," he said. "I feel great."

The closest China came to scoring was when Zhao Junzhe came within inches of netting China's first World Cup goal, only to watch in dismay as his curling shot clanged against the right post.

Despite the defeat, China's second in a row after an earlier 2-0 loss to Costa Rica, Coach Bora Milutinovic praised his players for their effort against the experienced and talented Brazilians.

"I am proud of my players," he said. "It is a strange feeling. When you lose, it is not good, but we were playing a strong Brazil team. For us it was very important to play well. I am very happy with my players; they did everything they could."

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