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Saturday, July 01, 2006

Ronaldo Scores Goals and Proves a Point

Ronaldo Scores Goals and Proves a Point

Brazil's Ronaldo, top, celebrates his goal with bench teammates during the World Cup Group F soccer match at the World Cup stadium in Dortmund, Germany, Thursday June 22, 2006. The other teams in Group F are Australia, and Croatia. (AP Photo/Martin Meissner) (Martin Meissner - AP)
BERGISCH GLADBACH, Germany -- Ronaldo proved an old adage in the World Cup. Form is temporary, class is permanent. The striker had been criticized for being overweight and performing poorly in Brazil's first two matches before he scored two goals to seal a 4-1 win over Japan on Thursday that secured the top spot in Group F.

Ronaldo's 13th and 14th World Cup goals tied him with Gerd Mueller as the competition's career scoring leader. Not bad, considering Ronaldo failed to score and was substituted in both earlier games.

"Ronaldo is back," Brazil coach Carlos Alberto Parreira said. "We always believed in him, we think he's a special player and that's why we kept him."

The striker first scored with a header in first-half injury time in the defending champion's win over Japan. He then added a second in the 81st with a right-footed shot from 20 yards.

It was a relief for the 29-year-old Ronaldo, who had to deal with a series of distractions since arriving for the World Cup a month ago, including a weight controversy and a string of minor health problems.

"Goals bring confidence as well as winning games," Ronaldo said. "In the next games I hope I can keep on scoring."

He was crucial in the 2002 World Cup, leading the tournament with eight goals in seven matches, including both in the 2-0 final win against Germany.

But Ronaldo's evident weight gain as he arrived for this year's tournament as well as his lackluster performance in Brazil's first two games led to questions about whether he was still up to scoring goals.

Earlier this month, Ronaldo described the stir over his health as "ridiculous" and said he felt on top form after Thursday's game.

"I'm confident in my body, physical ability and condition," Ronaldo said. "I wasn't in the best shape because I went 45 days without training but we followed a specific training program and today I'm much better."

Ronaldo's teammates were ecstatic at seeing him return to his old level.

"It's good to know we can rely on Ronaldo and know he will be getting the goals for us," Cicinho said.

Ronaldo put on weight after enduring a series of injuries with Real Madrid this season and Brazil's physical trainer Moraci Sant'Anna on Wednesday revealed the striker weighs 199 1/2 pounds, almost 19 pounds more than listed by FIFA.

But Sant'Anna, who said the striker lost nearly 11 pounds since arriving for Brazil's training camp, said he was proud of Ronaldo's dedication and performance.

"I think he deserves the most merit," Sant'Anna said. "Because he's been aiming for this physical state, trying to do everything and even a little bit more during the morning period while the others are off."

Sant'Anna maintained that continued attention to Ronaldo's fitness could help improve his play even more.

"He still has room to improve, he has space. I think that as we started the muscle training work about a week ago we hope that we start to see the results starting from now," Sant'Anna said. "I think one thing helps the other. When a player is better physically this helps to improve his technique."

While Ronaldo said he would stick to his efforts to keep fit, he said he still wanted to find some time to take a break after Brazil's victory over Japan.

"I'm very happy with my performance, with the two goals and with Brazil's victory," Ronaldo said. "Now it's time to rest and think about the round of 16."