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Brazil’s Ronaldo hopes to cap comeback with World Cup title

by Rob Smaal

SAITAMA — “I had two years of suffering,” Brazil striker Ronaldo said Wednesday evening after putting his side into the World Cup final. “Every time I score a goal is a victory, every time I enter the pitch is a joy and an honor.”

And so, with a much-anticipated test against Germany looming in Sunday’s final in Yokohama, there could very well be more joy to come.

“Germany is a very powerful team,” said the Inter Milan star, a former two-time FIFA World Player of the Year who has overcome a pair of serious knee injuries over the past few years. “They will display their top potential, so I can’t single out any one player that we have to focus on.”

All-World goalkeeper Oliver Kahn might be a good place to start. The big blond shot-stopper has been virtually unbeatable this month, allowing just one shot to get past him so far in this World Cup.

Still, with German midfield ace Michael Ballack missing the final through suspension and Brazil getting back the services of exciting playmaker Ronaldinho, things are looking good for the boys from Brazil.

But Ronaldo seems to be well aware that the job is far from done at this point.

“We haven’t got the title yet, so we shouldn’t get too excited. The next match will be very tough so we shouldn’t be over-confident.

“But soccer has already won by hosting this World Cup. It’s been an excellent tournament with many interesting matches and spectacular goals.”

Turkey coach Senol Gunes, however, seems to feel it’s a done deal, calling Brazil a lock to walk off the Yokohama pitch with a record fifth title.

“Brazil is a very good side,” the Turkish manager said after Wednesday’s 1-0 semifinal loss to Brazil. “They played well against us in the (first-round) game, but this time they were taking it much more seriously. I have to say that the final against Germany will be relatively easy for Brazil.”

Ronaldo, for one, doesn’t put much stock in the words of Gunes.

“The Turkish coach talks too much,” said Ronaldo, when informed of Gunes’ prediction. “I don’t have time to comment on everything he says. First he said Turkey would beat us, and now he says we’ll beat Germany, so his words don’t mean too much to me.”

For Brazil coach Luiz Felipe Scolari, Sunday’s final will be a chance to get reacquainted with an old buddy.

“Yes, Germany is a strong team of course, a team with a lot of tradition and they deserve a lot of respect,” a relieved Scolari said Wednesday night. “I would like to pass on my warmest congratulations to their coach Rudi Voeller. When he and I met in Seoul for the World Cup draw, both teams had reached the finals by the skin of their teeth. We hugged each other and we saluted each other and we said maybe we’ll meet each other in the final. So here we are, and I’m sure we’ll meet again on the pitch in Yokohama and we’ll hug each other again.

“May the best team win, of course.”

Germany has won the World Cup three times, while Brazil has carried home the trophy a current record four times. One of the two teams has been involved in every World Cup final but one (1978) since World War II, yet curiously the traditional soccer powerhouses have never before met at the tournament.

After Germany’s 1-0 win over South Korea in Tuesday’s semifinal, Kahn was asked which team he would prefer to face in the final. His answer was Brazil.

“We have a 50-50 chance to win,” the Bayern Munich ‘keeper said. “I’ve played many finals and I know that anything is possible.”

After Brazil’s dominating performance against Turkey on Wednesday, Kahn may want to be careful what he wishes for.