SHIZUOKA — It was billed as the three R’s (Ronaldo, Rivaldo and Ronaldinho) of Brazil against the defense and organization of the England side. Fortunately for Brazil, two of the famed R’s showed up to send England packing after an absorbing 2-1 come from behind win at the Shizuoka Stadium on Friday.

A well-taken goal by Rivaldo on the stroke of halftime and a second-half free-kick from Ronaldinho canceled out Michael Owen’s 23rd-minute opener.

In truth it was a match that neither side stamped its authority on, with England unable to create a single chance of substance in the second half against a side reduced to 10 men for much of it.

Ronaldinho was sent off by referee Felipe Ramos for a challenge on Danny Mills in the 57th minute. However, the replay clearly showed that Ronaldinho’s tackle, while on the dangerous side, had unquestionably made contact with the ball first.

Brazilian coach Felipe Scolari was equally puzzled by the decision, “The red card was a harsh decision by the referee as Ronaldinho went for the ball.”

However, Scolari went on to add that he was happy to reach the last four of the competition as this had been his second target after qualifying for the tournament. “The spirit of the group is excellent and I want the nation to know that we can do more,” said Scolari.

England opted for an unchanged side from the one that beat Denmark in the Round of 16 while Brazil playing in its less familiar blue kit, brought in defensive midfielder Kleberson in place of creative midfielder Juninho. Brazil made the mobe because it was mindful of the fact that although being the top goalscoring team in the competition to date, it has also been prone to conceding soft goals.

A soft goal is exactly what Brazil conceded in the 23rd minute to give England an early lead. A ball from Paul Scholes found Emile Heskey who held the ball up well before sending a long, hopeful pass upfield in the direction of Owen.

Brazilian defender, Lucio seemingly had the ball covered only to clumsily let it bounce off his hip and into the path of Owen who finished off the chance in the manner that has made the Liverpool player one of the world’s most feared strikers.

The game to that point had been slow with both teams overly cautious in the hot and humid conditions.

With a 1-0 lead, England was content to sit out the first half and let Brazil take the game to them. For the majority of the half the tactic worked as Brazil struggled to break down the solid England defense, which was combining well with the midfield to close down the space and plug the gaps.

Brazil had clearly done its homework on England however, realizing that the way to attack England was through the middle and not from the flanks as England’s central defensive pairing of Rio Ferdinand and Sol Campbell had combined throughout the tournament to snuff out any danger from balls sent in from the wings.

With seconds remaining before halftime, Ronaldinho made a telling run through the heart of the England midfield finding Rivaldo unmarked inside the penalty area.

Rivaldo showed great composure to control the ball and make space to curl the ball around England ‘keeper David Seaman into the bottom right corner for the equalizer.

England would have been gutted to have conceded a goal just before halftime.

Worse was to follow for England after the break, when Ronaldinho lobbed Seaman with a free-kick from 35 meters out, with the Arsenal man perhaps expecting a ball into the box. A ‘keeper of his experience will be disappointed at giving Brazil the advantage in such a careless manner. Caught off his line, he tried to back pedal but ended up watching the ball elude his last-gasp lunge.

While England looked solid in the first half and controlled the game, in the second half it was very poor. Attack after attack broke down in their formative stages as England failed to find the right ball into the box. Scholes, one of England’s key players for so much of the tournament, was disappointing in midfield, wasting strong attacking positions on more than one occasion.

Brazil looked ordinary and when Ronaldo was substituted, and with Ronaldinho shaking his head on the bench, an England goal would have put it in a position to seize the initiative and grab the semifinal spot on offer.

It wasn’t to be, however, as Brazil did a good job of keeping the ball away from the English and used every opportunity to waste time — Rivaldo particularly guilty in this regard — as time ticked slowly away.

England coach Sven-Goran Eriksson had one more roll of the dice when he brought on Darius Vassell for Owen and Teddy Sheringham for Ashley Cole, but he would have been disappointed to see his team bow out in such lame fashion.

Brazil can now look forward to a relatively “easy” (although this World Cup has made a mockery of such thinking) semifinal against the winner of Saturday’s Senegal-Turkey clash in Osaka.

Eriksson was philosophical in defeat, “We played very well in the first half but then gave away the goal. Even though we had a man advantage we were still tired in the second half and couldn’t focus enough. Nevertheless we can leave the tournament with our heads held high.”

“Everybody tries to avoid making mistakes,” said Beckham when asked about Brazil’s second goal. “It would be a disgrace to blame Seaman for the goal, I don’t think it was his fault.

Having got through the “group of death”, its disappointing to go out at this stage but we are a young squad and can build on this,” Beckham added.

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