SAITAMA — Brazil booked a spot in the World Cup final with a deserved 1-0 win over Turkey at the Saitama Stadium on Wednesday night. Throughout the tournament, Brazil had relied on the star quality of a handful of players and this game was no different as a piece of individual brilliance by Ronaldo turned a game that Brazil had dominated.
In the 49th minute, Ronaldo took a ball from Gilberto Silva, turned two Turkish defenders and with a burst of speed raced into the box before crashing in an unorthodox toe-poke that caught Turkish ‘keeper Rustu Recber by surprise, glancing his glove as it glided into the back of the net.
Ronaldo to that point had looked strangely subdued yet it took just one moment of magic from the striker to elevate himself into top spot in the goalscoring charts with six goals from six games and send his team into the final where it will meet Germany for the first time in World Cup history.
“I’m excited that we are heading to the final but we haven’t won any titles yet,” said Ronaldo. “We still have a lot of work to do in the final.”
Brazil selected speedy forward Edilson (no stranger to Japan having played for J. League side Kashiwa Reysol in1997) as a replacement for the suspended Ronaldinho while Turkey surprisingly opted for off-form striker Hakan Sukur over Turkey’s latest hero, Iihan Mansiz, scorer of the game-winner against Senegal in the quarterfinals.
The first half was dominated by Brazil with Turkey restricted to a handful of counter-attacks that only produced one meaningful goalscoring chance. In the 20th minute Turkish defender Alpay Ozalan rose to direct a powerful header goalward but an acrobatic save by agile Brazilian ‘keeper Marcos diverted the danger after a cross from the right by Fatih Akyel.
This early scare seemed to ignite the fragile brilliance of the Brazilian team and for the remainder of the half the Brazilians laid siege to the Turkish goal.
In the 21st minute a neat interchange between Rivaldo and Ronaldo found Cafu in the box with space but his shot was neatly blocked by Recber.
A minute later the unstoppable Roberto Carlos, who on the day did everything but drive the team bus, used an astonishing turn of pace to force his way into the penalty area but drilled his shot into the side netting.
The very next move saw Rivaldo drive in a powerful left foot shot that swerved into the chest of Recber, the ball rebounding to Ronaldo who could not get enough on it to beat the ‘keeper.
Brazil continued to control the match with spiderlegs Rivaldo providing the attacking impetus and Carlos supplying the speed down the left flank.
In the 34th minute, surrounded by four Turkish defenders, Rivaldo somehow managed to find the space to curl in a shot but again Recber was up to the task.
Two minutes later, Rivaldo found himself in an identical position and this time his shot beat Recber but not the right upright, blazing inches wide.
A crowd of 61,058 fans were being treated to a vintage Brazilian display and after Ronaldo’s early second-half strike, there was only going to be one winner. Brazil’s defense had received much criticism during the tournament as had Brazil’s general play over the last year, such is the expectation of all great teams. On this display, Brazil will certainly have silenced many of its detractors as its defense held firm largely due to the experience of Cafu, while its midfield created enough chances to have buried Turkey.
Turkey’s best chance of the match came with ten minutes left in the match. Hasan Sas’ free-kick was floated into the box for Sukur to swivel a first-time volley that Marcos did well to cover at the near post.
With time running out Turkey had one last half chance to get back into the match, when Mansiz glanced over a header in the dying seconds but this would have been a severe injustice to a Brazilian team at the peak of its form.
Turkey had promised to shave their heads if they reached the final, however Brazil ensured that they will be keeping the hair on their heads and their shears locked away for the time being.
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