Brazil crush Japan 4-1 to win group

<img border='0' align='left' title=' ' src='' class='caption'> Brazil fielded five reserve players on Thursday and still beat Japan 4-1 to win Group F at the World Cup.

Updated: February 25, 2007 11:34 IST
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Brazil fielded five reserve players on Thursday and still beat Japan 4-1 to win Group F at the World Cup. Ronaldo scored his 13th and 14th World Cup goals to pass Pele as Brazil's all-time leading scorer in the competition, while reserve players Juninho and Gilberto each added a goal. The victory - Brazil's 10th consecutive in World Cups - secured set up a second-round match against Ghana on Tuesday. Japan is eliminated, failing to repeat its second-round appearance from the 2002 tournament. The Japanese team, coached by former Brazil international Zico, needed to defeat the five-time champions to keep its chances of advancing alive. Zico changed both his starting strikers trying to boost the attack, and it seemed to work when the Japanese surprisingly took the lead despite being outplayed. Keiji Tamada, one of the new forwards, put Japan ahead in the 34th minute with a powerful left-footer from inside the area after a through pass by Alessandro Santos. Tamada received the ball unmarked, then quickly fired into the left-upper corner of the net. Ronaldo improved after lackluster showings in previous matches and was a constant threat. He equalized with a header a minute into first-half injury time, set up by a header across the area from Real Madrid teammate Cicinho. Ronaldo scored his second goal in the 81st, with a right-footer from 20 meters after a set up by defender Juan. Ronaldo is only one goal short of becoming the tournament's overall leading scorer. He is level with Gerd Mueller of Germany. Juninho, replacing regular starter Ze Roberto, scored Brazil's second goal in the 53rd with a shot from about 25 meters (yards). Japan goalkeeper Yoshikatsu Kawaguchi badly misjudged the shot. Gilberto, replacing Roberto Carlos, got Brazil's third goal in the 59th after a neat through pass from Ronaldinho. Gilberto entered the area unmarked and sent a low left-footer past Kawaguchi. The goal by Japan was Brazil's first conceded in World Cups in four matches. It hadn't allowed a goal in the tournament since its 2-1 win over England in the quarterfinals of the 2002 tournament in South Korea and Japan. Brazil could've equaled Italy's record of five straight shutouts in the 1990 World Cup. Brazil finished the group with nine points, five more than second-place Australia. Croatia was third with two points, and Japan last with one. Brazil coach Carlos Alberto Parreira's changes to the lineup - leaving out veteran wingers Cafu and Roberto Carlos, midfielders Emerson and Ze Roberto and striker Adriano - worked from the beginning. Cicinho, Gilberto, Gilberto Silva, Juninho and Robinho all played well and contributed to Brazil's victory. Robinho, who had substituted Ronaldo in the first two matches, added speed to Brazil's attack from the start, creating several scoring opportunities and setting up his teammates in several occasions. Despite the goal allowed, Brazil controlled possession and dominated most of the match, only failing to get more goals because of saves by Kawaguchi. Brazil had struggled in its first two matches despite victories over Croatia and Australia. The defending champions - who entered the tournament heavily favored to win a record sixth title - performed well below expectations, being heavily challenged and failing to impress. It was Brazil's sixth victory against Japan in eight matches. The teams drew two times, including 2-2 in the Confederations Cup in Germany last year. It was the second encounter between Zico and his native country. The coach had faced Brazil for the first time in the Confederations Cup draw last year. (AP)

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