SAITAMA, Japan -- The expectations are simple. Brazil must win the World Cup -- and with style.
So when the only four-time champions struggled just to qualify for the tournament, their aura of invincibility seemed gone.
Ah, but this is Brazil. And Wednesday night, thanks to a second-half goal from Ronaldo, the team famous for playing the ''beautiful game'' beat Turkey 1-0 to advance to their third straight final.
On Sunday, Brazil plays three-time winner Germany in Yokohama, where it will be favored to carry off another World Cup crown.
''I plan then and there to have the most important goal of my career,'' Ronaldo said. ''Every goal I score is a victory. Every time I enter the pitch, for me it's an honor.''
He scored the game-winner against Turkey in the 49th minute on a magical end-to-end rush begun by, of all people, goalkeeper Marcos.
Marcos also made a half-dozen brilliant saves against the Turks, who stunned everyone by reaching the semifinals in their first World Cup in 48 years.
After Brazil took the lead, Marcos barely got his hands on a deflection that would have been an own goal. It was his third sensational stop of the match. He made two more moments later: a soaring finger save on Ilhan Mansiz's floater and a diving block of Hakan Sukur's off-balance volley.
''In modern football, every team has a chance to win. No team is necessarily stronger than any other,'' Marcos said.
But few are as inventive.
Stylish play is nothing new for the Brazilians, who won the World Cup in 1958, '62, 70 and '94 and are known as masters of ''o jogo bonito'' -- ''the beautiful game.'' In what turned out to be one more example, Marcos started the play that ended with Ronaldo's tournament-best sixth goal.
Roberto Carlos, effective at both ends all night, chested the ball back to Marcos, leading to midfielder Gilberto Silva's sprint down the left wing. He found Ronaldo, who despite being surrounded by four Turks, surprised goalie Rustu Recber with a quick, low right-footed shot.
The ball swerved just enough that Recber could only get his fingertips on it before the shot rolled into the net.
''The nightmare is over,'' Ronaldo said. ''And now is just the time to enjoy and develop this happiness.''
He was ill on the morning of the 1998 World Cup final and played poorly in Brazil's 3-0 loss to host France. He has since undergone two knee operations.
''We are trying everything we can to make it a different final with a different end,'' he said. ''Here I am going to the final to get even more and more happy with my work.''
Turkey made Brazil work hard twice in the World Cup. The Brazilians, considered a long shot by many people outside their country, won 2-1 in their opener on a controversial penalty kick by Rivaldo late in the game. In the semifinal, even though Brazil had many openings, Recber matched Marcos save for save.
Except for one, of course.
''This time they took it a bit more seriously,'' Turkey coach Senol Gunes said. ''We have talented players. We wanted to be among the world's best, and we achieved that.''
The Turks play South Korea in Daegu, South Korea, on Saturday for third place.
''The final against Germany will be relatively easy for them,'' Gunes added.
But nothing has been easy for these Brazilians. They lost six times in South American qualifying, where they rarely had trouble in the past.
Coach Luiz Felipe Scolari rarely had the entire team available for practices during qualifying. Some of the key players, particularly Ronaldo, couldn't stay healthy. The defense seemed leaky.
And they were criticized for being a team of individuals.
Scolari even shared a laugh with Germany coach Rudi Voeller at the World Cup draw last December, when both nations barely looked like contenders.
He told Voeller they both had the ''rope around our neck.''
''We hugged each other, we saluted each other, and we said maybe we'll find each other in the final,'' Scolari said.
Now they have. All of Brazil's woes have been erased rather emphatically, and the team will even have Ronaldinho back from a one-game suspension after he almost single-handedly beat England in the quarterfinals.
Brazil's colorful fans are dancing the samba in the stands before, during and after the heroes' victories. The drums are beating, the maracas are shaking, the whistles are blowing.
So bring on Germany, which, oddly, Brazil never has played in a World Cup.
''We have won nothing yet. Now we have to go after the real trophy,'' Ronaldo said. ''We have to keep our feet on the ground.''
Peninsula Clarion © 2015. All Rights Reserved. | Contact Us