DORTMUND, Germany – Ronaldo found his goal-scoring touch to finally give Brazil the kind of convincing victory many expected to be routine in this World Cup.
Ronaldo scored twice to tie the all-time record with 14 career World Cup goals and Brazil clinched Group F with a 4-1 victory that eliminated Japan from the tournament tonight.
With its second-round berth already secured, Brazil fielded five reserve players and got goals from two of them, Juninho and Gilberto. But it was Ronaldo who was the star in Brazil's record 10th straight World Cup win.
Ronaldo faced questions about his fitness and form after struggling in the first two games but once again showed off the talent that has made him one of the game's great players.
He tied the game at 1 with a header a minute into first-half injury time. He was set up by Real Madrid teammate Cicinho, who sent him the ball with a header across the area. Ronaldo scored his second goal in the 81st, with a right-footer from 20 yards after a set up by defender Juan.
The first goal moved him past Pele as Brazil's all-time scoring leader in the competition and the second tied the record held by Gerd Mueller of Germany.
Brazil will play Ghana in the second round on Tuesday back in Dortmund.
Japan is headed back home after finishing last in the group with one point, failing to repeat its second-round appearance from when it co-hosted the 2002 tournament. The Japanese, coached by former Brazilian all-star Zico, needed to defeat the five-time champions to have any chance to advance.
Zico changed both his starting strikers to try to boost the attack, and it seemed to work when the Japanese surprisingly took the lead despite being outplayed by Brazil.
Keiji Tamada, one of the new forwards, put Japan ahead in the 34th minute with a powerful left-footer from inside the area, completing a through pass by Alessandro Santos. Tamada received the ball unmarked, then quickly fired into the left-upper corner of the net.
After Ronaldo tied it at the end of the half, Brazil took the game over in the second half. Juninho, replacing regular starter Ze Roberto, scored in the 53rd minute with a shot from about 25 yards that appeared to change directions at the last minute and fool Japan goalkeeper Yoshikatsu Kawaguchi.
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 ended Brazil's string of four straight World Cup shutouts since beating England 2-1 in the quarterfinals of the 2002 tournament. Brazil could have equaled Italy's record of five straight shutouts in the 1990 World Cup.
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 for 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 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.
Australia 2, Croatia 2
STUTTGART, Germany – It took the Socceroos 32 years to get back to the World Cup. No wonder they wanted to prolong their stay.
Harry Kewell scored from close range to give Australia a 2-2 draw with Croatia and send the Aussies into the second round alongside defending champion Brazil from Group F.
Croatia took the lead in the second minute on a dipping free kick by Dario Srna. Craig Moore equalized for Australia with a penalty kick in the 39th minute after Stjepan Tomas handled the ball in the box.
Croatia went up again in the 79th minute on a goalkeeping blunder by Zeljko Kalac, who started for regular goalie Mark Schwarzer. Croatia captain Niko Kovac shot from about 20 yards and the ball rolled over Kalac's hands.
But Kewell put home a short shot off a scramble in the area, and Australia was headed for a matchup with Italy in Kaiserslautern on Monday.
Instead of galvanizing the Croatians, Srna's goal awoke the Australians and prompted a series of attacks. The pressure was rewarded with the penalty kick, and Moore sent the goalkeeper one way, the ball the other.
The match was billed as a clash of loyalties. Seven players of Croatian descent play for Australia, while three of Croatia's grew up Down Under.
Dario Simic got sent off for Croatia and Brett Emerton also received a red card for Australia in the second half.