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Rivaldo and Ronaldo put Brazil through

© Reuters 2002

By Brian Homewood

KOBE, Japan, June 17 (Reuters) - A spectacular Rivaldo goal and a late Ronaldo effort sent Brazil into the quarter-finals of the World Cup after a 2-0 victory over underdogs Belgium on Monday. For the first hour of the game, the four-times champions were matched by the Europeans who were robbed of a goal by a controversial refereeing decision and a series of fine saves by goalkeeper Marcos.

Rivaldo struck in the 67th minute, controlling a high pass from Ronaldinho on his chest with his back to goal, bringing the ball under control with his next touch and then scoring on the turn with a shot that deflected off defender Timmy Simons.

Ronaldo matched his team mate's goal-a-game record with a left foot strike from inside the area three minutes from time. "The Cup starts now, every match is going to be a final," Ronaldo said. Brazil play England on Friday for a place in the semi-finals, in a replay of the famous 1970 World Cup game won 1-0 by Brazil.

"We must think about England. I think the match against England is going to be better because they play better football," Ronaldo added. Ronaldo, equal top scorer for the tournament with Germany's Miroslav Klose, now has five goals and Rivaldo four.

Brazil coach Luiz Felipe Scolari described Monday's victory as a team effort. "Everyone including our fans was very worried before this game but I kept telling them that this was a team with great fighting qualities and that is what we showed tonight," he said.

"We knew about the way Belgium would play with the high balls but we prepared for this and were able to cope. "We knew we had to try and avoid conceding goals. "The players pulled together and we knew we had to score goals and we have the players to score goals, like Ronaldo," Scolari added.

But Monday's game may have hinged on the effort which Belgium had disallowed in the 36th minute. Jacky Peeters sent over an inswinging cross from the right, Marc Wilmots won a tussle with Roque Junior and headed the ball into the net beyond a despairing Marcos only to see the referee disallow his effort, apparently for pushing.

Replays suggested that Wilmots' leap was a clean one and that the decision was extremly harsh on the Europeans. Belgian coach Robert Waseige said that until then the match could have ended in a major upset. "We all thought the Wilmots first-half goal was valid and that (decision) changed the course of the match," he said.

"I think this Brazilian defence can be beaten," he added. Belgium began by giving Brazil a first-minute fright when a dipping long-range effort from Mbo Mpenza was tipped over by Marcos. Brazil then took control of the first half, although their defence looked vulnerable every time Belgium lofted a high ball into their area. WILMOTS UNLUCKY
Roberto Carlos was close with a viciously swerving free kick while Ronaldo had three good chances to break the deadlock. The Inter Milan striker finished off a darting run by the lively Ronaldinho by firing just past the top corner, then forced goalkeeper Geert de Vlieger to dive at his feet as he homed in on goal. His most spectacular attempt came when he met Rivaldo's cross from the left with an acrobatic volley but the ball again flew narrowly wide.

Belgium made a bold start to the second half and Wilmots was unlucky again when his awkward bouncing shot from outside the area was turned around the post at the last minute by Marcos. Marcos again saved the four-times champions when he dived at the feet of Mpenza to block his shot from close range at the far post in the 55th minute.

Marcos made an even better save in the 62nd minute when he turned around a curling shot by Wilmots after he had cut inside Lucio. Waseige paid tribute to Rivaldo's goal. "The talent of Rivaldo decided the game," he said. Scolari said his priority was to relax and he had nothing to say about England at this stage. "The first thing is to rest today."

Ronaldo said the pressure had been on the Brazilians to beat the Belgians, but that now they would be able to relax and play more flowing football. "Playing England is going to be like a great final. We're going to have to analyse their best points and we're going to have to wait up to the last minute (for a result) like today," he said. "We will be very evenly matched."

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