Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Brazil 1 Croatia 0

A funny thing happened in the 69th minute of Brazil's opening win over Croatia: Ronaldo was booed. Loudly and vehemently. Mercilessly.

Upon being replaced by Robinho, Ronaldo left the field to a massive chorus of whistles (the European version of booing) and it wasn't unwarranted. I know I may be a stickler here, but usually if you pretty much refuse to run, fans aren't going to be happy. And that's what happened. Ronaldo, who had already been called fat by Real Madrid fans this past season, was not only a non-factor, but he apparetnly thinks that at this point in his career he is above that whole breaking a sweat thing.

Really, it was just bizarre. I realize that Carlos Alberto Parreira had to start Ronaldo. I mean, after all Ronaldo has done for Brazil, if he's on your roster, you put him in the starting lineup in the opener. It's just something you do. The guy has earned at least that.

That said, Parreira would be foolish to stick with Ronaldo after today's sad display, especially when the much younger, much more energetic, and possibly just as talented Robinho is just waiting for his chance. The thing is, Brazil's performance as a whole was flat and uninspiring, and I have to think that when your legend up top doesn't seem to care, that's going to gave a trickle down effect. It's amazing to think that a Brazilian team would need life injected into it, but I'm thinking Parrieira should be thinking just that already after only one game. And maybe a spot on the bench might inspire Ronaldo to find his old form, though if he's just straight-up out of shape, it may be way too late for that.

Of course, Brazil has no obligation to look good while winning. There's no rule that says Brazil can't win unless it also plays the free-flowing, fun, attractive soccer the world has come to expect. Yet on a day like today, even after their record eighth straight World Cup win, you can't help but expect more. It was somehow disappointing.

Today just wasn't Brazil soccer. At least not the Brazil soccer the world loves so much. Hell, Croatia controlled much of the second half and created the better opportunities. They were unlucky not to equalize. Brazil, clearly, was missing something. If this was a precursor to a bigger problem, or just a slow start, remains to be seen.

Brazil's next game with Australia should be interesting if only because as lackluster as Brazil was today, Australia ended its win over Japan on the opposite end of the spectrum - complete euphoria. The Aussies, and the entire nation supporting them, are on a high right now and playing Brazil in such a state could make for a fun game, and maybe even an upset. Who knows?

Meanwhile, Brazil's fans, probably the best fans on the planet, are in fine form already. Fine, fine. fine.


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