Football: Juninho brings Brazil to brink

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The Independent Online
A tireless performance by Middlesbrough's Juninho, including a brilliant goal, inspired Brazil to a 3-1 win over Hungary in Miami on Tuesday night and put them back on track to reach the quarter-finals.

In a sad echo of Euro 96, Italy went out, going down 3-2 to Ghana in a bad-tempered match in Washington DC.

After their shock 0-1 defeat to Japan in Group D on Sunday, the Brazilians needed to beat Hungary to have a chance of qualifying for next week's last eight. They did so in style but still need three points today against Nigeria, who beat Japan 2-0 in Orlando on Tuesday with two late goals, to be sure of going through.

Dressed down by their coach, Mario Zagallo, for their lethargic start against Japan, the Brazilians began at a vigorous pace against the Hungarians, although they survived an immediate scare when the goalkeeper, Dida, fumbled a cross after only eight seconds and was lucky to see the ball cleared.

Zagallo's decision to start with Barcelona's new $20m (pounds 13m) signing, Ronaldinho, instead of Flamengo's Savio was vindicated with a 35th-minute goal. But it was Juninho who drove Brazil forward in a sparkling display. After the Hungarians had drawn level through the second-half substitute, Csaba Madar, it was Juninho's unstoppable right-footed shot in the 61st minute that broke the deadlock.

The captain, Bebeto, deservedly netted a third six minutes from the end, taking a through ball from Juninho before crashing home a drive from the edge of the area

Brazil will be hoping that Hungary, now eliminated, beat or draw with Japan on Thursday. Either result would allow the Brazilians to draw with the group leaders, Nigeria, but they are unlikely to risk playing it safe. If they progress, Brazil will meet Mexico, South Korea or Ghana on Sunday in the quarter-finals.

Italy were 2-1 ahead against Ghana with half an hour remaining in their Group C match. However, a foul by Fabio Galante, who hauled down Augustine Arhinful in front of goal, earned Galante a red card and allowed Arhinful to score from the spot. Ten minutes later, Christian Sabah, who had scored Ghana's first goal, struck the winner in a game that saw 11 yellow cards.

In Group A Argentina look set to qualify with either Portugal or the United States, who meet in Washington DC. Argentina's opponents, Tunisia, are already out.

In Group B, France, who play eliminated Saudi Arabia in Miami, look likely to go through with either Spain or Australia, who meet in Orlando.