Football: Ronaldo back to his best

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ARGENTINA'S AMAZING run of penalty misses continued on Sunday as they were beaten 2-1 by the defending champions, Brazil, in the quarter-finals of the Copa America in Ciudad del Este.

Ronaldo scored the winner for Brazil with his fourth goal of the tournament to become the leading scorer. Earlier in Luque, Ivan Zamorano, his team- mate at Internazionale, grabbed the decisive goal to give Chile a 3-2 win over Colombia in the day's other quarter-final. A third Inter player, Argentina's Javier Zanetti, had an outstanding match - but his efforts were in vain.

Argentina's penalty phobia began the previous Sunday when Martin Palermo amazingly missed three in their 3-0 first-round defeat by Colombia. This time, the captain Roberto Ayala stepped forward after Beto fouled Gustavo Lopez with his side 2-1 down with only 12 minutes left. But Ayala fared no better than Palermo, as his shot was saved by the Brazil goalkeeper Dida, and Argentina were on their way home after their third successive Copa quarter-final defeat.

The match capped a dramatic weekend in which the quarter-finals produced 16 goals and the team that scored first in each ended up being eliminated. Brazil will face Mexico, who beat Peru on penalties after a 3-3 draw on Saturday, in tomorrow's semi-final in Ciudad del Este. Today in Asuncion, Chile take on Uruguay, who knocked out the hosts Paraguay on penalties after a 1-1 draw on Saturday.

On Sunday, Argentina started well and took an 11th minute lead through Juan Pablo Sorin, but three minutes of individual brilliance won the game for Brazil.

The first was the free-kick from which the otherwise ineffectual Rivaldo equalised in the 33rd minute. The second was the Ronaldo's 48th minute long-range winner. And finally came Dida's penalty save, his second of the competition.

Brazil's coach Wanderley Luxemburgo was diplomatic in victory but Ronaldo could not contain his joy at beating such bitter rivals. "To beat Argentina is a marvellous feeling, wonderful." he said. "It's always good to beat Argentina."

Colombia, under their coach Javier Alvarez, had emerged as one of the title favourites after winning all three first-round matches, and had been expected to beat Chile.

They twice led through Jorge Bolano and Victor Bonilla but the defender Pedro Reyes twice headed Chile back on level terms. Then Zamorano ran on to a through pass from the defender Miguel Ramirez and scored a well- taken solo goal to knock out the competition's most entertaining side.

For the semi-final, Chile will welcome back Zamorano's striking partner, Lazio's Marcelo Salas, who was suspended for the last two games.

The Boca Juniors striker Palermo, meanwhile, was left to contemplate his international future. Brought in after Gabriel Batistuta and Hernan Crespo were rested following a long season in Europe, he hoped to finish as top scorer. Instead he left with three goals, the same number as his penalty misses, and a nasty black eye sustained against Uruguay.

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