Brazil 2 Australia 0: Adriano and Fred on target as champions sink Australia

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The Independent Football

They did not advance beyond Australia with flair, but while the world waits for Brazil to transfer the gold from their shirts to their boots Carlos Alberto Parreira will use the echoes from his past for consolation today.

Winning ugly does not exist in Brazil, although the 1994 success was as close as they have come to that betrayal. The accusations are rising again 12 years later. "Australia controlled the game and in the second half Brazil had to counter attack and for me that is not the characteristic of a world champion," Guus Hiddink argued after an unfortunate loss in Munich. "For me Brazil are not at their best, not 100 per cent," he added. "They had great difficulties against Australia and in the second half we dominated."

The Australia manager had cause to rue a result that leaves qualification resting on a draw with Croatia on Thursday, Harry Kewell, Mark Viduka and Marco Bresciano missing chances to have equalised Adriano's opener, though he would have to concede that he was beaten by the virtues that underscored Parreira's triumph in America; patience, pragmatism and ruthlessness.

Their defence is vulnerable but yet to concede in this tournament, their much-vaunted front line is struggling for sharpness yet combined to turn this contest and, like Croatia before them, the Socceroos showed that outstanding organisation and a fierce work ethic can stifle their inspirations in midfield.

"To guarantee a place in the last 16 was the objective," Parreira reasoned; "But we improved both physically and tactically from the first game. The trend in a World Cup is to improve game by game."

There were many similarities with the champions' opening game as they prised out a victory here. Parreira rested calls to drop Ronaldo after a lacklustre performance in Berlin and, though he withdrew the Real Madrid striker once again, prompting the inevitable questions about his weight afterwards - "ask the doctor," the Brazil coach growled - it was form rather than fitness that raised concerns yesterday. Ronaldo worked industriously for the team but was isolated by Brazil's failure to weave a way behind a well-drilled Australian defence, booked for shooting after the whistle by the German referee Markus Merk and squandered his one chance to replace Pele as his country's leading goalscorer in World Cup football when he missed the ball completely following Kaka's intelligent flick over his marker.

He was not alone in his frustration. Ronaldinho's wasteful first-half display was encapsulated by the step-over that resulted in him standing on the ball and falling over - for once the smile was gone - and he was stifled by Hiddink's decision to swamp midfield with five men. Yet in the 49th minute the subdued superstars proved their worth when they combined to give Adriano a yard of space on the edge of the penalty area, the Internazionale striker tucking Ronaldo's square pass just inside the left hand post of Mark Schwarzer's goal.

It was a reward for unflustered patience, yet drew an immediate response from Australia. Hiddink had seen one promising first-half move flounder when Mile Sterjovski allowed the ball to run out of play believing he had been blown offside. The whistle, however, had come from the Brazilian support, and the Dutch coach stirred memories of Kuwait's comical walk-out in 1982 as he lambasted a terrified Fifa official. "He wouldn't do anything, but it was not decisive," said Hiddink, who "had my doubts" about several decisions from Merk, including Ronaldo's position in the build-up to Adriano's goal. His mood deteriorated as Kewell shot over an open goal after Dida had dropped his cross under pressure, Viduka narrowly failed to convert two decent openings and the substitute Marco Bresciano did likewise before Brazilian substitute Fred converted from close range in the 90th minute after Robinho's shot.

Australia's fate rests on the outcome of their final game against Croatia - "There will be a lot of emotions involved as the two countries are closely connected," Hiddink admitted, while Parreira may ring the changes against Japan dreaming of 1994.