Real target Ronaldinho may yet follow Howard's way

Brazil 1 United States 0
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Brazil's victory here in Côtes du Rhône wine territory was enough to keep them in the Confederations Cup, but nine days before the first anniversary of their World Cup triumph, this was far from their 2002 vintage. It does, however, mean their final group game tomorrow against Turkey is a play-off for a semi-final spot, while the USA were eliminated with their second defeat.

Since the season ended, the transfer market has been awash with rumours about Ronaldinho, as if the Brazilian striker has been trying to create some sort of record with the size of the clubs interested in him. First it was Manchester United, then Barcelona, and currently Real Madrid.

Yet in the opening skirmishes of this Confederations Cup group match at the Stade Gerland it was more a case of Ronaldin-who, as the Paris St-Germain player drifted around from side to side, trying some fancy touches that did not come off. Only one scooped pass to Ricardinho, whose shot was underhit, was worthy of a player who is so coveted.

This Brazil side, and even the whole squad, is a more experimental and certainly a weaker one than the manager would have liked. Carlos Alberto Parreira, who took his country to victory in the 1994 World Cup, is charged with the responsibility of making sure they retain, in 2006, the trophy they won last year.

He has partly had his hand forced with Ronaldo and Roberto Carlos still in action for Real Madrid, but he has called up only six of the squad who won the trophy in Japan last June. And no matter whom he uses, they can still pass a side to distraction, as the United States discovered here. When the Americans, whose anthem was roundly booed by the local fans, did cross the halfway line they did nothing with the ball.

Instead, Ronaldo's replacement, a dead-ringer for the last World Cup's top scorer, had one chance before half-time and took it very well. Adriano is only 21 and plays in Italy for Parma and pressed up on a defender with the ball. He robbed him and although Tim Howard, himself United-bound, blocked the first effort, Adriano's left foot made no mistakes with the rebound.

Howard, 24, is the States' first choice goalkeeper here, thanks to the absence of Brad Friedel and Kasey Keller, although he is not short of experience having played for his country at every age group leading up to the full national side. Based in New Jersey with the Metrostars, he is set to confirm his move to United next month for around £2.5m. Whether he will instantly challenge Fabien Barthez as first choice is uncertain, but with four goalkeepers at United, something will have to give and it could be the Frenchman.

He put in an uncertain display for France against Japan on Friday, while here, Howard pulled off several fine, athletic saves. Five minutes into the second half, Adriano's header forced Howard, who has Tourette's syndrome, into a full-length dive, and he later did the same to prevent a Kleberson shot doubling Brazil's lead. On a good night for goalkeepers, Brazil's Dida then stopped Landon Donovan's goal-bound shot at full stretch.

Howard signed off with yet another excellent save 15 minutes from time. In what could be a cameo of training ground routines at Manchester United next season, the American denied Ronaldinho, whose free-kick was heading for the top corner from 25 yards out.

Brazil 1 United States 0
Adriano 22

Half-time: 1-0 Attendance: 20,306

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