Ronaldinho confident Ronaldo can bounce back

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The Independent Online

The Brazil playmaker Ronaldinho says he is confident his troubled team-mate Ronaldo will bounce back to form in tomorrow's Group F match with Australia in Munich.

"I think Ronaldo is a player who has a lot of quality and the trust of all his team-mates," Ronaldinho said yesterday. "We have a lot of confidence that in the next match he will be able to do everything he is capable of to help Brazil to collect another win."

Ronaldo, who won the World Player of the Year award in 1996, 1997 and 2002, was jeered when he was substituted in the 69th minute of Tuesday's 1-0 win over Croatia after a lumbering performance in which he looked short of match fitness. On Wednesday, the striker was taken to a clinic for a check-up after complaining of nausea and dizziness. No abnormalities were found.

Ronaldo has also been handicapped by blisters on his feet, a brief sinus problem and continuous talk that he is overweight, with even the president of Brazil, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, joining in the debate.

Ronaldinho said Brazil's target was to get better as the tournament progressed. "Brazil started well with three points," he said. "Our aim is to improve with each match and get to the final."

Ronaldinho, who has won the World Player of the Year award for the last two seasons, was asked how it felt to be compared with the likes of Pele and Diego Maradona. "My dream has always been to follow in the footsteps of the best players," he said. "I am very happy with the standard I have achieved so far and my intention is to keep improving. I'm still young and have a lot to learn...but I want to go even further."

The Brazil captain, Cafu, said yesterday: "We need to stop talking about Ronaldo. That's a problem that's in the past, just as the match against Croatia is in the past. We need to focus on our main goal now, which is the match against Australia."

Brazil's trainer said Ronaldo is not far from his ideal form, despite the striker's laboured performance in the team's opening World Cup game. "He has improved a lot since arriving for the World Cup ... he's not far from his ideal form," Moraci Sant'Anna said yesterday, a day after the striker was cleared by doctors to play against Australia.

"If he continues to dedicate himself like he's doing right now, he won't have any problems for the coming matches," Sant'Anna said.

Ronaldo, along with Cafu, underwent a 40-minute muscle training session yesterday morning in Königstein, just outside Frankfurt. He practised normally with the rest of the Brazilians in the afternoon's final training session before heading to Munich. The Brazilian football confederation stated that Ronaldo woke up upbeat and in good mood yesterday.

The Australia coach Guus Hiddink has yet to decide whether to carry out his threat to leave out players who were booked against Japan - including Tim Cahill - to ensure their availability for a potentially pivotal final game against Croatia on 22 June.

Josip Skoko could replace Vince Grella, with Brett Emerton left with the job of marking Ronaldinho.

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