In the holiday resort of choice for South Korean newlyweds, Cheju island, Brazil ensured that the World Cup honeymoon was short and bittersweet for China.
In the holiday resort of choice for South Korean newlyweds, Cheju island, Brazil ensured that the World Cup honeymoon was short and bittersweet for China. Playing their 82nd game in the finals, compared with their opponents' second, the four-time world champions all but sealed their place in the last 16 with an emphatic win which included further goals for both Ronaldo and Rivaldo plus a Roberto Carlos "special".
Brazil were impressive without being at their most incendiary, as if pacing themselves for tougher foes ahead – who may include England. With the game won by half-time, when they led 3-0, they eased off and were almost caught out by a gifted but gauche Chinese, who gave the impression that one goal would have represented a moral victory.
It was not to be, although Bora Milutinovic's first failure in five attempts to reach the second round as a coach still has one match, against Turkey, for them to break their duck. Brazil conclude their Group C schedule against Costa Rica, and only an unimaginable heavy defeat can prevent them from progressing to face the Group H runners-up.
In terms of atmosphere, if not an evenly fought contest, this was a World Cup classic. Although a Korean stadium again had empty seats, the numbers supporting both countries, and their raucous partisanship, had the stands throbbing with excitement in a way only the co-hosts' fixtures had previously managed.
Tourist literature claims Cheju island is "famous for three abundances – of rocks, wind and women". Now they could add a fourth, foreign football lovers, although for once Brazil's were drowned out. Their colours resembled a scattering of daffodils amid a profusion of poppies, while the Chinese anthem was roared out on Korean soil in a manner that was once South Korea's worst nightmare.
These particular invaders had come hoping, against hope, to see an upset on a par with North Korea condemning Italy to a tomato-spattered homecoming in 1966. In the event, China began exuberantly and Brazil a trifle casually, but the underdogs twice wasted some clever approach work and the opportunity to strike at Marcos' goal was gone.
In the absence of their two players with British experience, the injured Fan Zhiyi and Sun Jihai, China's defence was gradually picked apart, and it will have been no consolation to Milutinovic that only one of the first-half goals came from open play. The mounting tally of fouls on Brazilian raiders was symptomatic of their growing ascendancy.
On the quarter-hour mark, for instance, Ronaldinho was cut down 25 yards out. The universal reaction on such occasions is "Roberto Carlos territory", though he had not actually found the net from a free-kick since his much-replayed "banana shot" from 40 yards against France at Le Tournoi five years ago. This time, with the not-so-great wall of China offering an inviting gap, the Real Madrid player bludgeoned a drive which flashed past Jiang Jin like a laser beam.
Soon afterwards, Qi Hong nutmegged Cafu, which was one to tell his grandchildren about. Yet it was typical of China that he then squandered possession, whereas Brazil's tricks were invariably integral to a move rather than gratuitous.
They moved further ahead in the 32nd minute. A cross by Cafu, who was outstanding in defence and attack, was cleared by Du Wei as Ronaldo arrived to head it in, but only as far Ronaldinho on the opposite flank. Rivaldo – subject of a "Go Home Cheat" banner – made ground before sidefooting the ball home.
Just before the break, it was all over bar the drumming. Ronaldo, looking sharper with each game, swerved away from two defenders, one of whom, Li Weifeng, pulled him over by an arm. Ronaldinho stroked his penalty to the keeper's right as he went left.
Nine minutes into the second half, Cafu chested down a cross-field pass by Rivaldo and burst past two opponents before rolling a pass across the six-yard area. Ronaldo darted in to score his second goal in successive matches.
To their credit, China kept up the quest for consolation. Once, Ma Mingyu broke through, but seemed paralysed by nerves and allowed Cafu to slide in to avert the danger. A swerving free-kick by Zhao Junzhe then shook the left upright, while Marcos kept out a similar effort from Shao Jiayi at full stretch.
As a trombonist of unknown nationality played the workers' anthem, "The Internationale", China left one last impression, a delightful pirouette by Shao Jiayi that left Anderson standing in the way Brazilians have been doing for decades. They will be back, but for now the great leap forward awaits Brazil.
Brazil 4 China 0
Carlos 15, Rivaldo 32, Ronaldinho pen 45, Ronaldo 55
Half-time: 3-0 Attendance: 36,750Reuse content