Ronaldo vows to get up to speed after extra training

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The Independent Football

Ronaldo has promised to pick up the pace in Brazil's match against Japan today. The striker had a dismal outing in the 1-0 opening win over Croatia, and improved only slightly in the victory over Australia.

But he said yesterday: "I'm very upbeat for this match. I feel very good physically and I know I'll play even better against Japan."

The Real Madrid player has been working overtime recently to get in shape, taking part in individual training sessions in addition to the regular practices with the rest of the squad.

"I've been practising hard and I'm certain that the results will show even more in the match against Japan," he said. The 29-year-old is three goals away from becoming the tournament's all-time leading scorer, two goals behind Gerd Müller and tied with Pele on 12.

The Brazil coach Carlos Alberto Parreira said he may rest some of his first-choice players, including Emerson and Cafu, but added that Ronaldo was likely to start so he could continue to "gain rhythm".

Parreira admitted that today's game is little more than a run-out; the next match is the important one.

"The next round and the quarter-finals are the most difficult in the World Cup - more difficult than the semi-finals or the final," he said. "That is because the players know that if you lose a game in the group stage you can still go through. Lose in the next round, however, and you go home. That makes the players more nervous so you have to become a psychologist. If you reach the semi-finals you are only a few days away from the end of the tournament so it is easier for the players."