Brazil still waiting for Ronaldinho to hit heights

 
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MUNICH, June 19 (Reuters) The cheeky flicks and backheels are there but the absence of the ever-present grin indicates that something is not quite right.

Brazil have won their first two games at the World Cup, are already in the second round and have done it without Ronaldinho scaling anything like the heights he reaches for Barcelona.

Twice World Player of the Year, world champion and Champions League winner, there seems to be little that Ronaldinho has not achieved.

Critics say one thing he has not done is to produce his best for his country and in Brazil's matches so far he has done little to prove them wrong.

Yesterday, he completed four full internationals without scoring, his last goal for his country coming in the spectacular 4-1 win over Argentina in last year's Confederations Cup final.

There were plenty of the usual deft flicks but after that Ronaldinho appeared short on inspiration, often reduced to attempting 50-metre crossfield passes which ended up going out of play.

He was not helped by the lack of movement up front from Ronaldo and Adriano, which often forced him to about-turn and look for an alternative.

DEEPER ROLE Ronaldinho appears to be suffering from playing a deeper role than he performs for Barcelona and is also burdened with the chore of marking the opposition when the opposition has the ball.

''When he plays for Barcelona, Ronaldinho is also an exceptional forward, which hasn't happened in the first two games,'' said former Brazil striker Tostao.

Most Brazilian commentators agreed that there was a considerable improvement yesterday from the disjointed performance in the opening 1-0 win over Croatia.

However, the South Americans look anything but potential world champions.

Ronaldo, while improving on his performance against Croatia, is still a slow, lumbering shadow of the player who scored eight goals at the 2002 World Cup.

His striking partner Adriano, who scored the first goal against Australia, has also been far from the player who finished top-scorer at the 2004 Copa America and last year's Confederations Cup.

Brazil looked most impressive in the last 20 minutes when Robinho replaced Ronaldo, which is likely to increase pressure on coach Carlos Alberto Parreira to rest the ''Phenomenal One''.

''With Robinho on the field, the team flows, and Kaka and Ronaldinho also benefit '' wrote Fernando Calazans in O Globo.

Parreira now has a dud game against Japan at his disposal.

He can experiment with alternatives or persist with the current line-up and hope that his so-called Magic Quartet finally live up to their billing.

REUTERS PM KN1453

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