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Ronaldo grabs headlines, defenders do the work

Ronaldo forces his way past Ghana goalkeeper Richard Kingston.

Ronaldo forces his way past Ghana goalkeeper Richard Kingston.

While Ronaldo has once again been hogging the headlines, Brazil's much-criticised defence has done most of the hard work on the team's run to quarter-finals.

The world champions have conceded only one goal in their four matches with central defenders Lucio and Juan and goalkeeper Dida acknowledged as their top players in Tuesday's 3-0 win over Ghana.

It was an an odd match in which Ghana enjoyed more possession, yet Brazil could have won by even more goals if they had taken their chances.

Brazil took a fifth-minute lead through Ronaldo but Ghana dominated the rest of the first half before again getting hit on the counter-attack in first-half injury-time as Adriano made it 2-0.

Ze Roberto added a third late in the game.

"Dida was Brazil's best player," wrote 1970 forward Tostao in his newspaper column.

"The supporting actors Lucio and Juan were once again better than the stars, Ronaldinho, Kaka and Ronaldo."

Dida made at least three top-class saves to keep Ghana at bay while Lucio and Juan had their work cut out as the West Africans repeatedly found their way through the middle of the Brazilian midfield, especially in the first half.

But with their goal intact, Brazil were able to ruthlessly hit Ghana on the counter-attack.

Lucio, in particular, has had an excellent tournament so far. Remarkably, he has gone through Brazil's first four matches without committing a foul, emulating the feat of Paraguay defender Carlos Gamarra at the 1998 World Cup.

On Tuesday, he even found time to set up Brazil's crucial second goal - scored when Ghana were threatening an equaliser - with a powerful run out of defence to the halfway line.

"I just want to continue defending well - like any defender I know that at some stage I'm going to commit a foul," Lucio told reporters afterwards.

"Our target is to help each other and keep concentrating for the 90 minutes."

It is an interesting turnaround for a player who in the past has appeared to struggle to keep his aggression under control.

Lucio, who played in the 2002-World Cup winning side, was involved in an infamous incident during the 2000 Olympics in Sydney where he punched team mate Roger.

He was also the last Brazilian player to be dismissed when he was sent off in the 4-1 win over Paraguay last June.

Juan has a more collected and composed style, though he picked up a rare booking in Tuesday's game.

Parreira delighted

Coach Carlos Alberto Parreira was once again delighted with the rearguard.

"The defence did well and restricted Ghana to long-range shots," he said.

"If they hadn't done so well, the scoreline could well have been different."

Parreira admitted that his team had made mistakes and hurried their passing, particularly in the first half, but became exasperated when asked if he had abandoned the concept of the 'beautiful game'.

"History doesn't talk about the beautiful game, it talks about champions," he said. "Why do we have to play beautiful football when the others don't?

"History records five world championships, not the beautiful game. Playing very well is not important, winning is. I have to congratulate the fibre of my team. The ball wasn't moving as smoothly as we wanted but we showed good spirit.

"Nobody is going to change the way they play at this stage."

The coach said that to criticise his side did not give credit to a Ghana team who pushed them for long periods, especially in the first half.

"We knew it wouldn't be easy today, 3-0 seems like an easy game but it wasn't," he said.

"Ghana had four games here, they could have drawn with Italy, they played very well against the Czechs and played good games against the United States and us.

"We made many mistakes, we gave away a lot of ball - speed is co-ordinated, hurry is speed without co-ordination and we hurried the ball. We lacked that co-ordination.

"We knew they pushed up, we'd seen that in the videos, but we hurried it. We could have made more use of the wings, we were offside too often or lobbed the ball on to their centre-backs' heads.

"In the second half we improved and we put the ball on the ground and when we do that Brazil are superior to any opponent."

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