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Wednesday, 26 June, 2002, 14:31 GMT 15:31 UK
Ronaldo seeks final redemption
Turkey's Fatih Akyel watches Ronaldo chest the ball down
Ronaldo has scored 10 goals in World Cup finals
BBC Sport Online's Phil McNulty

Brazil's Ronaldo stands on the brink of World Cup redemption as the old order finally restored reality to the tournament of shocks.

Ronaldo left France four years ago a broken man after Brazil lost 3-0 to the hosts, a shadow of the wonderboy who had illuminated the football world from his teenage years.

He went into enforced and injury-plagued exile with questions asked about his physical and mental ability to return to the game's greatest stage.

And in the intervening post-Paris period, Ronaldo has done little to answer those who feared his best days were behind him at a cruelly premature age.

But in Japan the Ronaldo of old has returned - and Turkey felt the full force of his renaissance in the World Cup semi-final in Saitama.

He may have departed after 67 minutes to protect a thigh injury, but the damage had been done.

And he is one step closer to erasing the bitter memories of his last ill-fated World Cup campaign.

Ronaldo celebrates his winning goal against Turkey in the World Cup semi-final in Saitama
Ronaldo continues to lead from the front

Ronaldo skirted around the edges of a thrilling first half, but he took only three minutes of the second to make another decisive move towards a Golden Boot for himself and a fifth World Cup for Brazil.

After all the surprises of this World Cup, it is with a sense of irony that two of the old and established campaigners, Brazil and Germany, will contest Sunday's final in Yokohama.

Brazil may not be the force of old, but they have still captured the imagination in this World Cup.

And in Ronaldo they have a superstar who has rebuilt his reputation under the fiercest scutiny.

For Turkey, bold and brave in defeat, there was a dignified exit and confirmation of their steady emergence as a football force, first at club level now with country.

In Hasan Sas and Yildiray Basturk, even though they were not at their best against Brazil, they have two outstanding players who Turkey can count on in years to come .

Not forgetting Rustu Recber, a goalkeeper who is among the best in Europe.

Crown contenders

The sight of empty seats at a World Cup semi-final hints at either apathy or continuing ticket problems - and there has been no sign of disinterest in Japan.

And the disappointment of a few open spaces inside the spectacular Saitama Stadium was underscored in a first-half played with a freedom of spirit that belied the stakes on offer.

Brazil's desire to attack has been obvious from the start of the World Cup.

Rarely can a contender to the crown make a habit of being outnumbered at the back from their own corners on a regular basis.

And if anyone believed Turkey were displaying false bravado when they stated their intention to attack the favourites, the opening stages demonstrated they were as good as their word.

But the man of the first half was highly-rated goalkeeper Rustu, who combined occasional mishandling with bravery and agility to keep Brazil at bay.

But Rustu was powerless to prevent the moment that turned the game Brazil's way when Ronaldo mesmerised Alpay and beat him down to his left.

Rustu may question his own contribution - or lack of it - but the focus must be on Ronaldo's brilliance.

Ronaldo then went through his full repertoire, setting up chances for Edilson and Kleberson that were wastefully squandered.

Now Ronaldo and Brazil stand just 90 minutes away from claiming what they believe is their World Cup destiny.


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