Ronaldo's subdued display for Brazil against Croatia in the champions'
World Cup opener has rekindled the debate about whether he is fit enough
to keep his place in the lineup.
Aside from one brief moment in Tuesday's match, when he moved forward
with some urgency to fire just over the bar, Ronaldo was indolent for
the 69 minutes he played in the 1-0 opening win in Berlin.
With Ronaldo struggling, AC Milan star Kaka rescued the holders with a
fine individual strike.
Ronaldo, the two-time World Player of the Year, came into the finals
with a question mark hanging over him after an injury-ravaged and
chaotic season at Real Madrid saw him score just a dozen goals, while
extending his and the club's trophyless spell to three years.
Since arriving in Germany, he has been plagued by blisters and a fever,
but it is the weight issue which will not go away in his third World Cup
Tuesday's sluggish showing was more than deja vu - after all the
29-year-old headed for Asia four years ago having endured a slew of knee
operations which restricted him to barely 70 games in five seasons at
Once there, the 'Phenomenon' blew away all the doubts in style with
eight goals, including a pair in the final win over Germany.
But on the cusp of 30 the extra few kilos are making a difference, and
Ronaldo's growing irritation with the fascination shown by the world's
media, fans and even Brazil's president regarding how he tips the scales
are throwing an uncomfortable spotlight on him.
Whereas Ronaldo answered all his critics in Japan, he failed to do so
against the Croatians, who could hardly believe they were up against the
man who has scored as many World Cup goals as Pele and who stands just
two behind all-time record holder Gerd Muller.
"It was very easy. I've played against him before and it was very
difficult," said Croatian defender Robert Kovac after Tuesday's
"He must be tired, he hardly touched the ball."
Goalscorer Kaka spoke up for his teammate.
"Ronaldo says he's yet to reach his ideal level of fitness," he said,
while pointedly adding it was the defensive shape of the side which left
a lot to be desired.
Coach Carlos Alberto Parreira has in the past indicated that he would no
sooner drop Ronaldo than Sven-Goran Eriksson would dispense with England
skipper David Beckham, but he admitted his striker was "lacking a little
"He has not been playing for the past two months and has had only two
friendlies so it was natural he felt a bit heavy as it was very hot,"
the coach added.
Despite his disappointing showing, Ronaldo was no less anonymous than
strike partner Adriano and it was left to Ronaldinho to try his hand at
centre-forward when he went close with a late header following a superb
run and cross from the ageing Cafu.
For defender Ze Roberto, the supply line to Ronaldo was another
"The main difficulty was we were up against a side who kept it very
tight at the back and blocked us. I think the heat also played a part -
we were a bit tired.
"It was the first game and we were a little bit nervous," he added.
For Juventus star Emerson, "you have to take into account it was our
first game and there are various things to tighten up. But what matters
are the three points and that's what we came out to do here."
Ronaldo himself was unwilling to discuss the match, but he will have to
find his appetite in time for what could prove a physical encounter
against Group F co-leaders Australia in Munich on Sunday.