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Down Memory Lane: Ronaldinho had England all at Sea

Ronaldo de Assis Moreira, known as Ronaldinho, twice World Player of the Year, is unquestionably a leading name on Brazil’s list of all-time superstars.

Today, though, he finds himself out in the cold and omitted from the World Cup squad for South Africa 2010. Strange are the fates of football.

Discarded yet hailed as a national hero after scoring with a spectacular free-kick in the 2-1 quarter-final triumph over England at Shizuoka, Japan 2002 — one of the classic set pieces in the history of the World Cup.

Remember it? After 49 minutes Ronaldinho, known as Gaucho to team-mates, whipped a 40-yard free kick past England goalkeeper David Seaman.

Six minutes later he was red-carded for a foul on defender Danny Mills, resulting in a semi-final ban, but he made the Final, playing a major role in the 2-0 defeat of Germany at Yokohama where Brazil became champions for the fifth time.

Most observers contended Seaman had gift-wrapped the goal by coming off his line, finding himself stranded as the ball flashed into the net. Even so, give Ronaldinho credit for his expertise and quickness of thought to exploit the gap.

Ironically, Brazil handed England the opening goal in the 32nd minute when central defender Lucio, a member of the current squad, failed to clear.

Ronaldinho, Portuguese for Little Ronaldo, stamped his class and authority when he created the equaliser in first-half injury time. Avoiding his shadow Paul Scholes, he then eluded Ashley Cole before providing a perfect lay-off for Rivaldo to score. Pure genius.

England had lost out again in the World Cup which they haven’t won since 1966, beaten by a 22-year-old free-kick specialist from an affluent district of Porto Alegre.

As a youth with an arsenal of talent, Ronaldinho could have joined Arsenal but experienced work permit difficulties so the move collapsed.

Ronaldhino was transferred from Brazilian club Gremio in 2001 to Paris Saint-Germain followed by spells at Barcelona and AC Milan where he has recently been struggling fitness-wise and, therefore, his non-selection was not a surprise to many.

It underlined, however, the wealth of top drawer replacements manager Dunga has at his disposal. Brazil’s talent reservoir is never dry.

Yes, Ronaldo de Assis Moreira can take his place with the Samba Nation’s immortals — Pele, Garrincha, Amarildo, Vava, Zagalo, Bellini, Didi, Romario, Ronaldo, Gerson, Tostao, Jairzinho, Carlos Alberto, Rivelino, Everaldo, Felix, Baltazar, Ademir and Djalma and Nilton Santos. They really made football the beautiful game.

Belfast Telegraph