Ronaldinho predicts Brazil will win next year’s World Cup

Ronaldinho predicted yesterday that reigning champions Brazil will win the World Cup in Germany next year. «We know it will be very difficult, but we believe we will win again,» Ronaldinho said in Athens, where he attended Greece’s first-division fixtures draw. [Held late last night, it produced a first-round encounter between archrivals Panathinaikos and Olympiakos.] Ronaldinho captained Brazil to a 4-1 win over Argentina in Wednesday’s Confederations Cup final. The Barcelona striker contrasted that result with a 3-1 away defeat against Argentina in a World Cup qualifier on June 8. «Then [in Argentina] we had 30 chances and scored one goal, and yesterday we had 15 chances and scored four goals,» Ronaldinho said. Spanish sports daily Mundo Deportivo said yesterday that Spain’s league champions, FC Barcelona, had offered Ronaldinho a contract aimed at keeping him for the rest of his career. Ronaldinho said that he was «very happy» at Barcelona. «I have three years left on my contract with Barcelona. .. I’m not thinking of anything except Barcelona at the moment,» he said. Ronaldinho, whose current contract expires in 2008, would earn 126 million euros, Mundo Deportivo said. The fee paid to secure Ronaldinho’s attendance yesterday caused widespread Greek media comment. Ronaldinho received 300,000 euros from league organizer EPAE, according to the daily Ta Nea. The total cost of his two-day visit was 500,000 euros, the paper said. But EPAE’s vice president Victor Mitropoulos said sponsors were covering expenses. The 16-team league starts late August. Ta Nea claimed EPAE turned to Ronaldinho after Chelsea coach Jose Mourinho and England captain David Beckham declined invitations. Returning to the Confederations Cup, Brazil’s memorable victory in Wednesday’s final capped an outstanding tournament that finally brought the competition in from the cold after years in the international soccer wilderness. Even FIFA’s president Sepp Blatter admitted that the tournament was seen as something of a «stepchild when it was conceived» but said on Wednesday «it is now regarded as a worthwhile competition in its own right.» Certainly the action on the pitch suggested all eight teams were determined to do as well as they possibly could during two competitive but relatively pressure-free weeks. Even so, the tournament produced 56 goals in 16 matches at an average of 3.5 goals a game – some of them absolute stunners. Two were scored by Adriano, who rocketed one home against Greece from 30 meters in Brazil’s opening match and then scored another long-range effort to set his country on their way to the 4-1 win over rivals Argentina in Wednesday’s final. He finished as top scorer with five goals after leading the charts in the Copa America last year with seven. Greece failed to impress and the European champions did not even score, picking up a solitary point from a 0-0 draw with Mexico after they had already been eliminated. Although Greece played with the same massed defense and counterattacking tactics that brought them a surprise Euro 2004 success, they were weakened by injuries and suspensions and lacked the self-belief that helped them win the European title. (AP, Reuters)

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