Originally created 06/14/06

Brazil solid in victory



BERLIN - Brazil's quest for a sixth World Cup title is off to a raucous start.

Kaka delighted the Brazilian fans who have sambaed their way to Germany, scoring in the 44th minute, as the defending champions won a record eighth consecutive World Cup game, beating Croatia 1-0 on Tuesday night.

Though this wasn't its best effort - Ronaldo still looks slow and out of shape - and the Croatians put up a big fight, it was a solid enough start.

Dribbling up the right side in the 44th minute, Cafu spotted Kaka in the middle and made a perfect pass. Kaka collected it and was past Niko Krancjar with one quick tap of the ball.

The 21-year-old son of coach Zlatko Kranjcar has been a concern defensively, and it was soon clear why. Kranjcar wasn't anywhere close as Kaka stutter-stepped, giving the Brazilian time to look up and check his aim. As Kranjcar closed in, Kaka drew back from 20 yards and struck hard with his left foot, and it was clear from the minute his boot hit the ball it was going to be good.

As the ball sailed toward the goal, Brazil's reserves rushed off the bench, thrusting their arms in the air when the ball settled into the upper left corner of the net.

Kaka screamed in jubilation, throwing his arms out wide, and Roberto Carlos jumped on his back for a short, celebratory piggy-back ride.

The Brazilian fans, who had been surprisingly quiet compared with the rowdy Croats, erupted with whistles, tooting horns and chants of "Bra-zil! Bra-zil!"

SOUTH KOREA 2, TOGO 1

In Frankfurt, Germany, obscure Togo, the lowest-ranked team at the World Cup, has caused the biggest stir. Even in defeat.

The Black Sparrows were beaten by South Korea on Tuesday in their debut on soccer's biggest stage, but the game was merely part of the chaos that has surrounded the team for the past several days.

Who would coach Togo remained a mystery right up until the start of the game, when Otto Pfister appeared on the sideline.

And Togo even held a lead at halftime, an almost unthinkable feat considering the off-field turmoil the team has been dealing with, including a dispute between players and the Togo soccer federation over money.

Togo played with 10 men for the final 37 minutes, too, allowing the more experienced South Koreans to finally to take control of the game.

Substitute Ahn Jung-Hwan scored the winner in the 72nd minute.

South Korea's long wait for its first World Cup victory on foreign soil ended after 10 losses and four draws since its debut in 1954.

FRANCE 0, SWITZERLAND 0

In Stuttgart, Germany, France still can't score in the World Cup.

The star-studded French were held scoreless by Switzerland, bringing back memories of their horrid World Cup 2002 performance, when Les Bleus were knocked out in the first round without finding the net.

The last time the French scored in a World Cup game was when they beat Brazil 3-0 in the 1998 final at Stade de France.

The Swiss also held the French to draws in qualifying games, and this result could have been even worse for Raymond Domenech's team.

Alexander Frei had a wonderful chance to win it for the Swiss when he leaped to meet a free kick from Ludovic Magnin. Instead of heading the ball, the striker tried to punch it home from 3 yards and was given a yellow card for cheating.

Despite being forced to play as a lone striker, Thierry Henry came close with three shots and a header in the first half, while Zinedine Zidane's deft touches set up the best French moves.