Only a big Australian win combined with a big Brazilian loss would have unseated the South Americans at the top of Group F on Thursday and after 34 minutes, the improbable scenario was on the cards.
Brazil had dominated the opening exchanges, passing with ease and shooting at will, but it was the Asian Champions who opened the scoring through a well worked goal, and an excellent finish.
Left wing-back for Japan Alex, who was born in Brazil, sent a nice ball through to Keiji Tamada who was moving into the box, where the unmarked Nagoya Grampus Eight striker took his time over the ball and then struck an unstoppable left foot shot leaving Brazilian keeper Dida with no chance.
Japan should have kept the lead going into the break, but a final effort from Brazil saw things level at halftime.
Keiji Tamada opens the scoring
Barcelona midfielder Ronaldinho picked out replacement right back Cicinho, who sent a looping header into the box which went over the defenders, leaving plenty of room for a back-pedalling Ronaldo to head in at the far post.
It was the confidence boosting goal that the rotund striker needed, and it worked wonders as he went on to play one of the best matches he has in a while for club or country.
The second half turned into a South American goal fest – the likes of which has been expected from the World Champs all tournament.
In the 53rd minute Olympique Lyon playmaker Juninho Pernambucano called for the ball 25 yards out and unleashed a stunning drive that beat Japanese keeper Yoshikatsu Kawaguchi, even though it looked like the Jubilo Iwata custodian should have saved it.
The thus far unused Juninho is pressing for a regular starting spot in the Brazilian line up and he did his chances no harm with his cracking goal to send the South Americans to the lead.
Ronaldo scored two on the night
to be equal World Cup top scorer
Not to be outdone, Hertha Berlin defender Gilberto who also got his first start in this match raced on to a Ronaldinho pass just six minutes after Juninho’s goal, and struck a sweet left-footer along the ground to beat keeper Kawaguchi at the far post.
To round the scoring off, it was the much talked about Ronaldo with a superb strike that reminded everyone of the player of old.
A triple exchange of passes between advancing defender Juan and the Real Madrid striker saw him turn and hit a great swerving shot to beat a diving Kawaguchi and put the icing on the match at 4-1.
Goal scoring record
Ronaldo’s two goals in the match make him the equal highest all-time goal scorer in World Cup Finals history, with a total of 14 goals – the same number as current record holder Gerd Muller of Germany, and with more matches to come for Brazil, the record may be broken here on German soil.
In this form it looks like Brazil, and Ronaldo, are now on the radar at World Cup 2006, and with the knock-out stages now upon us, their return to full form has come right on time.
Brazil now play African surprise packets Ghana in the round of 16 back in Dortmund on Tuesday 27th June, while Group F runners up Australia will play Italy in Kaiserslautern the day before.