THE ROAD TO GOLD: 27 June 2006 has already gone down in the annals of football history as the day Brazilian striking legend Ronaldo became the all-time leading scorer at the FIFA World Cup finals.
The Real Madrid forward registered his third goal of the tournament as his country eased past the challenge of African underdogs Ghana to book their place in the quarter-finals. His historic strike has also brought him within touching distance of Miroslav Klose at the top of the 2006 FIFA World Cup scoring charts, in the race for the coveted adidas Golden Shoe.
Read more about the adidas Golden Shoe
But it was not all history and handshakes on the final day of matches in the Round of 16. The day's major casualties were Spain, and their strike-force of Raul, Fernando Torres and David Villa will now pack their bags and head for home. In spite of Villa's first-half penalty, La Selección crashed out after a 3-1 defeat against the 1998 champions France.
History in the making
Before the game against Ghana, many pundits saw it as an ideal opportunity for Ronaldo to grab his record-breaking goal. What took everybody by surprise, however, was the speed with which it arrived. After only five minutes, as the Black Stars pushed up looking for offside, Kaka threaded a ball through the defence, leaving Ronaldo one-on-one with goalkeeper Richard Kingson.
What happened next will remain in posterity: a feint, a shimmy round the keeper, and a flick into an empty net. A classic piece of clinical finishing from the Brazilian goal machine, and a place among the game's immortals beckons.
As the well-travelled striker admitted after the game, he was delighted with his record-breaking goal. "I'm very happy, because this record is the product of many years of effort. What is there left for me to achieve? A lot! I want to carry on scoring goals and helping Brazil to keep on winning," explained Ronaldo, whose tally now stands at 15 goals spanning three consecutive tournaments.
The new mark set by the current holder of the Golden Shoe was hailed by fans and pundits around the world. But it struck a particular chord in Germany, as the hero of West Germany's 1974 FIFA World Cup triumph, Gerd Muller, now finds himself in second place behind the Canarinho legend.
Read Gerd Muller's thoughts on Ronaldo's new record
Sad Spain say adiós
Yesterday, it was the feisty Australians and Swiss sharpshooter Alexander Frei. Today it was Spain's turn to feel dejection, their sparkling run of form halted by France. But as Spain's striker drop out of the race, coming up on the inside is Les Bleus' midfield inspiration, Patrick Vieira.
On the back of a commanding display against Togo, the Juventus man came up with his country's second goal against Luis Aragones's side, on 83 minutes. In helping Raymond Domenech's men through to a quarter-final meeting with Brazil, Vieira is in the unlikely position of France's joint-leading scorer in these finals.
After Vieira's striker, Zinedine Zidane put the gloss on the victory with his first FIFA World Cup goal in eight years. The 34-year-old netted a sublime solo strike, late in second-half stoppage time and, given the identity of France's next opponents, his return to goalscoring form has come just in time. Zidane, remember, scored twice in the Final against the Brazil as France claimed their only world title on home soil eight years ago.
Adriano (BRA) - 1
Frank Ribery (FRA) - 1
Ronaldo (BRA) - 1
Patrick Vieira (FRA) - 1
David Villa (ESP) - 1
Ze Roberto (BRA) - 1
Zinedine Zidane (FRA) 1
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