Brazil rally around Ronaldo
By Jo Carter
Last Updated: 01/01/70 1:00am
Gilberto Silva has hit out at Ronaldo's critics, insisting he is still a key figure.
Arsenal midfielder Gilberto Silva has defended his Brazil team-mate Ronaldo amidst accusations that the former World Player of the Year is overweight and unworthy of a place in the starting XI.
The defending champions have so far failed to perform to their own high standards, and the overwhelming favourites heading into the tournament have disappointed, despite winning their two opening games.
As a result of their below-par performance, Ronaldo's fitness and ability have been brought into question, but Gilberto and his team-mates are staunchly defending the Real Madrid striker.
"Everybody in our squad supports Ronaldo because we know how important he is to us," said Gilberto. "There is a lot of speculation that he is not good enough anymore or he is not fit. It is total rubbish."
Gilberto is confident that Ronaldo, winner of the tournament's Golden Boot in 2002 is capable of repeating the feat, and is certain that the striker will continue to improve.
"His performance against Australia was better than his one against Croatia and I know he can improve even more as the tournament progresses," added the Arsenal star.
Following a poor performance against Croatia in Brazil's 1-0 opening game victory, Ronaldo underwent tests in a Frankfurt hospital after complaining of dizziness. Although he was cleared, it was surprising to many that coach Carlos Alberto Parreira kept his faith with the striker, who started ahead of his young club team-mate Robinho.
Despite collecting six points and not conceding a goal in their opening two games, alongside securing qualification for the second phase, Gilberto admits that the heat is still on.
"We cannot relax," he said. "We are Brazil, we can never relax. There is a lot of pressure on us and we are used to that but sometimes I cannot understand what people want from us.
"If we win and don't play well, people criticise. Even if we play well, they always want a little bit more.
"Because we are Brazil, everybody wants and expects us to play all the time and score lots of goals. Football is not that simple. Opponents work hard and mark you tightly, as both Croatia and Australia have done already.
"The most important thing for us as a group is that we are moving in the right direction.
"We can do a lot better than we have done and I am convinced our best performance will come very soon."