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Still a role for Ronaldinho, says Brazil football coach

SoccerNews in General Soccer News 20 Aug 2008

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Besieged coach Carlos Dunga sees a continuing role for Ronaldinho in Brazil's 2010 World Cup campaign despite the five-time World Cup champions' inglorious failure at the Beijing Olympics.

Brazil yet again leave the Olympics without a gold medal after a 3-0 thumping by arch South American rivals Argentina in Tuesday's semi-final blockbuster at the Beijing Workers' Stadium.

The 28-year-old immensely popular Ronaldinho was one of Brazil's three over-age players at the Games, but he looked lethargic and carrying extra weight ahead of his Serie A debut with Milan later this month after leaving Barcelona.

A former two-time FIFA World Player of the Year Ronaldinho scored 70 goals in 145 appearances for Barca, helping them to win the Spanish championship in 2005 and 2006 as well as the 2006 Champions League and the club also made handsome profits on the sale of team shirts bearing his name.

But in the past two years he became surplus to requirements and 'Ronny' was better known for his nocturnal exploits than his performances on the pitch.

Ronaldinho, who has 36 goals in 93 international appearances, last played for his country in a 2-1 World Cup qualifier win over Uruguay in Sao Paulo last November, but Dunga says he hasn't given up on him.

“Ronaldinho is a role model both inside and outside the Brazilian team,” Dunga said.

“I think he has a bright future ahead of him and he will help us alot in the World Cup qualifiers and I am looking forward to that.”

Brazil, currently fifth in the South American group standings, face fourth-placed Chile in Santiago on September 7.

Ronaldinho was enthusiastically greeted by Chinese fans during Brazil's Olympic tournament and when his face was flashed up on the screen during the pre-match playing of the national anthem a huge roar echoed around the Workers' Stadium Tuesday.

So popular has the bandana-wearing Ronaldinho been inside the Athletes' Village that his Brazilian teammates have been forced to surround him and prevent him from being deluged by autograph requests during meal times.

“We have to form a circle to protect the man but the battle is being won, the security has been well organised,” midfielder Diego told reporters.

Ronaldinho is expected to leave shortly for Italy where he will train ahead of AC Milan's season-opening home league match against Bologna on August 31.

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