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Football World Cup 2002: MY GOAL WAS NO FLUKE ..; England 1 Brazil 2 Ronaldinho rubs salt in the wound.

Byline: MARTIN LIPTON in Shizuoka

BRAZILIAN hero Ronaldinho last night insisted his breath-taking lob over David Seaman was no freak.

Ronaldinho's goal sent England crashing out of the World Cup, but was dismissed as"an outrageous fluke" by ex-England boss Bobby Robson.

The Paris St Germain star though insisted that he deliberately fired his 30-yard free kick at the top corner after being tipped off about the Arsenal keeper by his skipper.

Ronaldinho, controversially red carded after showing his studs to Danny Mills, said: "My team-mate Cafu had told me that Seaman usually moves forward preparing to take the square balls.

"I was a bit far out but I tried it and I was able to score. He moved back but couldn't stop it.""

The Brazilian ace, who will automatically miss the semi-final against Senegal or Turkey unless there is a successful appeal, insists he should not have been sent off just after the goal.

He said: "I don't believe that it was a foul for a

red card. I met Mills in doping control later and he also believes I did not deserve to be sent off."

If Brazil don't win an appeal, the PSG player hopes to make the final.

He said: "I don't want to say anything more about all this as it depends on FIFA, but I have hope."

Ronaldinho's claim is backed by his team mates, including ex Middlesbrough star Juninho.

He said: "He is not the sort of player who goes out to intentionally hurt somebody.

"The referee didn't know what sort of person he was so he sent him off. It was a mistake."

Brazilian manager Luis Filipe Scolari also came to the attacker's defence, saying: "I believe it was not right. He was kicked by the English player just before that."

Fall guy Seaman, who got the brunt of criticism from some critics even though his side were well beaten by the tournament favourites, apologised for his gaffe.

The goal was like the one he lost in the 1995 Cup Winners Cup final when he was lobbed from 50 yards by Nayim of Real Zaragoza.

Seaman, who incredibly was booed by a section of the English media as he walked into the interview room, said: "It's very hard to take. That's just life for a goalkeeper. I just want to say I'm sorry to all the fans, sorry to the people I've let down today.

"That's just the way it goes. I only blame myself. It's a free-kick that's a long way out.

"I was expecting a cross and I'm sure that he meant to cross it.

"But he's mishit it and I've misread it and it's a goal - it's got to go down as my error.

"My main thing is that I just want to say sorry to the fans who have been absolutely fantastic.

"They've encouraged me and told me to forget it - but it's hard to do that."

The match looks certain to be his last World Cup tie and another player on the verge of international retirement sprang to his defence.

Teddy Sheringham, who plays for London rivals Spurs, said: "David could be upset but it is not his fault. Things like that happen. In my opinion he is still the world's best.

"As for me and David, we don't know if this will be our last chance. You never know what happens and we will see."

Skipper David Beckham also defended the keeper.

He said: "It would be an absolute disgrace if he is to be made a scapegoat for England's latest World Cup disappointment.

"It was one of those goals that goes in and there's not a lot anyone can do about it. In fact, it wasn't even a mistake."

CAPTION(S):

JEEPERS KEEPERS: Ronaldinho's effort beats Seaman; LEGS ELEVEN: Ronaldinho celebrates
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Jun 22, 2002
Words:636
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