Wobbly Brazil

Though Brazil posted their eighth consecutive opening-game win at the World Cup since 1978, Kaka admitted that his side failed to meet expectations.

GROUP F Brazil 1 Croatia 0

Kaka's 44th minute screamer lifted Brazil to a 1-0 victory over Croatia in their opener, but the five-time defending champions generated little magic and a lumbering Ronaldo was pulled off midway through the second half.

With 70,000 fired-up fans packing Berlin's Olympic Stadium, the match was drifting into a lull when Brazil broke it open with an explosive move helped by a rare lapse in Croatia's iron defence. Cafu slipped down the right wing and centred low to AC Milan's Kaka, who shook off two hesitant Croats and drilled a shot with his weaker left foot into the net from the edge of the area.

However, when Croatia stepped up the pace and the pressure after half-time, Brazil's defence wobbled and goalkeeper Dida had to make a string of saves to thwart the rival strikers.

In the end Brazil posted their eighth consecutive opening-game win at the World Cup since 1978, but even Kaka acknowledged that his side failed to meet expectations.

"We really did not have an easy time. But we were not particularly creative today," he said. "We moved too little, failed to open enough spaces."

Australia 3 Japan 1

Substitute Tim Cahill scored twice in the last six minutes to inspire Australia to a sensational 3-1 win over Japan in their opening match. John Aloisi, a second half substitute, made it 3-1 in the last minute as the Japanese defence crumbled.

Shunsuke Nakamura fooled Australia goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer with a speculative effort in the 25th minute. His drifting cross into the box was completely missed by Schwarzer, and the ball bounced into the empty net.

Japan looked like hanging on as Australia's attacks petered out in the suffocating heat. Then goalkeeper Yoshikatsu Kawaguchi, who had earlier produced two fine saves from free kicks, flapped at Lucas Neill's long throw and after a goalmouth scramble Cahill shot home for the Socceroos' first World Cup goal.

Australia drew one and lost two matches in their only other World Cup appearance in 1974. They conceded five goals then.

Cahill blasted another goal in the 89th minute with a pinpoint shot from outside the area before Aloisi wrapped up a dramatic win.

Croatia 0 Japan 0

Croatia failed to take a string of chances as they drew 0-0 with Japan in Nuremberg.

Yoshikatsu Kawaguchi saved Japan in the first half when he flung himself to the left to stop Darijo Srna's penalty. The spot kick was awarded when captain Tsuneyasu Miyamoto clipped Dado Prso's heels after failing to reach a bouncing ball. Japan's goalkeeper then got down to stop a fierce shot from Ivan Klasnic.

In the 28th minute Croatia's Niko Kranjcar turned and volleyed a superb shot from 20 metres, but hit the bar. However, it was Atsushi Yamagisawa who missed the best chance of the match, and possibly of the tournament, when he mis-kicked with an open goal at his mercy in the 50th minute after Akira Kaji's cross split the Croatian defence.

GROUP G South Korea 1 France 1

Park Ji Sung's late equaliser gave never-say-die South Korea a 1-1 draw with wasteful France. Thierry Henry put the French ahead in the ninth minute - their first World Cup goal since they won the 1998 final on home soil. But despite dominating most of the match, the French were left with just two points from two games, though Mexican referee Benito Archundia disallowed what television replays showed as a clear goal by Patrick Vieira.

Zinedine Zidane received his second yellow card of the tournament for pushing a defender in the penalty area just after the South Korean equaliser. This means the mastermind of the 1998 champion squad will miss the final group game against Togo.

South Korea 2 Togo 1

South Korea, semi-finalists in 2002 when they co-hosted the tournament with Japan, struggled to beat 10-man Togo 2-1 in their opening match in Frankfurt. Lee Chun Soo cancelled out Mohamed Kader's first-half strike in the 54th minute when he curled a free kick around the wall and past an out-of-position Togo goalkeeper Kossi Agassa.

Second-half substitute Ahn Jung Hwan beat Agassa for the winner with a dipping cross-shot in the 72nd minute.

English referee Graham Poll sent off Jean-Paul Abalo for bringing down Park Ji Sung as he twisted clear on the edge of the box for the free kick that led to the Korean equaliser. It was his second yellow card.

Kader, who plays for French second division side Guingamp, opened the score in the 31st minute when he knocked the ball through with his thigh and rifled a low shot beyond Korean goalkeeper Lee Woon Jaefdook that went in off the far post.

France 0 Switzerland 0

France were held to a goalless draw by a sterling Swiss defence in Stuttgart. France dominated early play, but created few chances and instead the Swiss nearly took the lead midway through the first half when German-based Tranquillo Barnetta's free kick hit the post and only Eric Abidal's desperate lunge prevented Alex Frei from pushing the rebound over the line.

In the second half too France made most of the play, but failed to test Swiss goalkeeper Pascal Zuberbuehler.

GROUP H Spain 4 Ukraine 0

Spain opened their campaign with a resounding 4-0 victory over 10-man Ukraine. Liverpool's Xabi Alonso headed Luis Aragones' side in front, and after a David Villa double, Fernando Torres completed the rout with a spectacular strike.

Spain took the lead in the 13th minute. Marcos Senna's shot from 25 yards was pushed over by Oleksandr Shovkovskyi in the Ukraine goal. The Villarreal midfielder took the corner and Alonso headed home.

Four minutes later, Andriy Rusol was booked for tripping Pernia and from 25-yards Villa blasted in the free kick with help from a deflection off the Ukraine wall.

What slim hopes Ukraine had of turning things around disappeared within two minutes of the restart when Vladislav Vashchuk tugged at Fernando Torres' shorts as he homed in on the goal. The Ukraine defender was shown a straight red and Villa converted the spot kick.

Torres' 80th minute effort that fetched Spain their fourth goal was the pick of the bunch. Carlos Puyol surged forward, exchanged passes with substitute Cesc Fabregas, and the ball broke for Torres to rifle home.

Saudi Arabia 2 Tunisia 2

For eight minutes it looked like something out of the 1001 Arabian Nights as Saudi striker Sami al-Jaber hit what would have been a fairytale 2-1 winner against Tunisia in their group opener. Hardly had the veteran striker come on for his fourth World Cup campaign, he hit the 84th-minute goal — only to see Tunisia's Rahdi Jaidi grab an injury time equaliser eight minutes later.

Zied Jaziri had hit the 23rd-minute first half lead for Tunisia, and Yaser al-Qahtani equalised for the Saudis in the 57th minute of a match that truly came alight in the closing phase.

GROUP E Ghana 2 Czech Republic 0

Asamoah Gyan scored early and set up a late insurance goal as newcomers Ghana downed Czech Republic 2-0 to give Africa its first victory at the 2006 World Cup. Gyan shocked the Czechs after 70 seconds and Sulley Ali Muntari added a goal in the 82nd minute as the East Europeans sorely missed injured strikers Jan Koller and Milan Baros against Ghana's spirited defence.

Ghana could afford a dramatic missed penalty and poor finishing as the Czechs never got into the hard-fought game.

The Czechs fell behind after just over a minute when Ghana captain Stephen Appiah lifted a long ball to the edge of the penalty area and Tomas Ujfalusi failed to clear with a diving header attempt. Gyan, who plays for Italian Serie A club Modena, chested down the ball and slammed it past goalkeeper Petr Cech for Ghana's first World Cup goal.

The Czechs showed none of the compelling form that led them to a 3-0 opening win over the US. Midfield star Pavel Nedved got stuck in the tight defence of the Africans, while Tomas Rosicky, who scored two goals against the US, was virtually absent. However, Ghana's sloppy finishing saved the East Europeans several times.

The match exploded into drama when Ujfalusi floored Amoah in the area in the 65th minute. Argentine referee Horacio Elizondo awarded a penalty, but Gyan fired the ball into the net while the referee was still sending off the Czech defender.

Gyan was booked for taking the first kick too early, and then saw his repeat kick careen off the post.

Ghana then peppered Cech with a flurry of shots in the last 20 minutes before Muntari wrapped it up with eight minutes left in the match. Following a classy 1-2 with Gyan, he fired into the roof of the goal from the edge of the area.

Italy 1 USA 1

Three players were sent off as nine-man United States held 10-man Italy to a 1-1 draw in an explosive match in Kaiserslautern. AC Milan striker Alberto Gilardino headed a 22nd minute opener for Italy then Cristian Zaccardo knocked a Bobby Convey free kick into his own net in the 27th minute.

A minute later Daniele de Rossi was sent off for a vicious elbow into the face of Brian McBride but the Americans went a man down in the 44th minute when Argentine-born Pablo Maestroni was red carded for a bad tackle on Andrea Pirlo.

Then Uruguayan referee Jorge Larriondo sent off Eddie Pope when he caught Gilardino for a second yellow card in the 47th minute.

Italy 2 Ghana 0

Italy beat Ghana 2-0 in their group opener, but the Africans were more than a match for the fancied three-time world champions over long periods. A 40th-minute long-range goal by Andrea Pirlo off a Francesco Totti corner, and an 83rd-minute strike by Vencenzo Iaquinta gave the Italians victory over troublesome opponents.

Czech Republic 3 USA 0

The Czech Republic got off to a winning start, defeating the US 3-0. The victory was highlighted by a fifth-minute strike from record goal-scorer Jan Koller and a spectacular goal from Tomas Rosicky.

However, the Czech celebrations were muted as Koller was stretchered off just before half-time with a hamstring pull.

The Czech threat was clear as early as the fourth minute when Oguchi Onyewu had to chop down Pavel Nedved and was booked for the foul. A minute later the US were behind. Ajax full-back Zdenek Grygera overlapped down the right and Koller headed powerfully past a helpless Kasey Keller.

It was the giant forward's 43rd goal in 69 appearances for his country and stunned the Americans who have never won a World Cup match on European soil.

In the 36th minute the US were shaken by Rosicky's thunderbolt that flew in from all of 30 yards. The Czechs put the result beyond doubt in the 76th minute when man-of-the match Rosicky ran onto a pass from Nedved and coolly beat US 'keeper Keller.

GROUP D Portugal 2 Iran 0

A sublime 63rd-minute long-range strike by midfielder Deco and an 80th minute penalty by Cristiano Ronaldo gave Portugal a hard-fought 2-0 win against Iran. The result sent Portugal into the knockout stage and Iran out of the tournament.

Portugal coach Luiz Felipe Scolari, who is attempting to become the first coach to win the World Cup with two different countries having already won it with his native Brazil four years ago, said he thought it was the best game played by Portugal for a long time.

Iran's goalkeeper Ebrahim Mirzapour, who brought off superb saves, had no chance against Deco just after the hour. Figo held the ball on the left, then cut in and put it at Deco's feet, and the Brazilian-born midfielder struck a screaming 25-yard shot into Mirzapour's top right-hand corner.

Iran's fate was sealed when their captain, Yahya Golmohammadi, brought Figo down just inside the penalty area. Ronaldo sent Mirzapour the wrong way with the spot kick - and the Portuguese relief at wrapping up the victory was palpable.

Mexico 0 Angola 0

World Cup minnows Angola frustrated Mexico by holding the Latin Americans to a 0-0 draw after having a player sent off 12 minutes from time.

Angolan midfielder Andre was sent off for deliberate hand ball to stop a Mexican attack but the Africans battled out a deserved draw.

Mexico hit the post twice, through captain Rafael Marquez from a first-half free kick and Omar Bravo in the dying minutes, and saw a first-half Carlos Salcida long-range shot hit the roof of the net.

GROUP C Holland 2 Ivory Coast 1

Goals from English Premiership stars, Robin van Persie and Ruud van Nistelrooy, drove the Netherlands to a 2-1 win over never-say-die Ivory Coast, taking the Dutch into the knockout stage.

Robin van Persie, brought down by his Arsenal team-mate Kolo Toure on the edge of the box, curled the free-kick into the top corner of the net to put Holland ahead.

Ivory Coast were soon 2-0 down when Van Nistelrooy scored his first World Cup goal. The striker, who missed France 1998 through injury and the last World Cup because Holland failed to qualify, was in the right place in the 27th minute to convert Robben's cross.

Bakari Kone pulled one back for Ivory Coast as he surged past two Dutch players and hit a stunning drive in the 38th minute.

GROUP B Sweden 1 Paraguay 0

Sweden shook off their disappointing display in a 0-0 draw with Trinidad and Tobago to beat Paraguay 1-0 at the Berlin Olympic Stadium.

Freddie Ljungberg headed an 89th minute winner after Sweden again appeared to have been frustrated by their inability to take chances. He slotted in after Marcus Allback, who had come on for the ineffective Zlatan Ibrahamovic at half-time, put him clear by heading a centre back across goal.

GROUP A Ecuador 3 Costa Rica 0

Ecuador booked an historic first ever place in the World Cup knock-out stage with a 3-0 win over Costa Rica in Hamburg.

Carlos Tenorio and Agustin Delgado struck in each half for Ecuador - Tenorio with an 8th minute header and Delgado from close up in the 54th minute. Ivan Jaime Kaviedes hit the third in injury time.

DPA