Brazil wrapped up their World Cup Group F campaign with a 4-1 win over Japan on Thursday as an energised Ronaldo sought to silence his critics by scoring two goals that made him joint all-time World Cup top scorer with Germany's Gerd Müller.
The win made it three wins out of three and secured a last 16 meeting with rank outsiders Ghana next Tuesday.
Ronaldo, accused of being too fat and criticised for a sluggish performance in Brazil's unconvincing World Cup wins against Croatia and Australia, said: "I have developed well and improved from match to match. I will celebrate now with my family and friends who have helped me though this difficult time."
But it was Japan that scored first with Keiji Tamada smashing home the opening goal after 34 minutes. Ronaldo nodded the champions level seconds before the break to move ahead of Pele in the World Cup goal scoring stakes.
A Juninho piledriver and Gilberto's neat finish within 15 minutes of the restart and a neat Ronaldo swivel and shot wrapped up the contest. As one British football commentator put it, "If you shoot like that it doesn't matter if you don't move."
With Brazilian legend Zico in their coaching hotseat the Japanese, needing a win to have any hope of reaching the last 16, refused to buckle under the early pressure from the men in yellow.
Ronaldo finally began to look like the man whose eight goals, including two in the final, won Brazil the title four years ago in Japan.
Japan had been chasing after a repeat of their "miracle" 1-0 win over Brazil in the first round of the 1996 Atlanta Olympics.
Tamada lashed home left-footed past stunned keeper Dida after Brazilian-born Alex flipped a nonchalant through ball to him as the holders conceded their first goal in the group action.
The watching Pele slumped in his seat in the stands as Zico leapt off the bench, his hands aloft, as his decision to drop blunt forwards Naohiro Takahara and Atsushi Yanagisawa for Tamada and newcomer Seiichiro Maki and bring in Juniichi Inamoto for midfielder Takashi Fukunishi seemed set to pay off.
With six points in the bag Brazil, bidding for a sixth title, had felt able to change the lineup, classy Lyon midfielder Juninho starting out as coach Carlos Alberto Parreira rested yellow-carded captain Cafu and Emerson as well as defender Roberto Carlos and striker Adriano.
Brazilian football legend Pele said Brazil had finally displayed the standard of football the world expected of the champions. "The fans want to see us play happy, lively football and we can do that," he told German television. "We had problems to begin with but we got much better in the second half."