Friday 15 December 2017

Fabiano gets Samba beat thumping as Kaka sees red

Brazil 3
Ivory Coast 1

Kevin Garside in Johannesburg

Boring, boring Brazil. Fabiano consigned that impression to the World Cup dustbin with two goals out of the jogo bonito handbook. A late red card for Kaka following a shameful dive by substitute Kader Keita, surely to be appealed, was a blot but not one that will prove too costly for this team.

There might have been a hint of the basketballer about Fabiano's second goal, but hey, anybody who can so much as think to do what he did deserves all that comes his way.

The referee appeared to ask for clarification from Fabiano after he juggled and danced his way past two defenders, with perhaps more than a little help from his upper arm. With the answer coming back in the negative, Stephane Lannoy, at least one Frenchman happy in his work, gave Fabiano the benefit of the bicep and the World Cup a familiar yellow flourish.

It says much about the sumptuous past of Brazil that the Dunga variety takes such a beating on the Copacabana waterfront. If only Fabio Capello's England were as stiff and flat-footed as this. Dunga's preference for function over style is not as pleasing on the eye as past Brazilian art collections. He does not have a Gerson or a Tostao, a Socrates or Falcao colouring the Brazilian palette. Nevertheless the ball goes forward at a lick that England can only dream of and yellow shirts storm the box like locusts.

And who would not want Fabiano in their side? His first was tasty enough. The potency of Brazil, whatever the critics say of the Dunga model, is contained in the quick release of the strikers and the certainty of the finish. Kaka's tapped pass on the edge of the box was pounced on by Fabiano and he blasted home before Barry, in the Ivory Coast goal, had a chance to react.

This was a big night for Ivory Coast and for Africa. In the context of the group a draw was the goal. In the context of the global audience, the African people were hoping for something more.

Ivory Coast captain Didier Drogba bent to touch the ground and make the sign of the cross as he walked from the tunnel. The default football ritual acquired greater significance in this setting, Drogba leading out his team in a World Cup encounter against Brazil on African soil.

The game detonated from the off with Kaka breaking forward in the opening seconds and feeding the ball to Robinho. The eyes of the Manchester City striker -- revitalised by his loan spell with Santos -- widened at the sight of goal. He should have fed Fabiano. He went instead for the ego shot and ballooned the chance over the bar. The groans echoed all the way back to Eastlands.

The athleticism and strength of Ivory Coast lends itself to the football equivalent of guerrilla warfare, raiding at pace and jumping all over the opposition as soon as they cross the halfway line. They might have surprised themselves with their response to Brazil's early flourish, finding plenty of room in the yellow half.

The jousting lasted all of 25 minutes. Fabiano's goal triggered a sustained period of Brazilian possession. Ivory Coast had done little wrong and the shock of conceding set them temporarily on their heels. It took a full 10 minutes to fashion a response in the shape of a charged down shot from Aruna Dindane.

Sven-Goran Eriksson's safety-first policy was undone by Fabiano's early rocket. He needed to bring Drogba into the game, if for no other reason than to halt the rapier breaks of the remarkable Lucio, rather under-occupied with defensive matters in the first half.

Five minutes into the second half the match was over, Fabiano working his miracle down the right channel, lobbing successive defenders before smashing the ball past Barry.

Brazil's third was not so shabby either. Kaka, looking more like the player that persuaded Real Madrid to part with £57m to prise him away from AC Milan, waltzed down the left to set up the advancing Elano for a simple finish at the far post.

Dunga will enjoy reading the bulletins from Brazil after this. Drogba's headed goal from Yaya Toure's cross, 11 minutes from the end, which gave the vuvzelas fresh impetus, could not detract from a performance that was at times spellbinding, though a bemused Kaka might need some convincing. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Brazil -- Julio Cesar, Maicon, Lucio (capt), Juan, Michel Bastos, Felipe Melo, Elano (Daniel 67), Silva, Kaka, Luis Fabiano, Robinho (Ramires, 90+3)

Ivory Coast -- Boubacar Copa, Kolo Toure, Tiene, Demel Eboue (Romaric 72), Zokora, Tiote, Yaya Toure, Kalou (Keita 68), Drogba (capt), Dindane (Gervinho). Ref -- S Lannoy (France).

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