Sunday, June 20, 2010

Devil in Kaka spoils Brazil's night

First quarter
So far so drab. Good pressing from the Ivory Coast denies ball players Kaka and Robinho space. The Africans are very compact and the Brazilians' best options are out wide, particularly Maicon. It has been very fashionable to praise Sven-Goran Eriksson since England's meltdown, and I'll add this: the Swede makes his teams very hard to beat. No shots on target for either side. Both sets of subs have blankets on their knees, though not the tartan ones modelled by France. 

Second quarter
BANG. Luis Fabiano opens the scoring with his team's first real chance. Clinical finish into the roof of the net from a man who had gone nine games without scoring for his country. Didier Drogba goes down. Nothing new there, but the fact he is nursing a broken arm means his writhing elicits genuine concerns. Turns it was just a regulation Drogba moment. Now they trail, the Ivory Coast will have to commit players forward. Or, judging by Sven's England reign, they won't. As the half-time whistle goes, an Ivorian player asks Lucio to swap shirts. 

Third quarter
Maicon tweaks his groin. Ah well, let's just get Daniel Alves off the bench, then. In fact, let's not. Maicon is OK and the second-best right-back in the world returns to his blanket. Then Luis Fabiano doubles his tally with an individual goal that at first looks like a superior version of Gazza's versus Scotland at Euro '96. However the replay shows the striker got away with at least two handballs en route to goal. Spoilsport TV. Kaka finally arrives at the World Cup, hitting a shot on target after great interplay with Robinho, then sets up Elano for the third goal. Dismal defending, mind, Then ouch. Not sure we needed all those HD super-slomos of Elano's injury. 

Fourth quarter
Three-nil down and Sven has yet to make his move. Does he not realise goal difference could very easily decide second place in this group? At last Drogba pulls one back after being left as unmarked as a police vehicle on covert operations. Then Kaka picks up the silliest booking of the World Cup so far for shoving an opponent, and doubles up a minute later after a nothing clash with Kader Keita. That earns him at least a one-match ban. Stupid, stupid, stupid.

Even if he didn't deserve the second booking, he shouldn't have got involved in the initial confrontation (before the Keita incident) that got him the first yellow. It inflamed tensions and contributed to his admittedly unlucky downfall a couple of minutes later. Pretty brazen playacting by Keita, though, who is going to get slaughtered by the media. 

Easy for Brazil, who were efficient and sporadically exciting. They might not have hit their full stride yet, but it's easier to analyse your shortcomings when you have five goals and six points to your name. In any case, it's very selfish of us to want Brazil to play the all-swaggering devil-may-care style they did in the 70s and 80s - a time when they repeatedly got caught out and did not win the silverware their talent merited. A 'sensible' Brazil side won the 1994 and 2002 World Cups, and this is another one.

As long as FIFA don't extend Kaka's ban, and there's no reason why they should, he will only miss the Portugal game. Could be worse.The bigger concern is Elano's injury, which looks like it could end his tournament. No matter. The South American teams in this tournament are still unbeaten, and Brazil are in the last 16.

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