Brazil 3-1 Côte d’Ivoire
Brazil took a commanding lead in Group G with a comfortable 3-1 victory over Sven-Göran Eriksson’s Côte d’Ivoire. Luís Fabiano of Sevilla was the hero for the Seleçao, notching the two opening goals. Galatasaray’s Elano added a third before Didier Drogba enkindled brief hopes of a comeback for the Elephants with a late consolation. A bad tempered second half saw numerous bookings, a repulsive tackle from Kader Keita on Michel Bastos and a potentially serious injury to Elano. The bearer of the famous number 10 shirt of Brazil, Kaká, was sent off in dubious fashion by Stephane Lannoy following a shameful deception by Kader Keita.
Many fans were disappointed with Brazil’s lack of penetration against North Korea in the opening game but there can be no such criticisms following their victory here. The Seleçao took full advantage of every opportunity presented to them by the Ivory Coast and took the lead in the 24th minute via a clinical finish from Luís Fabiano. Kaká has struggled for fitness and form this past season but will have been pleased to see his measured through pass lead to a goal. The Real Madrid midfielder’s pass was taken in stride by Luís Fabiano, who revealed tremendous concentration to slow the ball before clinically finishing into the top corner.
Didier Drogba and the Côte d’Ivoire were stunned by the goal. Prior to falling behind, the Ivorians had produced some high tempo movement and passing but were thwarted by their inability to secure that elusive final ‘killer’ pass.
Brazil slowly manhandled the Côte d’Ivoire out of the match and were unperturbed throughout the remainder of the first half.
Brazil doubled their lead just five minutes after the restart. Fabiano again the scorer, this time with an even more impressive effort. The Sevilla forward flicked the ball over the head of one defender, then another before controlling the ball with his shoulder and unleashing a half-volley towards goal. Boubacar Barry was helpless. It was a tremendous moment of artistry, one worthy of the coveted number 9 shirt inherited from such magicians as Ronaldo and Tostao.
Some will point to the replays and what appeared to be two debatable instances of handball but the moment of inspiration was certainly worthy of a goal. Luís Fabiano’s efforts had effectively ended the match as a footballing contest.
The introduction of Gervinho for the lamentable Aruna Dindane did imbue some vigor into the Ivorian side. His slipperiness and willingness to try and beat defenders was sorely missed in the first half.
Slow and steady became quick and expressive for Brazil around the hour mark. Wingback Maicon, the scorer of that impossible goal against North Korea, marauded down the right flank and found Robinho, who in turn laid off for Kaká. A shot soon followed but was safely slapped away by Barry. Do not mourn for Joga Bonito for it has endured. The efficiency of Dunga’s Brazil may sometimes mask the exuberant element to his side but moments of swift interchanging still surface and we were beginning to catch rare glimpses of it.
Brazil soon added to their advantage. Kaká was finally finding his form again, beating Tiené effortleslly before gliding a pass along the turf for Elano who diverted it into the net. In the process he registered his second goal of the tournament in as many games.
Elano will be thankful that he reinserted his shinguards after removing them in his goal celebration. The former Manchester City midfielder was brought from the field by stretcher following a nasty tackle. The match was quickly becoming ill-tempered.
Brazil continued to display flashes of excellence. One touch passing set Maicon on another jaunt into the Ivorian half, this time he thrilled the 84,000 in attendance with a perfectly executed nutmeg.
Tioté should have been dismissed by Stephane Lannoy following a horrific challenge on Michel Bastos, who himself was lucky that he was not seriously injured by the Tioté’s recklessness.
The Côte d’Ivoire had been poor at creating chances in both this match and their previous fixture with Portugal. They created their first goal of the tournament out from nowhere. Gervinho was in an expanse of space in the centre of the field. It was there that he decided to embark on a rampage past three Brazilian defenders before he ended up at the byline. The Lille player spotted Romaric’s late run towards the penalty area and offloaded. Romaric himself showing terrific awareness to loft the ball onto Didier Drogba’s head after his captain’s well timed run. Drogba headed home and returned the ball hurriedly to the centre-circle.
The heated second half culminated with the dismissal of Kaká for a second bookable offence. The Brazilian star backed into Kader Keita and appeared to have his elbow slightly elevated into the Ivorian’s chest making Keita’s writhing fall to the floor all the more dispicable. Keita covered his face, conning the referee’s assistant into believing that Kaká had violently lashed out at the Galatasaray winger.
An appeal will surely follow for Kaká. In any instance, missing a somewhat meaningless game against Portugal will be of no great harm to Brazil’s World Cup ambitions.