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Kaká lifts Brazil out of the ordinary and past Chile

June 28th, 2010

Robinho celebrates scoring Brazil's third goal against Chile at Ellis Park. Photograph: Richard Heathcote/Getty Images

Brazil 3 Chile 0

Juan 34
Luis Fabiano 38
Robinho 59

Chile have been among the most eyecatching South American teams at this tournament yet Brazil made them look ordinary in Johannesburg, advancing to a quarter-final against Holland and leaving few in any doubt that winning this World Cup is likely to involve knocking a team coached by Dunga or Diego Maradona out of the competition.

On current form a Brazil v Argentina final seems both likely and logical, though perhaps Holland or Germany can put a word in for Europe at the weekend. Certainly Brazil were irrepressible here, not at all flattered by a three-goal margin of victory and displaying some of the famous attacking fluency that Dunga is supposed to have extinguished. When they needed it, that is. With Chile beaten by half-time, Brazil played the second half with something in reserve, always conscious that bigger challenges lie ahead.

Chile began with every sign of attacking intent, with Humberto Suazo showing a couple of smart turns and an eye for an opening, though within minutes Brazil had them pinned back on the defensive. Gilberto Silva brought the first save of the game from Claudio Bravo with a fiercely dipping drive from 25 yards, after Luís Fabiano had dragged a shot wide following a wonderful, defence-splitting pass from Daniel Alves. When Chile did get a look-in, after almost a quarter of an hour, Suazo stayed onside and with more time than he seemed to realise could have done better than popping a virtual back pass into Júlio César’s arms.

The game could not continue at such a pace and it had settled into a midfield stalemate by the mid-point of the first half, with both teams congesting the central area and neither making use of space on the flanks. Kaká occasionally drifted out wide to pick up the ball for Brazil but he was hampered every time he tried to bring Robinho into the game by the former Manchester City player’s careless attitude towards possession. When he wasn’t giving the ball away with over-ambitious flicks or audacious attempts to beat defenders who were not going to fall for it, the forward was attempting passes that no team-mate could read or reach. Kaká was booked after half an hour while back in his own half, trying to help out his defence but only succeeding in tripping Arturo Vidal.

Just as it was beginning to look as if it would take something special, Brazil took the lead in the most mundane fashion, with a headed goal from a corner. There was nothing wrong with Juan’s header – rising to meet Maicon’s cross from the right, he planted the ball firmly past Bravo – but we hardly see such straightforward goals from corners in club football anymore, let alone from Brazil at World Cups. The Chilean marking had to be at fault, not least because the only person Juan had to beat to the ball was Fabiano, his team-mate.

That setback appeared to affect Chile’s confidence as well as their concentration and Brazil went further ahead five minutes later with the sort of flamboyant goal they tend to score against opponents who are momentarily reeling. Robinho’s cross from the left was good but it was transformed by Kaká’s first-time touch into Fabiano’s path, one that put the centre-forward in on goal and required him merely to step around Bravo before slotting the ball in from an angle.

What was left of Chile’s morale began to wilt. They had managed to be competitive for half an hour but two goals in five minutes left Marcelo Bielsa with a rebuilding job to do on his team at half-time.

He decided to make two attacking substitutions during the break, though Jorge Valdivia, in particular, kept running up against Gilberto Silva or Ramires, the two Brazilians screening the back four.

For Brazil, Kaká proved that he does not have magic in his boots all the time just before the hour, by spotting Robinho’s run in to space on the right but badly over-hitting the pass. Lúcio went on one of his famous charges forward from defence next, and this time did find Robinho, yet thought the Brazil captain kept on running into the box the cross never arrived.

The third goal arrived in somewhat similar fashion. This time it was Ramires who went on a run, leaving his defensive duties for a while and showing that even the discipline Dunga has brought to the Brazilian rearguard does not entirely preclude the swagger of old. Intercepting his umpteeth pass of the evening exactly on the halfway line, Ramires strode on unchallenged before parting with the ball on the edge of the penalty area, to allow Robinho to sweep a curling shot past Bravo.

Valdivia and Suazo were unlucky not to get on the scoresheet for Chile before the end, both hitting shots just over the Brazilian bar, though at the other end Robinho could have had a hat-trick with a little more application. He played well here but never seems to realise that he could be better. Perhaps he is saving himself for the final.

Paul Wilson at Ellis Park

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