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Brazil is the world’s team

June 29th, 2010

Luis Fabiano

Like cheetahs in bright yellow shirts, the five-time champion Brazilian World Cup team turned Ellis Park into its own private game reserve on Monday night, stalking its Chilean prey for the first half hour, letting La Roja charge into Brazil territory in numbers and get a sniff of the goal. But then, in the 35th minute, the Brazilians pounced.

Maicon curled a corner kick to the top of the box, where Juan rose to drive home a powerful header and give Brazil a lead. Smelling blood, the Brazilians quickened their pace and went for the kill in the All-South American showdown. Four minutes later, with the largely pro-Brazil crowd still celebrating the first goal, they scored again.

Robinho took the ball down the left wing, and sent it inside to Kaka, who one-touched a pass to Fabiano. Chilean goalkeeper Claudio Bravo, anticipating a shot, dove to the ground, and Fabiano rounded him and slotted it in to make it 2-0 in the 38th minute.

And they weren’t done. The game got out of reach 3-0 in the 59th minute, on a clinical finish by Robinho. Midfielder Ramires intercepted a ball at the halfway line and made an exquisite run to the edge of the box, where he dumped it to Robinho, who curled it into the far corner.

Brazil’s 3-0 win set up what should be a thrilling quarterfinal against the Netherlands on Friday in Port Elizabeth.

Brazilian fans have complained that the Jogo Bonito, the “Beautiful Game,” is not quite as beautiful under defensive-minded coach Dunga, that he has stifled their creativity. It is true he likes to crowd the back, positioning two holding midfielders in front of his back four. But when they feel like stringing together pretty passes, they do it with ease, alternating their pace in such a way as to keep their opponent off guard. It is, in its best moments, a beautiful thing to watch, even for the casual soccer observer.

Chile came out attacking, but history said Brazil was going to win. Brazil has beaten Chile the past eight times they have played and outscored them 29-3 in those matches. The last time Chile made the quarterfinals was in 1962, when it hosted the World Cup.

“We deserved to get through the group phase, but at the same time, we deserved to lose this match,” Chilean coach Marcelo Bielsa of Argentina said. “I wish the result would have been closer, but the bottom line is the supremacy of Brazil is something we couldn’t overcome.”

Brazil, meanwhile, marches on with its tambourine-playing, green-and-yellow, wig-wearing traveling party. Everywhere Brazil plays, a carnival follows. And many of the fans dressed in the Selecao’s colors were not from Brazil. They were from South Africa and Japan and Australia. Brazil is the world’s team.

Of course, the most passionate fans were back in Brazil, where the stock market had a light trading day because of the game. Most trading desks had skeleton staffs Monday, as people took off to watch the World Cup.

Dunga, who played on the 1994 World Cup championship team, is determined to bring home an unprecedented sixth title. And he has challenged his team to play even better in the next round.

“We have already said we are trying to play the open football, which everyone wants to see,” Dunga said. “We know there is always this expectation that Brazil will be the winners, but being the favorite does not allow you to win the World Cup. Some people doubted that we would perform, but as we go along that confidence is growing and growing, and we hope to make it to the final.”

Brazil will have its hands full against the Dutch, who have won all four matches so far and are feeling confident after the return of star player Arjen Robben, who had been injured.

Holland has a great World Cup tradition and they are very similar to the South American teams, so we have to be extremely careful,” Dunga said. “We have to be prepared to deal with extremely technical, excellent players. They are a solid team.”


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