Brazil sealed qualification for the second round with a fine win over Ivory Coast here, though the scoreline rather flatters a display that was as much about coach Dunga’s defensive mindset as the traditional Brazilian values of quick passing and sublime skill. It was also a result tarnished by Kaka’s dubious dismissal right at the death.
This was another disciplined defensive performance from Dunga’s side, and what sets them apart from the other teams in this World Cup is an ability to turn on the style when they need to. Luis Fabiano broke the deadlock with a fine goal, backheeling to Kaka who got a lucky bounce off a defender before sliding Fabianon in past the defence for an emphatic first-time finish high into the roof of the net from close range.
Ivory Coast were struggling to get Didier Drogba, passed fit to start 16 days after breaking his arm but visibly lacking sharpness, into the game. Coach Sven-Goran Eriksson changed things round at half time, switching to 4-5-1 in an attempt to overrun Brazil in midfield, but within five minutes Brazil had doubled their lead.
It was Luis Fabiano again but replays showed two handballs – one as he first brought a high ball under control then another as he brought it inside Kolo Toure onto his left foot before smashing it low to the keeper’s left. There were no appeals from the Ivory Coast players and commentary teams only picked up on it after seeing replays, but Ivory Coast may feel hard done by this morning.
Elano made the points safe just twelve minutes later, getting onto the end of a low cross after fine work by Kaka, sliding a low finish past Boubacar. It had been an excellent display by the former Manchester City midfielder but his evening ended soon after as he was stretchered off with an ankle injury.
Didier Drogba pulled one back, spinning off his marker and springing the offside trap to head home Yaya Toure’s cross, a goal which may yet have much to say if this group of death is decided by goal difference. Drogba touched the ball just 17 times in the match, the fewest of any player to have played a full 90 mins at this World Cup, and Ivory Coast will need to provide him with much better service if they are to qualify.
If a fine Brazilian performance and result had been marred somewhat by Elano’s injury then worse was yet to come. With Brazil trying to run the clock down by the corner flag Abdulkader Keita was ballwatching when he ran into Kaka’s shoulder. Kaka appeared to raise his arm slightly when he saw Keita bear down on him and the Ivorian bounced off the Real Madrid man and went to ground clutching his face.
The referee had not seen it and his assistant, at the other side of the pitch, could not have either. The referee, seemingly influenced by the reaction of the Ivorian players and a partisan crowd, showed Kaka a second yellow card which rules him out of Brazil’s final match against Portugal on Friday. With qualification secure, however, Brazil may well have rested him anyway.