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FIFA World Cup: Sparkling Brazil move into second round with comfortable victory

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fabiano_robinho.jpgBrazil produced a stunning performance to outclass Ivory Coast 3-1 as they moved ominously into the second round of the FIFA World Cup in Johannesburg. But their victory was marred by a late sending off for Kaka, who was unlucky to be the victim of some crass play acting from Ivory Coast's Kader Keita. Before his dismissal the Real Madrid midfielder was instrumental in Brazil's excellent display, as Luis Fabiano scored in each half with Elano extending the lead to 3-0 before Didier Drogba scored a consolation goal for the Ivorians. In one of the most eagerly awaited matches of the group stage it was Brazil who produced one of the best performances of the tournament with some wonderful passing and interplay as they sealed their second win. The defeat leaves the African side on the brink of an early exit with only one point to show for their efforts thus far, and they will keep a close eye on the fourth match of Group G tomorrow between Portugal and North Korea to determine exactly where they stand heading into the last round of group matches.

Coach Dunga went with the same line-up which eventually overcame the stubborn North Koreans in a hard fought 2-1 victory. Playmaker Kaka who endured a difficult first season with Real Madrid, failed to reach the high standards in the lacklustre victory against the Asians. Dunga would need more from his most creative player in order to shut those critics back home who claim his side is the most dour Brazil team in years despite their excellent recent record of losing only once in 27 matches.

Sven-Goran Eriksson, who once managed Dunga, could count on the services of skipper and talisman Didier Drogba from the start for this game. The injured super striker playing with a broken bone in his right arm only came on as a late substitute in the drab goalless draw against Portugal. In this crucial encounter he started alongside Chelsea team mate Salomon Kalou and Aruna Dindane up front in a 4-3-3 formation. With Drogba returning ,the Africans had a strong spine running through the side with the Toure brothers - Kolo and Yaya - in defence and midfield respectively. Sadly, though the impressive Gervinho dropped to the subs bench after having been one of the few bright sparks in the last game against Portugal.

The South Americans were out of the blocks quickly and within a minute Robinho was strutting his stuff out there in the middle. The Manchester City forward stormed at the Ivorian backline, unleashing an effort from distance that dipped just a little too late to test Boubacar Barry in goal. But after that first minute scare the Cote D'Ivoire steadied and eased themselves into the match but they were helped by the out of sorts Kaka who squandered possession far too many times in the initial cagey exchanges. Full back Maicon was trying his best to get down the right with his trademark surging runs but he could not find a way to unlock a sturdy looking Ivory Coast side.

The Africans continued from where they left off against Portugal, showing excellent composure in midfield and discipline in defence. With 9 men behind the ball, there was negligible space for Brazil to work with, and they needed to keep their patience. Then, just when the Ivory Coast seemed to have kept the Brazilians at bay the Samba boys exploded to life with devastating effect. Some neat interchanging of passes from Kaka and Robinho led to the Real Madrid man sliding the ball through the Ivorian defence for Luis Fabiano. The Seville striker coolly smashed the ball into the roof of the net from a few yards out to get his World Cup campaign off and running. It was a move full of brilliance and class which showed you can never switch off against a side with this much quality.

The goal was the beginning of a spell of Brazil possession, with Ivory Coast struggling to take the ball off the South Americans. Brazil keeper Julio Cesar was largely a spectator during the first half but he was called into action on 39 minutes when Dindane tested the Inter Milan shot stopper with a decent effort from range. The boys from Brazil were in control and as French referee Stephane Lannoy blew his whistle to bring the first half to a close manager Eriksson had a huge task on his hands. How to get more support for his match winner Drogba without leaving his side open to a rapier like counter attack?

And his task was made almost impossible just five minutes after the break when a rejuvenated Fabiano scored a stunning, if somewhat controversial strike, which looked to have killed off any forlorn hopes of an Ivory Coast come back. The striker first dinked the ball over Didier Zokora, then wonderfully flicked the ball over Touré before bringing it down and cracking another fizzing shot past Barry. The skill was sublime in the build-up but the Seville man did suspiciously look like he brought the ball down with his arm in the final piece of control. The Africans tried to hit back and after 53 minutes Drogba finally got into the game with a header, which a player of his calibre, should have scored with. Aruna Dindane putting in a good cross towards the Chelsea striker, whose header drifted a few inches wide.

But Brazil put paid to any remote hopes of a comeback with another goal of supreme quality after some awesome play by a resurgent Kaka. The Real Madrid jinxed past a couple of defenders and his cut-back from the left was on a plate for Elano to tap home. Not only did the goal leave them in an unassailable 3-0 lead but it was also a smack in the face to those critics who claim this side does not have the Samba magic of previous vintage. Manager Dunga's only apparent headache came when goal scorer Elano hobbled off and was replaced by Dani Alves.

The Brazilians were now magical with their one touch passing and interplay with Kaka, Robino and Fabiano all combining to lead the African side a merry dance. Soon after some more mesmerising Brazilian passing and movement the Ivory Coast scored to bring some respectability to proceedings. Drogba sealed the consolation goal when he was left completely unmarked to head home from a Yaya Toure cross which followed a barnstorming run by substitute Gervinho . The goal never threatened a miracle comeback as the game descended into niggly tackles with constant free kicks as things starting getting ugly. Coach Dunga was epileptic with rage as he felt his players were being targeted with some rough treatment, though in fairness players on both sides were looking for an excuse to go down. His mood would not have improved with just two minutes remaining after some outrageous acting from Kader Keita, who collided with Kaka off the ball but went down as if the Brazilian had shot him. It was nothing but a coming together, but the French referee gave Kaka his second yellow card and the Real Madrid man was off.

It was an unsavoury ending for Dunga and his men to what had been an almost perfect performance. They completely dominated the match and with Kaka and Fabiano finding their form they look to be reaching their peak at just the right time. For Ivory Coast it was a chastening night as they were outclassed with the only real highlight being the encouraging performance of substitute Gervinho who replaced the ineffectual Dindane. Their hopes of qualification are remote as they face the North Koreans on Friday in Nelspruit. The five time winners Brazil now move on to face Portugal in Durban. If Portugal do end up with victory against North Korea the ivorians will need a huge favour from the samba boys in their bid for qualification. Ivory Coast need to win their final game and hope brazil beat Ronaldo's portugal by enough goals so they can squeeze through on goal difference.

The Teams :

Brazil: Cesar (GK) Maicon, Lucio, Juan, Bastos, Melo, Silva, Elano (Alves 67'), Kaka, Robinho (Ramires, 90+3), Fabiano.

Ivory Coast: Barry (GK), Eboue (Romaric, 72) , Kolo Toure, Demel, Tiene, Zokora, Yaya Toure, Tiote, Kalou (Keita, 68) Drogba, Dindane (Gervinho 54')

Referee: Stephane Lannoy (France)

Final Score: Brazil 3 - 1 Ivory Coast

Brazil: Luis Fabiano, 25', 50' Elano, 62' Ivory Coast: Drogba, 79'

Check out the Points Table

Also Read:

Portugal vs. North Korea - Match Preview

File Photograph Copyright: STF Photo Agency

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