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Brazil swaggers into quarterfinals

Paul Wilson

Makes Chile, among the most eye-catching teams at this edition, look ordinary

— Photo: AFP

RISING HIGH:Brazilian defender Juan (jersey No. 4) has no one to beat except his teammates as he heads in his team's opening goal against Chile on Monday.

JOHANNESBURG: Chile have been among the most eye-catching 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 Dunga's or Diego Maradona's team out of the competition.

On current form a Brazil versus 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 famously 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.

“Everyone wants to see open football and we played very quickly,” Dunga said. “The Netherlands play a quick game too, they are a good technical team, a bit like South Americans. The quality of our players allows me to be calm about what comes next.

Mature players

“This group has been built up over three years; all I have to do is look or say a few words to communicate. The players are mature, they understand quickly.

“Three years of effort have gone into what you see today. That's why we look relaxed. We are used to being favourites but that doesn't win games for you. We can still improve in all sectors.”

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 finest 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 backpass 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 was hampered every time he tried to bring Robinho into the game by the former Manchester City player's careless attitude towards possession.

Audacious attempts

When he was not giving the ball away with over-ambitious flicks or audacious attempts to beat defenders who were not going to fall for it, he was attempting passes that no colleague could read or reach. Kaká was booked after half an hour, 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 one hardly sees such straightforward goals from corners in club football any more, let alone from Brazil in 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 teammate.

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.

Instinctive invention

Robinho's cross from the left was good but it was transformed by Kaká's first-time touch into Fabiano's path, one that instantly put the centre-forward in on goal and required him merely to step around Bravo before slotting the ball in from an angle.

Considering Fabiano stayed onside by a matter of inches, it was a remarkable piece of instinctive invention from Kaká. What was left of Chile's morale began to wilt visibly.

Chile 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 made two attacking substitutions then, though Jorge Valdivia, in particular, kept running up against Gilberto or Ramires, the two Brazilians screening the back four.

Kaká proved he does not have magic in his boots all the time just before the hour by spotting Robinho's run into space on the right but badly over-hitting the pass.

Lúcio went on one of his famous charges forward next, and this time did find Robinho. Though the Brazil captain kept on running into the box, the cross back to him never arrived.

The third goal came 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 preclude the swagger of old.

Intercepting his umpteenth pass of the evening exactly on the halfway line, he strode on unchallenged before parting with the ball on the edge of the area to allow Robinho to sweep a curling shot past Bravo.

Valdivia and Suazo were unlucky not to get on the scoresheet before the end, both hitting shots just over the bar, though Robinho could have had a hat-trick with a little more application.

He played well here but never seems to realise he could be better. Perhaps he is saving himself for the final.

“I am happy with my goal, but the team is more important,” Robinho said.

Bielsa, quite reasonably, said there was no disgrace in going out to Brazil, even if Chile have lost their last eight matches against them.

“We made it to this match in an appropriate way,” the Chile coach said.

“Perhaps the result could have been closer but the superiority of Brazil was too much for us.

“We were unable to slow them down.” — © Guardian News and Media 2010


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