Brazil march on with a grudge to bear despite Fabiano's double

Brazil 3 Ivory Coast 1
Click to follow
The Independent Football

As if Brazil's sublime declaration of intent were not enough to send a shudder across the tournament, their players were also nursing a grievance late last night, a state of affairs which is simply not good for any who lie in their way.

Sven Goran Eriksson, who knows more than most about being second best in this particular contest, put it best. "If you beat Brazil you must be almost perfect," he said, and his description of matchwinner Luis Fabiano applied more generally, too. "When he is coming like a train all the time it is very difficult to defend."

The night's overwhelming story was one of sublimity – Robinho, Elano and Kaka working the smallest spaces with their passes, backheels and feints – but it ended with darker arts: the dubious dismissal of Kaka after he collided with Abdul Keita – two minutes from time and four minutes after an innocuous booking. The Ivorian's theatrics will win few friends on a night when he could have broken Felipe Melo's leg by going in with his studs and when Ismael Tiote's challenge saw Elano carried off in agony.

Dunga was indignant. "It was a totally unjustified sending off," he said. Even Eriksson admitted that Kaka's second offence "didn't look too bad" though his own, understandable sense of injustice about Fabiano's second goal – which might just prove to be the only one in the tournament scored by a player who handles twice – meant his sympathy had its limits. It was a night on which the French referee Stephane Lannoy covered himself in even less glory than his own nation's current squad, having seemed to ask Fabiano had he handled after awarding that goal. "Why didn't he ask me?" Yaya Touré reasonably asked.

But the deeper significance was what Brazil gave out here, not what was taken away from them. For 20 minutes, the Ivorians offered the same discipline which has begun to mark them out. Then came the moment which signalled the arrival of Dunga's side in this tournament; a move beginning with Felipe Melo taking possession and running through the intricate, light touches of Robinho, Fabiano's backheel and Kaka who, just when the move seemed to be running aground, smuggled it through for Fabiano to despatch his first goal of this calendar year. The Seville striker's shot went in with a power which seemed it would burst the roof of the net.

The vuvuzelas were drowned, if not stilled, by a mesmeric Brazilian rhythm – Gilberto Silva and Kaka running deep to gather the ball, pausing, sometimes offering it short and then, when the space, opened, flashing it through a channel or flank. Equally telling was evidence of the defensive strength which Dunga has introduced to the Selecao. Felipe Melo was an indomitable shield. And to the presumable astonishment of those who watch football in east Manchester, Robinho offered more evidence that he could leave this tournament with his name stamped across it.

The game was up just after the interval when Fabiano fired home left footed, having handled in the process of winning an aerial challenge and again in taking down a ball he had just lifted over Kolo Touré.

Kaka's contribution did not quite match his compatriots though he supplied the third, too, racing around Kolo Touré to measure a pass for Elano to strike home.

Didier Drogba's night was limited until Felipe Melo let him disappear to nod home Yaya Touré's free kick. "We always want the beautiful game to be played," Dunga said afterwards. Managers across South Africa would have nodded, flicked off their television sets and left for bed heavy-hearted.

Brazil (4-3-1-2): Julio Cesar; Maicon, Lucio, Juan, Michel Bastos; Elano (Dani Alves 67), S Gilberto, Felipe Melo; Kaka; Luis Fabiano, Robinho (Ramires, 90).

Ivory Coast (4-1-4-1): Barry; Demel, K Touré, Zokora, Tiene; Y Touré; Dindane (Gervinho, 54), Eboué (Romaric, 72), Tiote, Kalou (Keita, 68); Drogba.

Referee: S Lannoy (France)

Man of the match: Fabiano

Attendance 84,455