If Fabio Capello left here last night with much to ponder, Roberto Mancini, if he was watching on television, will have been perplexed. On his return to these shores the recalcitrant Robinho delivered an intriguing cameo.
Having forced an own goal from Keith Andrews – a goal which illustrated to Capello how dangerous Brazil are on the counter – Robinho scored himself as a valiant Irish side were eventually brushed aside. If naming him man of the match was somewhat excessive – Kaka led a long list of alternatives – his display was nevertheless more impressive than anything he produced for Manchester City this season.
Robinho not only ran around a lot, he even made tackles. "People say he has been playing bad, but he always looked good when I saw him on the highlights," said Dunga, the Brazil coach. "He has always had a feeling for the national team and was decisive today."
Robinho's commitment was typical in a match which was rather more than a standard friendly. For Brazilians this was about nailing a World Cup place. For the Republic of Ireland it was a chance to show what they would have offered the tournament were it not for their controversial exit at the hand of the French.
To that end Giovanni Trapattoni fielded nine of the XI which started in Paris in the ill-fated second-leg of the qualifying play-off, with only the injured Richard Dunne and John O'Shea absent. Brazil were also at full-strength, aside from the injured striker Luis Fabiano. Ramires was drafted in in midfield with Michel Bastos given another chance in the other available slot, left-back.
The Lyons defender did not make the best of starts, heading a clearance straight to the feet of Robbie Keane who went on to shoot into the side netting, but settled to show promise. The Irish, composed and organised, made the early running with Damien Duff and Kevin Doyle causing problems, notably when they combined after 19 minutes and Doyle brought a smart save from goalkeeper Julio Cesar from Duff's cross.
Brazil had offered little at this stage, just a 25-yard shot from Kaka which flew over, but their threat is always present. This was underlined when right-back Maicon launched a counter-attack. Collecting the ball in his own penalty area he fed Kaka who released Robinho on the right. He slipped in Adriano but the Flamengo striker's shot was blocked, as was Robinho's follow-up.
Kaka's form has been criticised since his summer move to Real Madrid, with Dunga forced to defend him again on the eve of this match. With his every touch accompanied by shrill screams and camera flashes, he began slowly, even being caught in possession by Keith Andrews, but grew in influence. Kaka drew several fouls in dangerous areas (Adriano testing Shay Given in the Irish goal from one free-kick) and helped create the breakthrough.
That came with the seconds ticking down towards half-time, and again showed how dangerous Brazil are on transitions. Gaining possession just outside his own area Kaka drove forward, attracting green shirts towards him, before finding Maicon motoring up on the right. The full-back released Robinho whose low cross was turned into his own net by Andrews with Given stranded.
After the break Brazil steadily took control leaving the Irish chasing shadows. Kaka, his confidence flooding back, was at the centre of everything. Robinho delighted the crowd with a series of stopovers before setting up Bastos, who blazed over. Dani Alves, on as a substitute, dispossessed Sean St Ledger, went round Given, but shot into the side netting. Kaka beat Andrews and crossed for Robinho, who somehow shot wide.
When the substitutes arrived Trapattoni handed Wigan's James McCarthy a debut and Dunga gave Grafite his second cap five years after the first. With Brazil ascendant it was easier for the latter to show his credentials and he was at the heart of the second goal playing one-twos with Kaka and Robinho, who swept his shot past Given. "He has benefited from going back to Brazil," added Dunga of Robinho's return to Santos. "He is happy again."
Less cheerful will be the Milan pair Ronaldinho and Alexandre Pato. Asked what they needed to do to break into the squad, Dunga said: "Everybody has had a chance on the pitch, they had this chance. Now things have been decided."
Republic of Ireland (4-4-2): Given (Manchester City); Kelly (Fulham), McShane (Hull City), St Ledger (Preston North End), Kilbane (Hull City); Lawrence, Whelan (both Stoke City), Andrews (Blackburn Rovers), Duff (Fulham); Keane (Celtic), Doyle (Wolverhampton Wanderers). Substitutes used: Gibson (Manchester United) for Whelan, 55; McGeady (Celtic) for Duff, 55; McCarthy (Wigan) for Lawrence, 66; Best (Coventry City) for Doyle, 77.
Brazil (4-2-3-1): Julio Cesar; Maicon, Lucio (all Internazionale), Juan (Roma), Michel Bastos (Lyons); Gilberto Silva (Panathinaikos), Felipe Melo (Juventus); Ramires (Benfica), Kaka (Real Madrid), Robinho (Santos); Adriano (Flamengo). Substitutes used: Dani Alves (Barcelona) for Ramires, 58; Grafite (Wolfsburg) for Adriano, 58; Nilmar (Villarreal) for Robinho, 77; Luisao (Benfica) for Lucio, 82; Carlos Eduardo (Hoffenheim) for Maicon, 83.
Referee: M Dean (England).