Robinho shimmies out of Kaka's shadow to lead Brazil charge
Brazil v Ivory Coast: Tomorrow, 7.30pm, Johannesburg, ITV1
Cahal Milmo is the chief reporter of The Independent and has been with the paper since 2000. He was born in London and previously worked at the Press Association news agency. He has reported on assignment at home and abroad, including Rwanda, Sudan and Burkina Faso, the phone hacking scandal and the London Olympics. In his spare time he is a keen runner and cyclist, and keeps an allotment.
Saturday 19 June 2010
In a tournament that has yet to see a clear favourite emerge, it is the South American nations, with their willingness to attack, that have had the most consistent success.
Argentina, Chile and Uruguay have all made an impression with their forward prowess, but it is a Brazil side instilled with uncharacteristic caution who still seem the best equipped of the continent's five representatives to be back at Soccer City come 11 July.
Dunga, Brazil's coach and once a much maligned defensive midfielder, has fashioned a side in his image – so much so that the great Socrates has declared he is supporting Portugal, who provide Brazil's final opponents in Group G, the tournament's toughest, on Friday.
Two holding players sit in front of a back four and goalkeeper, Julio Cesar, of steely repute, but that provides the solid base that the likes of Argentina lack and gives the flair players, Kaka and Robinho, the platform on which to provide the flair with which Brazil are more readily associated.
Robinho already cuts a different player from the disinterested figure at Manchester City last season. For a start he is now bearded – perhaps as a guard against the freezing conditions in Johannesburg – more tellingly he is shining again.
The 26-year-old was his side's most impressive attacking force against North Korea, despite the massed defence consistently placed in his way. Against Ivory Coast the standard of opposition will be higher, but Sven Goran Eriksson's side will not have such a negative mindset – especially having drawn their opening game – and that should give Robinho more space in which to play.
"It's a very tough challenge when the other team is only trying to defend, it becomes very complicated for us," said Robinho, who rediscovered his spark back in Brazil with Santos after leaving City on loan in January. "The secret is to have patience, but we don't think they will come out defending so much."
Robinho's revival is timely for Dunga as Kaka is still some way from his best form. Fears that he is still not fully fit after an injury-troubled season in Madrid have yet to be banished and he struggled against North Korea.
What to watch out for: Drogba being cast in a starting role
Didier Drogba played 25 minutes in Ivory Coast's goalless draw with Portugal, his broken arm protected by a cast, and Eriksson is ready to start the Chelsea striker tomorrow evening. "His health has improved markedly," said Eriksson. "Do not be surprised if Drogba starts."
If Drogba does play it will see him renew combat with Lucio, a towering presence at the heart of the Brazilian defence. The pair last met in the last 16 of the Champions League when Internazionale won en route to lifting the trophy. It was an individual contest that went the Brazilian's way as well. "Lucio completely dominated Drogba in the first match," said Julio Cesar, another of the Inter side chasing an unprecedented fourth trophy of the season.
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