Brazil put on a vastly improved performance yesterday to beat the United States and move closer to a spot in the Confederations Cup semi-finals. Felipe Melo put Brazil ahead in the seventh minute before Robinho and Maicon scored goals that typified the traditional flair and vigour that had been absent from the South American champion's narrow opening win over Egypt.
Robinho rounded off a 20th-minute counter-attack of near-breathtaking efficiency before Maicon, who had threatened throughout, started a second-half move on the right that ended with him lifting a shot from a narrow angle over goalkeeper Tim Howard. "I like the way we played," the Brazil coach Dunga said. "We changed the ball from side to side very quickly. That helped us a lot."
The win at Loftus Versfeld Stadium gave Brazil six points in Group B, six more than the US, one of whose players was sent off for a second straight game and who are now almost certain to be eliminated from the tournament.
The US did not manage a chance until substitute Benny Feilhaber hit the bar with seven minutes left. Despite focusing before the match on Brazil's attacking full-backs, the team was unable to contend with Maicon's runs down the right and struggled throughout with the pace of the game. Maicon set up Melo's seventh-minute header and in the first half alone came close to creating another two goals after Robinho's effort, which came from a move that started with a corner kick to the US.
The sending off of midfielder Sacha Kljestan in the 57th minute for a foul on Ramires created even more space for Brazil to exploit and Maicon did so five minutes later after a move involving Ramires and Kaka. "He played the ball off before I got there and I got him in the foot," Kljestan said. "I don't know if it was a red or not but the end result is that I let my team down today.
"It surprised me because the game played on and he [the referee] took a few minutes. Someone must have talked in his ear but I don't know who."
Kljestan will now be suspended for his team's final group game against Egypt, while Brazil could bask in a win so comfortable that they could withdraw Kaka, Luis Fabiano and captain Lucio for the last 20 minutes.
Melo's header from a free-kick by Maicon was the fourth of Brazil's five tournament goals to come from a set-piece, but the five-time World Cup winners showed their famous flair for the next score.
Landon Donovan, again standing in as captain for the injured Carlos Bocanegra, tried to play a short corner to DaMarcus Beasley, but the midfielder failed to read the pass and it ran to Andre Santos to clear.
With Beasley slapping the ground in frustration, Kaka helped the ball to Ramires, who drifted out to the right and rolled a pass across the edge of the area to the onrushing Robinho, who scored with a well-placed low shot. "When they are firing on all cylinders, it might be special to watch but it's a bugger to play against," Howard said.
The United States coach, Bob Bradley, sent on Conor Casey for the second half in place of Beasley, but little changed and Howard had to make three saves in the next 10 minutes. Feilhaber and Casey both hit the bar in the last seven minutes but Brazil had done their job by then.
Brazil (4-3-1-2): Cesar; Maicon, Lucio (Luisao, 70), Miranda, Santos; Silva, Melo, Ramires; Kaka (Baptista, 69); Robinho, Luis Fabiano (Nilmar, 69).
United States (4-4-2): Howard; JBornstein, DeMerit, Onyewu, Spector; Bradley, Klejstan, Beasley (Casey, h-t), Dempsey; Donovan, Altidore (Feilhaber, 60).
Referee: M Busacca (Switzerland)