Brazil against Ivory Coast was billed as a tough test for the perennial World Cup favorites. But it turned into a stroll for the Brazilians with a commanding second half performance that helped them to a comfortable 3-1 win and a place in the final 16.
The victory, however, was marred by a late slew of dirty fouls from the Africans and a red card for Kaká, who was unfortunate to get his marching orders after a scandalous bit of play acting from Keita. One of the fouls led to Brazilian Elano being taken off on a stretcher.
Brazil started the match with two quick shots at goal but the Ivory Coast quickly found their feet and did not look overawed by the five-time World Cup champs. Neither side, though, looked dangerous and and it took a flash of brilliance from Seville striker Luis Fabiano to break the nil-nil deadlock in the 25th minute. He skipped past two defenders to run onto a through ball from Kaká and hammer the ball high into the net from a tight angle.
The second half was a different story, though, and it wasn't long before Brazil added to their tally.
Again it was Luis Fabiano who did the damage with some brilliant skill. Taking a pass on the edge of the box he lifted the ball over first one and then another defender before bringing it down and hammering it past Barry. In TV replay, he could clearly be seen using an arm but French referee Stephane Lannoy missed the infraction and the goal stood.
With Felipe Melo imposing in midfield and Kaká finally throwing off the sluggishness that dogged his preparations, Brazil were looking good and their third goal in the 62nd minute was a lovely team effort. Kaká took a pass down the left wing and his sublime cross into the six-yard box was elegantly stroked home by Elano.
The Ivory Coast got a goal back in the 79th minute when Chelsea striker Didier Drogba placed a glancing header past Brazil's keeper Julio Cesar. But it was too little and too late. The experienced Brazilians played down the clock and the frustrated Africans responded with some tough tackles.
First, Elano was carried off and then Miguel Bastos, Kaká and Luis Fabiano were all felled with tough tackles. The normally mild mannered Kaká got involved in one scuffle that won him a yellow card and it was one he came to regret when referee Lannoy judged him to have elbowed Keita in an off the ball incident.
All in all, Brazil will be happy with the three points and a place in the next round. They will be furious at losing Kaká, however. The picture is a lot less rosy for the Africans. The Ivory Coast will have to beat Portugal to have any chance of progressing to the final 16. Worse is the picture for the continent as a whole.
Africa's record after this game is one win, three draws and eight losses in the tournament so far.
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