Sunday, 20 June 2010

Brazil v Ivory Coast

Brazil 3 - 1 Ivory Coast
Fabiano 25, 50 Drogba 79
Elano 62

This was a funny one, a mixture of the brilliant, the tedious and the downright ugly. And that's without Ronaldo even playing.

It was a slow burner of a game. I've got more notes for the last ten minutes than I made for the entire first half. Brazil raised our hopes thirty seconds in, Fabiano bursting through and shooting just over virtually from the kick off, but the next 24 minutes had just the one decent chance - Roberto Silva's shot from a corner, slightly off target and deflected clear by Touré before it had a chance to bounce anywhere dangerous off the Brazilian knees behind him.

I cannot tell a lie, I didn't see which defender it deflected off. I chose Touré because there was two of them, so the odds were better. Kolo plays for Man City, Yaya for Barcelona, and they have 132 caps between them. Why do I think giving you facts makes it better somehow?

As so often happens, a period of quiet was followed by a goal. Fabiano used his strength to bustle through the Ivorian defence, but found himself at a difficult angle wide right. With a square inch of goal in the top right hand corner to aim at, he hit it perfectly for one nil.

It shocked the Ivory Coast, and they took a few minutes to compose themselves, but all the chances at the end of the first half were theirs. Dindane had two, but the first was blocked and the second, from distance, was easy enough for a keeper of Cesar's quality. For a country with a great tradition of crap keepers, Brazil seem be to doing all right at the moment - Cesar plays for the Champions League winners Inter Milan, the backup Gomes for Spurs and third choice Doni for Roma.

The last chance of the half fell to Eboue, but his shot was deflected wide. At the break, the Africans must have felt they were still in with a chance.

They had a rude awakening soon after the break. It was Fabiano again, lobbing one defender, dodging another and again lobbing a third before smashing the ball home seemingly through Boubacar's body. He plays for Lokeren, you know. The Belgian team? Yes they're in the top division, they finished fourteenth.

It was a brilliant individual goal by Fabiano, so it was a shame when the replay showed he'd used his arm to control the second lob. There's a dark side to the flamboyant geniuses of world football, of which more later.

This time there was no recovery period for the Ivory Coast. Almost immediately, Drogba had a great chance on a cross. He made space brilliantly, working the defender to get the three feet of space he needed, but his header went just wide. Soon after he played a one-two with Gervinho, who'd just come on for Dindane, but Gervinho just failed to get hold of the return.

Even my lovely readers, despite your reluctance to obsess over the game to a halfway appropriate level, will be familiar with the Ivory Coast manager, one Sven Goran Erikssen. Many you will have had sex with him, and those of you that haven't will know someone who has.

Perhaps you can explain, then, why he's so reluctant to play Gervinho right from the start. He's clearly a brilliantly talented lad, and whilst there's nothing wrong with Dindane as such, he does have, shall we say, a certain aroma of Portsmouth hanging over him. He did OK today, but Gervinho was their best player by a country mile. Why are country miles longer, by the way? I'd have thought they were shorter, because there's less in the way.

It didn't matter today, as Brazil went three up soon after he came on. Kaka got the ball down by the corner flag and managed to get a cross in without having to pass any of the defenders. Elano came in faster and stronger than anyone else, got to it first and tucked it away.

Now that the football was decided, it gave everyone the chance to concentrate on pretending to be hurt. The Brazilians are past masters at this, and gave the Africans a lesson which at least one of them took to heart. Tiote got a yellow card for unclear reasons, and Keita got one for reasons of very clear faking by Bastos.

Mixed in with the pretending to be hurt was some actual hurting, and it was sometimes hard to distinguish the one from the other, but suddenly in the middle of it a goal broke out. Gervinho ran seventy country yards with the ball, right into the box. He was stymied by cool defending and had to lay it off, but as the ball was returned Drogba ran through the offside trap, timing his run perfectly, to find himself stood all alone with the ball falling delicately onto his head. Being Drogba, he put it where it needed to be for three one.

And the Ivory Coast had one last sucker punch to land. Keita walked up to Kaka and nudged him, Kaka nudged him back and Keita went down holding his face. It earned Kaka a second yellow, and off he went.

It was petulant, although you can understand him wanting to stick it to the Brazilians after all their diving and rolling around, but above all it was tactically stupid. Brazil's last game is against Portugal, the Ivory Coast desperately need Brazil to beat them, and now they'll be playing them without one of their top players. Idiotic.

The whistle went soon after, bringing the action to a close before anyone could pretend to hit anyone else with an imaginary rolling pin. Another African nation loses a game, what a terrible few days for them. By the end of the group phase, all six could well have been eliminated.

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