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Flakey Brazil Squeeze Through


The Camden Cad
Aug 24, 2004
North London
Brazil 1-0 South Africa

Alves 88

If Brazil are to hold out any hope of victory in South Africa next summer, under-pressure boss Dunga needs to get to the bottom of the mystifying split-personality syndrome that haunts his team. Emphatic, energetic and effervescent against Italy and the USA, they only just squeezed past South Africa, needing a late Daniel Alves free-kick to spare their blushes. The Brazilians never looked entirely comfortable against the host nation, failed to exert any continued dominance and even endured a number of scares at the back.

Thankfully, they now have a goalkeeper capable of keeping them in games that should have passed them by. Julio Cesar spent years as Dida's reserve, which must be an utterly dispiriting way to pass the time, like being Keanu Reeves' understudy at the Royal Shakespeare Company, or perhaps Vice-President to George W Bush. Having finally broken into the team in 2007, the Inter Milan goalkeeper has a refreshing outlook on his art, in that he doesn't pretend to be dead if someone runs past him and he can actually catch a ball. His reaction save to Teko Modise's deflected second half effort was absoluely world class, the mark of a switched-on, in-form stopper.

South Africa, buoyed by their fanatical support and urged on by Those Misbegotten Horns, played with a confidence that has grown steadily since the start of this tournament. Their miserable run of form prior to the Confederations Cup has been well documented, but if they continue to play with this kind of verve and belief, they may yet have a chance of proving the doom-mongers wrong. No host nation has ever failed to qualify from the group stages and Joel Santana has no intention of being the first manager to buck the trend. Aaron Mokoena may lack a little style and grace, but he's an inspirational presence in this side. With a little more luck, he could have opened the scoring with a header at the far post.

It remains a mystery that Brazil can be so compelling in one game and then so abject in the next. It seems more institutionalised than the 'bad day at the office' factor that consumed Spain in midweek. Every team can have a day where chance aren't taken and mistakes are punished, but this was much more than that. Brazil are flakey and if they can't inject some resilience and some backbone into their performances, they will be found out. No team can reserve their best perfrmances for the big games and then hope to breeze through the less glamourous encounters by virtue of talent alone.

The chances are that they will beat the USA at the weekend and lift the trophy. It will be a victory that may satisfy certain elements of their media, and maybe a few of their fans, but as an indicator of how their World Cup campaign will pan out, it's not to be relied upon. Protected by a good goalkeeper and the occasional flash of brilliance, as a team, Brazil are simply not quite as good as they seem to think they are.