Kick Off: Sunday, June 20, 2010. 20:30 CET
Soccer City, Johannesburg
Soccer City, Johannesburg
Striking A Balance
It certainly wasn’t as many pundits predicted, but Brazil got their World Cup off to a winning start against North Korea last week. The Selecao were faced by an unknown quantity in their opening match, but Cote d’Ivoire provide Dunga’s men with an altogether more familiar foe in the second of Brazil’s ‘Group of Death’ encounters.
Right-back Maicon was the man to get the ball rolling for the Brazilians against North Korea, striking after 55 minutes to give the South Americans the lead. Did he mean it or was it a fluke? That’s largely irrelevant as Elano added a second, rendering the late strike from Ji Yun-nam a mere consolation.
There is little samba beat about this Brazil side, which has been partly chiselled in the image of their coach. Dunga, a World Cup winning captain, was not a player who showed great flair. The holding midfielder in the 1994 team of world champions, the 46-year-old is a player to value industry and effectiveness on a par with intuition and entertainment.
Though this version of the Selecao will not be frothing with free-wheeling exuberance, they are devoid of excitement either. Any side that plays with an offensive midfielder at left-back, in this case Michel Bastos, cannot be considered simply workmanlike, especially when there are players such as Kaka and Robinho filling more advanced roles.
Should Dunga have his balance right, Brazil will be very tough to stop and will provide an intimidating obstacle for any opponent. A spot in the last 16 is secure if they win on Sunday.
Defend Well First
This is only Cote d’Ivoire’s second World Cup finals, but it’s also their second World Cup in the ‘Group of Death’. As virgins four years ago in Germany, the Elephants were eliminated early after defeats against Argentina and Netherlands, but this time around, they will be in with a chance right up until the final match, no matter what happens against Brazil.
A scoreless draw in the opening game against Portugal ensured that Sven-Goran Eriksson’s side will have an interest in proceedings when they begin their final game against North Korea, though how much of an interest will be determined on Sunday.
Eriksson has been in charge of the side less than three months ago, and his reign may last only a more few days as he is only contracted to take the side through to the end of this competition. Despite his short period at the helm, the Swede has made a big impression on the squad, according to Emmanuel Eboue.
“We are so happy to get Eriksson as our manager because now when we play we are more solid and more compact,” he said, according to the PA. “Our objective is to defend well first. Every player feels very well and we've got confidence in ourselves.”
Ivory Coast are yet to win a ‘live’ match at the World Cup, and a shock victory over Brazil would certainly make for a memorable first.
WON 2-1 (n) North Korea (World Cup, June 15)
WON 5-1 (a) Tanzania (Friendly, June 7)
WON 3-0 (a) Zimbabwe (Friendly, June 2)
WON 2-0 (a) Oman (Friendly, November 17)
WON 1-0 (n) England (Friendly, November 14)
DREW 0-0 (n) Portugal (World Cup, June 15)
WON 2-0 (n) Japan (Friendly, June 4)
DREW 2-2 (n) Paraguay (Friendly, May 30)
LOST 2-0 (n) South Korea (Friendly, March 3)
LOST 3-2 (n) Algeria (Africa Cup of Nations, January 24)
There are worries over the fitness of Gilberto Silva, who picked up a knock in training on Friday. Reports from Brazil suggest that the former Arsenal player is a doubt for the weekend’s match and could be replaced by Josue. Otherwise, there will be no alterations to the side – at least if Dunga’s setup in training is anything to go by.
Probable Starting XI: Julio Cesar; Maicon, Lucio, Juan, Michel Bastos; Gilberto Silva, Felipe Melo; Elano, Kaka Robinho; Luis Fabiano
Didier Drogba is poised to start after only featuring against Portugal from the bench. The Chelsea man will still be forced to wear a protective cast, but as there were no problems against Carlos Queiroz’s side, he will likely feature prominently in a largely untouched XI.
Probable Starting XI: Barry; Demel, K. Toure, Zokora, Tiene; Y. Toure, Eboue, Tiote; Gervinho, Drogba, Kalou
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Robinho was outstanding in the Selecao’s opening game against North Korea. He was the one player in a yellow shirt who regularly threatened to open up the Asian side, showing a fine array of stepovers and technical skills. But the Manchester City contracted player also displayed unselfishness and hunger, tracking back to make challenges and playing the pass of the tournament to set up Elano for what proved to be the winning goal.
Didier Drogba was reduced to a bench role in the opening game due to his arm injury, but he will surely be deployed to worry the Brazilian defenders in a crucial match for his country. Though not quite in the sphere of Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo, the powerful forward is one of a number of players a level down from such talents, and his strength and finishing makes him a deadly opponent, even against a strong defence such as Brazil’s.
Brazil didn’t get things going properly in the first game, but they will have to step up a gear to match the Ivorians. The Selecao should have few problems in doing that as they boast a team of world class players who are now favourites to lift the World Cup. The Castrol World Cup Predictor gives Dunga’s men a 66 per cent chance of winning this game.
Brazil 2-1 Cote d’Ivoire
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