Brazil in Cruise Control

Tonight and tomorrow morning, you will hear a lot of rubbish in the media about Brazil vs Croatia – how Parreira isn’t a strong coach, how Ronaldo does not deserve a starting spot and how other teams will be less afraid of Brazil after today’s match.

The fact is that these same people who build up the hype over nothing and made it a foregone conclusion that Brazil would be World Champions come 9th July will now be telling you that Brazil are, overnight, beatable.

The reality is that these people will do and say absolutely anything to get attention and stay in the spotlight – a sorry human trait matched in depravity by their audiences who lap up every word and submit themselves to mindless emotional manipulation.

Oh, hang on…you wanted to read about how Brazil beat Croatia 1-0, did you? Well, here’s my match report:

Croatian fan comes onto the pitch during Brazil vs Croatia in the 2006 World Cup

Brazil started off slow, and never really stepped up their game throughout the match. They really didn’t need to either as despite Dado Prso’s best efforts (as epitomised by the pitch-invading fan on the left) Croatia did not have the penetration to cause the champions any serious problems. Dida made some great saves but really, Croatia couldn’t make it count in the final third. Tactics wise it was interesting to see the Croats attack the fullbacks (Roberto Carlos and Cafu) with a view of taking advantage of their age – Carlos managed pretty well and when Cafu was beaten Lucio and Juan picked up the pieces.

Kaka’s goal was classy – taking the ball from his right side, where three Croatian players were standing ready to stop him, he effortlessly shifted the ball (and the focus of the game with it) to his left foot and thus completely putting the defense off-guard. Before they could close him down (or before they realised that he could take a shot) Kaka had snapped a kick and the curling ball swerved into the top corner without giving the keeper any chance at all.

Ronaldo - World Cup 2006 is his last chance to prove himself

Ronaldo was subbed at 69 minutes – he is, like Owen, looking to be match fit as soon as possible and Brazil would want him to fire ‘just in time’ for the second round. Adriano too was not so impressive, although whenever either of the two strikers got the ball they unleashed powerful shots – reminders of their talents. The fact that the strikers did not fire and that Ronaldinho didnt really wipe the floor with the opposition’s defense speaks volumes for Brazil’s strength in midfield. Ze Roberto and Emerson were masterful at marshalling the midfield, feeding the ball to Kaka, Ronaldinho, Carlos and Cafu and driving Brazil forward through the center as well as on the flanks. Those two will be crucial to Brazil’s success, and they are exactly the sort of ball-winning players England needs.

Ronaldino was a bit quiet today – even though he got surrounded by Croats wherever he went. The man’s last big match was the Champions League final and the fact that he has not scored or done something amazing and outrageous in these two matches may even cause the ‘experts’ to say that he is over-rated and out of form. Ronnie is worth most of the hype, even if he isn’t the best player ever or the best player in the world right now.

Ronaldinho surrounded by defenders - World Cup 2006

Brazil will have little trouble advancing to round two, where they will meet one of Italy or Czech Republic. By that time Brazil will need to be at their best, as neither of those two will be as lax in taking advantage of half-chances as Croatia have been.

A final word on ‘sports pundits’. I’ve been reading comments from ‘BBC Sport Pundit’ Alan Hansen for several matches now, and they all lead me to one undeniable conclusion – the man is an idiot. I rate people like Wenger and Jol much highly – people who actually manage footballers and teams day in and day out and not only know what they are talking about but also make sense.

Enough media bashing for now. Brazil are in cruise control, but they remain beatable, as I have already said in my world cup predictions.

Speaking of predictions, I’ll be posting an update on them soon after tomorrow’s matches.

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