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Jun 25, 200914:30 Live
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*Semi Finals - Confederations Cup
Stadium: Coca-Cola Park, Johannesburg
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The more they play, the better they get; Carlos Dunga’s Seleccao look more like the side that every Brazilian fan dreamed of.
Despite omitting the likes of Adriano and Ronaldinho – who were the two key figures in the last Confederations Cup tournament – the squad appears to be strong and always hungry for more. And suddenly, the critics that used to surround Carlos Dunga seem to fade away as successful results are becoming more of a habit.
A 4-3 victory against Egypt in the first game of this tournament was mostly down to luck rather than merit. It also revealed that there were still room for improvement. But regardless of the many negative comments that some people made after that game, Carlos Dunga insisted that the seven-goal thriller was due to fatigue that had affected his players.
Against the United States of America, the Brazilians displayed an improved performance. Maicon and Felipe Melo were the rocks in defense, while Kaka and Robinho were excellent upfront. Brazil’s fast flowing football didn’t hit a snag against Italy. Carlos Dunga’s men started very strongly to damage Marcelo Lippi’s wounded side. Brazil’s play completely stole the show on the night and reduced the World Champions to simple humans chasing shadows in vain.
Brazil are observably hitting top form in the Confederations Cup tournament and their entertaining style of play is near perfection.
Unfortunately for Carlos Dunga, he will have to deal with the absence of one of his best defenders, Juan. The AS Roma player injured himself in the match against Italy; He is said to miss the rest of the tournament.
Nevertheless, the Confederations Cup defending champions still look favorites to reach the final at the expense of South Africa.
Analytically, Bafana Bafana lack behind Brazil and a victory for the hosts in the semifinals will come as a surprise. But as long as the game of football is not mathematics, anything is possible. The USA broke the odds by reaching this stage; South Africa may also do well by ousting the Confederations Cup defending champions. South Africa and Brazil once met in Johannesburg for a friendly match thirteen years ago.
Ambitious Mhlongo talking about the South African team
Unfortunately for South Africa, their shocking 2-0 lead was overshadowed by three second half goals from the Brazilians.
Bafana’s central midfielder, Benson Mhlongo, reflected on that 1996 match ahead of Thursday’s semifinal clash:
“History can repeat itself, but it’s up to us as players to let it happen,”
“The way we played against Spain gave us confidence. We have to play to win because we’ve got nothing to lose.”
The South Africans, who played under Brazil’s World Cup and Confederations Cup winning coach Carlos Alberto Parreira, are now managed by another Brazilian coach, Joel Santana.
The non-speaking English man is yet to impress the people of South Africa. The tactics he used against Iraq in the tournament’s opening game were heavily criticized. A 2-0 win against New Zealand in the second round was satisfying but not the best result. The Bafana were almost excellent against Spain, but in the second half their defense suddenly melted down after David Villa’s missed penalty.
Many predict that South Africa’s encounter against Brazil will be Santana’s last game in charge of the national team. But Mhlongo – who defends Joel Santana’s ability – has other beliefs:
“It’s not the last game for the coach,
“If you look at the reality, since [Carlos Alberto] Parreira came here three years ago the team has been improving, and under Santana it’s still improving.
“Yes, the strategy might have been to go for a draw against Spain because we didn’t want to go into our last match with a suicidal approach. If you look at Group B, USA qualified because of the lapses of Egypt and Italy.
“I think we should praise ourselves and embrace the moment we have – we’ve made it through to a semi-final.”
South Africa certainly lack of big names and players with a high level of experience. Maybe this is what separates them from football’s giants. But Benson Mhlongo insists that South Africa can emulate Egypt’s achievement over Italy.
“If Egypt can make it on the international stage, why not South Africa? We can’t judge ourselves – we can only give ourselves confidence and give our best shot in the game,”
Well, many may put their money on Brazil to beat South Africa. However, it is also left to know whether the team will be able to find the secrets to unlock Brazil’s strength in depth.
Much of the responsibilities here will be on Joel Santana to do what is needed to win. The tactician has spent almost his entire career in Brazil and should know all about A Seleccao’s football. On paper, it will be impossible for the South Africans to defeat an in-form Brazilian side.
But football is not played on paper only and sometimes, games are won from the dugout. This clash could highlight Joel Santana as the main man against his own people, the Brazilians.