Posted by Luke Cyphers
JOHANNESBURG -- Brazil badly botched a half dozen passes, created a beautiful goal that was an artistic fraud, lost its cool and hatched a Kakantroversy.
Yet the Selecao advanced to the second round of the World Cup looking nearly unbeatable in a 3-1 victory over Ivory Coast on Sunday.
Brazil made four or five plays that will be set to popular music on the Internet for the next several years, including Luis Fabiano's stunning first goal off a 1-2 tango with Kaka that included a back-heel pass and a roofed finish worthy of Landon Donovan. Kaka's baseline drive to set up Elano for the third goal was not too shabby, either.
But the Brazilians also played a dog of a match, one marred for large stretches by listless attacking, which left the 84,000 front-running fans yawning for much of the night at Soccer City. They frequently killed their attack with lead-footed passes, or they might have had three more first-half scores. Their second goal, which turned the contest in the 50th minute, was enabled by not one but two handballs by Fabiano, who could only laugh when asked whether he had handled the ball. Then he humbly called the strike "spectacular, like a painting." Which it was, if you like counterfeit van Goghs.
At the end of the day (and given that it was about 10 p.m., it really was the end of the day), Brazil coach Dunga's vaunted team discipline collapsed under relentless hacking from the Elephants in the waning minutes. Rather than ignore the Ivorians, Brazil got chirpy and chippy, and Kaka, the level-headed field general, earned two yellow cards and a suspension for the next match.
The second yellow came in the 88th minute after Kaka's rather dainty elbow caught Ivory Coast striker/thespian Kader Keita, who hit the African soil like a gut-shot gnu.
"I don't understand why Kaka was sent off," Brazil's Gilberto Silva said. "Because the referee didn't see. The linesman didn't see. I'm not sure if the fourth referee saw anything. I think the other guy [Keita] came to the game to look for trouble."
He found it, as did Kaka, who will miss the Group G finale. But it might not matter for Brazil, which qualified for the second round with Sunday's victory. Kaka didn't want to talk about the suspension, saying he would let the video of Keita's dive speak for him. And he found something positive in the booking: He'll be rested for the knockout stage.
In any event, the dustup probably hurt the Elephants more than Brazil; to advance out of the group, they likely will need Brazil to rout Portugal.
Just another mistake in a glitch-filled game. "To beat Brazil, you must be almost perfect," said Ivory Coast coach Sven-Goran Eriksson.
Brazil, on the other hand, can be quite flawed and still beat pretty much anyone.