By Jayme Monsanto, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO – On June 21st, the 39th birthday of the 1970 World Cup Title, Brazil defeated Italy once again, this time for the Confederations Cup, in Pretoria, South Africa.
While in 1970 the 4-1 victory against Italy in Mexico resulted in Brazil winning its third World Cup, last weekend’s 3-0 victory granted Brazil a spot in the Confederations Cup semifinal stage, and eliminated current World Champions Italy from the competition.
The match’s first half was completely dominated by Brazil. The Azzurra – nickname of the Italian squad – is famous for having an almost unbreachable defense, but last weekend’s performance was way below average, and Brazil used that against them.
From the kickoff to the 35th minute the match was a succession of offensives by the Brazilian strikers, who were favored by the Italian defenders’ flaws. The attacks, however, were successively blocked by goalkeeper Buffon’s amazing skills and experience.
In spite of that, by the 36th minute Brazil finally found the net. A weak goal kick by Ramires ended up being a perfect, although unintentional pass for striker Luis Fabiano, who did not miss the golden opportunity to score.
The goal destabilized the Italian squad, opening the pipeline to two more in the following minutes: by the 43rd minute, Kaká passed the ball to Robinho inside the goal box. The midfielder tricked the Italian defense by letting the ball pass by and reach striker Luis Fabiano, who was wide open behind him, and scored his second goal in the match.
The Italian defense was so clumsy that they were directly responsible for Brazil’s third goal. In the 45th minute, Robinho attempted a long pass to Ramires, who was inside the goal box. The pass was intercepted by defender Dossena, but while trying to defend its own squad, he inadvertently placed the ball inside Buffon’s net.
In the second half, however, Italy reacted. They knew that a single goal in this match would keep them in the competition. Italy, USA and Egypt were tied with 3 points each in the Confederations Cup, and the tiebreaker criteria was the number of goals scored throughout the competition. Italy was just one goal behind USA at kickoff. Italy renewed their strength and started attacking Brazil.
The Brazilian defense, unlike their Italian counterpart, was in great shape, and prevented the Azzurra from scoring. Goalkeeper Júlio Cesar and defender Lucio were important in this moment, and had excellent performances.
The victory gave continuity to Brazil’s undefeated campaign in the Confederations Cup, and granted the team the 1st position of Group B. The tiebreaker criteria made USA advance to the semis while Egypt and Italy were eliminated, as USA scored more goals in its campaign.
Now USA (2nd place in Group B) will face Spain (leader in Group A) next Wednesday, June 24th in Bloemfontein, for the semifinals, while Brazil (leader in Group B) takes on South Africa (2nd place in Group A) next Thursday, June 25th in Johannesburg.
The South African team is commanded by Brazilian coach Joel Santana (Ex-Flamengo), who is currently doing a great job. Like USA, South Africa is performing well in the competition, but there is no doubt Brazil and Spain are the favorites to get the two spots in the final, which will take place next Sunday, June 28th in Ellis Park.