By Robbie Blakeley, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO – Brazil booked their place in the knock out stages of the 2010 World Cup with a comfortable 3-1 victory over the Ivory Coast this afternoon in Johannesburg. Sevilla striker Luis Fabiano grabbed a brace and Elano scored his second of the tournament, before Didier Drogba headed in a consolation goal for the Africans.
The impressive performance of the seleçao was marred only by the controversial dismissal of playmaker Kaká, who was sent off after being shown a second yellow card for an apparent elbow on Abdelkader Keita, though the coming together between the two players barely warranted a booking for the Real Madrid star as Keita theatrically fell to the floor.
Brazil’s dominance against a powerful Ivory Coast side should silence at least some of coach Dunga’s harshest critics. The South Americans, among the favorites to lift the trophy on July 11th, dominated from start to finish, rarely giving their opponents a sight of goal. The attacking quadrant of Elano, Kaká, Robinho and Luis Fabiano were in particularly venomous form and threatened from the outset.
Fabiano scored his first midway though the first half after a neat exchange with Kaká. The striker found himself one-on-one with goalkeeper Boubabcar Copa, and confidently smashed the ball into the roof of the net to start the samba party.
His second goal was a real work of art. As Fabiano bullied his way through the Ivory Coast defense again, he deftly chipped the ball over one defender, before subtly side stepping another to smash the ball into the bottom left hand corner of the net with his left foot. Having already set up Brazil’s first goal, Kaká continued his excellent performance by laying on the third for Elano in the 62nd minute to make the score 3-0.
Brazil can now face Portugal on Friday with the pressure off, though the same cannot be said for other World Cup ‘giants’ going into their final group game. 2006 finalists France are in complete disarray, and having managed just a solitary point and no goals from their opening two matches, they go into their third game against hosts South Africa with their fate out of their hands. To add insult to injury, Chelsea striker Nicolas Anelka has been sent home in disgrace after a foul-mouthed verbal tirade aimed at coach Raymond Domenech, and the players have boycotted training in support of the striker.
England’s impressive form in qualifying seems a distant memory, and they have only managed two draws against the USA and Algeria. Friday’s stalemate with the North Africans ended in the Three Lions being booed off by their traveling fans, leading to talisman Wayne Rooney offering some sarcastic words of thanks to a nearby television camera.
Germany came unstuck against a resilient Serbia side and lost 1-0. They will now need to beat Ghana next week to be sure of qualification for the round of sixteen. Another European heavyweight to be suffering are defending champions Italy. After a disappointing 1-1 draw with Paraguay last week, Marcelo Lippi’s men repeated the scoreline against New Zealand, and the Kiwis were unlucky not to steal all three points after Tommy Smith was harshly judged to have fouled Daniele de Rossi in the area, allowing Vinceno Iaquinta to equalize from the spot. Only maximum points against Slovakia will now see the Azurri through to the next round.