By Jayme Monsanto, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO – Brazil defeated Egypt 4-3 last Monday, June 15th, in the Confederations Cup debut. The match was held at the Free State Stadium, in Bloemfontein, South Africa.
The Confederations Cup is a warm-up for the FIFA World Cup, and is held once every four years. Eight top teams take part in the competition, giving fans an advance taste of the international play to take place in the following year’s World Cup.
The six continental champions (according to FIFA rules, South America is separated from North and Central Americas, hence there are six continental champions) plus the World Champion and the host country are eligible to play. As the 2010 World Cup will take place in South Africa, the African nation is given the honors of holding the Confederations Cup as well.
The eight countries in this edition of the competition are Brazil – representing CONMEBOL (South American Football Confederation) , USA – representing CONCACAF (North, Central American and Caribbean Football Confederation) , Egypt – representing CAF (African Football Confederation), New Zealand – representing OFC (Oceania Football Confederation), Iraq – representing AFC (Asian Football Confederation) , Spain – representing UEFA (European Football Confederation) , Italy – 2006 World Champion and South Africa – host country.
The Brazil vs Egypt match kicked off at 11AM (Brazil Time), and the entire first half was dominated by Brazil. The majority of the audience supported the South American team, as Brazilian soccer is considered by many to be the world’s best, and South African audiences have few opportunities to watch it locally.
By the 5th minute, midfielder Kaká scored the match’s first goal after passing two defenders and shooting from a short distance, leaving goalkeeper El Hadary without a chance. The Egyptian reaction came swiftly, as two minutes later the Egyptian striker Zidan scored with a header. The South African audience also cheered for the Egyptian goal, sympathizing with the idea of an African team competing against such a respected team as Brazil.
The draw was short-lived, and in the 11th minute Brazilian striker Luís Fabiano brought Brazil another point with a header. Brazil then scored the team’s third goal in the first half with another header, this time by defender Juan. The first half ended with a 3-1 Brazil victory.
In the second half, however, the Egyptian team reacted swiftly, and in one fantastic minute of gameplay created another draw. In the 9th minute, Mohamed Shawky scored, and in the following play, just after Brazil kicked off after the Egyptian goal, the African team stole the ball and Zidan scored once again.
The score was tied, and no one could believe the Egyptian play. After Zidan’s goal, the Egyptian players gathered in a circle kissing the grass, while the audience cheered as if it were a South African goal. No one thought the relative upstart Egyptian team would give the established Brazilians such a hard time.
After the 3-3 tie, the match was disputed until literally the last minute, when a foul resulted in a free kick outside the goal box. Brazilian defender Lucio took the free kick, and the Egyptian defender Al Muhamad hand-balled to prevent the ball from reaching the net.
The referee gave the defender a red card and called a penalty kick. Kaká didn’t spoil the chance and Brazil scored in the 90th minute. Brazil’s debut in the competition ended in a very close 4-3 victory.
Brazil’s next match in the Confederations Cup will be on Thursday, when the team faces the USA team in Pretoria, South Africa, at 11AM (Brazil time).