The big, bad Brazilian Yellow Machine
By JAMES LAWTON, For QMI Agency
JOHANNESBURG -- They used to be called the little gods in yellow and they fuelled every fantasy born of Brazilian football. Now, somewhat grudgingly, they are respected as a mean, bruising Yellow Machine but if their coach Dunga worships the most practical of football he cannot do much about a lingering gene in the makeup of his team.
Nor would he want to because every type of goal counts and he is enough of a professional, and a Brazilian, to know that his nation's original "sin" of outrageous creativity will probably never be truly expunged.
Brazil has not constantly lit up the sky with its inventions over the last few weeks, but it has confirmed its status of favourites quite relentlessly - and part of its armoury remains the ability to cut open any defence with pure football skill.
Chile, who have played an impressive part in South America's fine recovery from the disappointments of 2006, was the latest victim when Kaka produced a sublime pass to the feet of Luis Fabiano for the goal that broke down the predictably feisty opposition. Robinho, who continues to look like the re-animated ghost of Manchester City's Eastlands stadium, made some running down the left, moved the ball to Kaka and the rest might have come from a page of Alexandre Dumas. It was sharp and beautiful rapier work. Kaka released an almost instant, perfectly weighted pass and Fabanio, not much more than an inch onside, finished with such composure he might have been returning a book to a library shelf.
Four minutes earlier, the big Juan, who with Lucio forms a man-made fortress at the centre of Dunga's defence, moved up to head home with bullet efficiency the corner of that other relentless character, Maicon.
Two goals in four minutes was the death of Chile's brave campaign under their swashbuckling Argentine coach Marcelo Bielsa and his attempt to draw at least a little attention away from his compelling successor Diego Maradona.
Bielsa, who came into the game minus three suspended players, has plenty of reason to leave with pride. Chile, with a spirit and a edge for the action for which the departed Fabio Capello would have given much, was again playing with optimism before the hammer blows came.
His expression when Fabiano delivered his coup-de-grace is one that is becoming increasingly familiar on the faces of coaches attempting to resist the Dunga machine.
It was a picture of the dawning sense that he was involved in a pretty hopeless mission. Your forwards beat forlornly against the weight of Lucio and Jaen and are then obliged to chase in the footsteps of Maicon and Michel Bastos. Your defenders are under the constant threat of being engulfed at set-pieces -- and then Brazil produces something more refined, and equally hard to resist.
If Dunga has any significant worry it is that Kaka, despite the superb delivery to Fabiano, still looks some way from peace with himself. He was yellow carded early in his return from a one-match suspension, more evidence that his mood is less than vibrant. "I am moving towards my best form," Kaka insists. He may be right but for the moment the evidence is more encouraging than overwhelming.
Dunga will no doubt be less concerned by the absence of midfielder Ramires from the quarterfinal with the Netherlands following a second yellow card. Ramires is a strong, driving midfielder but is part of a machine supported by a storehouse of reliable spare sparts.
If Kaka's appetite and fitness is still being questioned, there is not much doubt that Robinho, after his erratic days with City, is hell-bent on re-establishing his reputation as one of the world's most gifted, and maybe at times even committed, performers.
He scored Brazil's third goal with beautiful aplomb, striking his shot with that confidence that comes only to those who believe they are the best of their form.
Meanwhile, Chile was obliged to fight harder than ever before to maintain its spirit. It did it with endless running and a refusal to accept that it had arrived in a very unrewarding place indeed. Its coach was also tireless in offering solutions to problems which were increasingly liable to erupt in any part of the field.
All of it, though, was clearly embedded in the deepest futility. The likes of Wesley Sneijdner and Arjen Robben may well reasonably believe they will present the Brazilians with deeper problems in Port Elizabeth in a few days time. However, they will surely not dispute Maradona's belief that whoever wins this World Cup must first beat the men in yellow.
Some purists back in Rio and Sau Paolo no doubt still feel that names like Pele and Garrincha and Didi are being betrayed. Dunga, though, could hardly care less. He is simply too busy servicing his increasingly formidable machine.
- James Lawton writes for The Independent in the U.K.