20 June ~ Brazil approach their second game in the World Cup with anxieties about future opponents tempered by the insipid 0-0 draw between Ivory Coast and Portugal. History should also provide comfort for Brazil in relation to Ivory Coast – Sunday's opponents would join Zaire, Algeria, Cameroon and Ghana as African teams who have succumbed to the five-time champions at the World Cup.
Will it be different today? Much, according to many Brazilian pundits, depends on the fitness of Didier Drogba. If he plays, so the argument goes, Brazil could face a much stiffer test in a game expected to be more physically demanding than North Korea. Pessimists also point out the complications if Ivory Coast and Portugal succeed in playing for draws against Brazil, who could be eliminated without losing a game in the event of their rivals managing bigger victories over North Korea.
Brazilian celebrations were muted in the aftermath of the curious 2-1 win over the North Koreans. While Diego Maradona suggested that Brazil keeper Julio Cesar was so untroubled that he did not require a bath afterwards, the Brazilian media recognised a certain shame in conceding a goal to North Korea, whose late strike recalled the vulnerability of Brazil's central defensive spine in last year's Confederations Cup. The daily O Globo went on to dub Brazil's display as "frighteningly cold and bureaucratic", while Jornal do Brasil columnist Tostao observed "the ball took 500 years to be moved from defence to attack". Mario Zagallo demanded a "more switched on" Brazil this weekend.
Apologists for Brazil's lacklustre show argued it was merely the first game. Others pinpointed Brazil's problem in putting away countries lower down the international pecking order – Dunga's reign has witnessed three 0-0 home draws against Venezuela, Colombia and Bolivia, while four of Brazil's five defeats under him came against Venezuela, Bolivia, Paraguay and Mexico. Meanwhile doubts about the likely impact of Kaka and Luis Fabiano are increasing and pressure is mounting to axe Felipe Melo from a stuttering midfield. Some suggest pulling Robinho back into midfield, allowing Nilmar to partner Luis Fabiano.
"Why keep this secret?" asked O Globo, referring to the controversial closed training sessions that preceded the modest performance in the first match, but it was Dunga himself who pulled the biggest surprise with the coat that sheltered him from the chilly South African winter at Ellis Park. According to the Brazilian press the garment, which "looked like it had been borrowed from a friend", was the biggest risk the coach took on Tuesday. Brazilians want to see such adventure on the pitch. Robert Shaw