Welcome back, dudes.
Was Luis Fabiano or Kaka the star of the day? We’ll review the evidence, but either way, it’s bad news for anyone with money on a team besides Brazil to win the Cup. Their two biggest questions going into group play were 1) whether Kaka was irreparably broken (either mentally or physically, depending who you ask) from his lackluster season at Real Madrid, and 2) whether Luis Fabiano, who hadn’t hit the net since last fall for Brazil, was the weak link for an otherwise world-class squad.
For the moment, questions answered. Kaka caught fire, regaining his vision and finding his finishers before being controversially tossed, and Fabiano created amazing chances and capitalized on them. Was one better than the other? Let’s go to the tape. Er, text.
THE RED CARD
Well, it was actually two yellows, but Kaka was the victim of injustice on the pitch. He was being an ass to the Ivory Coast players, clapping in their faces, but he got thrown out because an opposing player threw himself at him, causing Kaka to shove him back with arm. The Ivorian collapsed in a heap, grabbing his face (which he may have bounced off Kaka’s shoulder but only by his own volition) and roiling around like Kaka doused him in lava. Cue ejection, though Kaka will only miss the largely pointless game against Portugal.
Again, Kaka was being rude, and he won’t have any friends from the Ivory Coast in the future. But his sending off was unfair, and so I won’t hold it against him in reviewing his performance. The entire final 20 minutes became a farcical cocktail of fake injuries and a few actually cynical tackles, and everyone on the field shares the blame.
Kaka sent a light, lovely through-ball between two defenders, releasing Fabiano to finish as hard as he could and end his drought. Kaka’s pass was more impressive than Fabi’s strike, but the only reason he could make the pass was because Fabiano set him up with a gorgeous backheel that started their give and go. Slight advantage: Luis Fabiano.
All Fabiano. He flipped the ball over one Ivorian, then another, before finishing his brace. Strikers who can create those kinds of chances on their own are rare; it felt like I was watching an attacking midfielder like Arshavin out there, tossing the ball around like he was using an Xbox controller. Fabiano’s second goal proves he can hold his own in this star-studded Brazilian line-up. We do have to ding him slightly, however, for the use of the upper arm/shoulder to control that second flip of the ball that was probably a handball. Still, Advantage: Luis Fabiano.
An onrushing Elano gave Ivorian GK Boubacar Barry no chance to stop the third goal of the game, but it was Kaka again who set up the score, this time with a nifty move down the left, slicing inside, and sending a simmering ground ball across nearly the entire box. Twas a perfect play that announced the return of an on-form Kaka.
Big advantage: Kaka.
Each made one goal happen practically on their own, each had a questionable decision (handball-ish control for Fabiano, taunting that made him a target for retaliation that led to a sending off for Kaka). But that first goal owes everything to Fabiano’s clever start and whomping finish to the give-and-go, so he’s the deserving man of the match.
Brazil again conceded a late goal after the game was basically decided. I felt like it was Dani Alves who should’ve been tracking Drogba before he strolled unmarked under the ball and headed home a consolation prize, but I haven’t seen all the replays yet. It was a huge gaffe to lose Drogba, whoever was at fault, and brainfarts like that could be a bit of a concern for Brazil. But given that their two biggest question marks turned into exclamation points today, I wouldn’t overstate the problem.