Wednesday, June 16, 2010

"Brazil, where the nuts come from..."

WE’RE less than a week into one exuberant yet haphazard and logistically-challenged World Cup – and yet already some are looking ahead to another.
Brazilian government ministers have touched down in Johannesburg, promising to learn from South Africa when they play host in four years’ time.
Concerns about decaying stadia or impossible transport were unsurprisingly left off the agenda at an optimistic expo launch in the upmarket suburb of Sandton.
Instead, the emphasis was on sun-blessed beaches and undressed bodies, rich coffee and chocolate – and “joga benito”, Brazil showing just how beautiful this game can be.
Exhibition highlights include World Cup-winning shirts worn by Vava, Carlos Alberto and Ronaldo – plus Jules Rimet still gleaming, albeit a replica in a glass case of the missing original trophy.
If under-employed in the days ahead, perhaps Robert Green should visit – if only to feel some comfort that he’s not alone.
Footage of Brazil’s triumphant World Cup campaigns includes Ron Springett flapping in 1962 and David Seaman flopping 40 years later – though no sign, alas, of the rather better Gordon Banks.
Those accompanying ceiling-high images of dune sands and cyan skies made for a cruel contrast with the World Cup here and now outside, with temperatures suddenly plunging.
Snow fall on mountain ranges around Cape Town have prompted excitable newspaper forecasts of similar scenes when England take the field on Friday.
Well, bringing out nthe old orange ball – even a 99p cornershop version – couldn’t prove any more controversial than this Jabulani, surely…
No snow here in Johannesburg (yet), though the abrupt mercury plunge – down to 10C earlier, heading for -3C by the early hours apparently – has certainly put the Brrrrr in Brazil-North Korea.
Or even, if you will, the parky in, well, Ellis Park. (You won’t? Oh, okay then…)
Perhaps Maicon’s opening goal could go down as wind-assisted, though the sneaky glance of his head and subtle swivel of his foot suggests we should give him the benefit of the doubt.
Elano’s finish was equally smart, but the authentic assist from Robinho even sweeter – his roaming, showboating, everything-but-the-shooting display at point-scoring odds with his cold-City image.
Okay, trying to cram Ronaldo, Ronaldinho, Adriano and Kaka into the same line-up ultimately faltered four years ago.
But the players Dunga can use look to possess just too much class and technique not to inspire at times, no matter how predominantly functional he might want his team to be.
That hard-nosed organisation is, admittedly, effective – especially as Gilberto or Melo slot so comfortably into a brief back-three, when the likes of Bastos or Maicon hurtle into and through midfield.
But the story of the evening, I suppose, has to be those charming North Koreans – diligent in defence, ambitious in attack, able to (mostly) block the route to goal while keen to pass their way the other way when possible.
Even the pre-match huddle looked more organic than most, with one dutiful soul sticking his head to check no one was missing.
Or maybe, just maybe, that no one was listening…
All in all, after those two turgid dirges of matches earlier today, tonight’s was just a bit of niceness, the kind of refreshment the tournament suddenly needed.
Now for the real headline act to finally enter from the wings – no Spain, no gain…

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