Brazil 2-0 Italy: Elano & Robinho Sink Azzurri in London (International Friendly)

It was a match between football titans, two giants in the history of the beautiful game and one of the most high-profile sporting rivalries of the past century. Between themselves Brazil and Italy represented 9 World Cup titles combined: as the two most succesful national teams in history faced off at the Emirates Stadium Tuesday, one can easily guess this was a match neither of them wanted to lose.

Well, based on the starting line-ups one team more than the other perhaps, and inevitably that is the team that ended up winning.

Not to take away anything from Brazil’s first-half performance (the two Auriverde goals, tainted it must be said by some embarassing Azzurri defensive mistakes, were great displays of pace & technique) but Marcello Lippi’s choices to start the match with Di Natale, Pepe, and Montolivo –probably with the idea to build teamwork & responsibility (“this is a team and all players are important, including the new ones” seemed to be the message)– ended up backfiring big-time as none of the three players repayed the Italian coach with a convincing performance.

The entrances of Camoranesi, Perrotta, and Giuseppe Rossi in the second half turned the Azzurri into a much more effective playmaking machine, resulting in some dangerous scares around Julio Cesar’s goal albeit without producing any change in the scoreline. And adding to the regrets for this match, Fabio Grosso’s 6th minute goal (after a marvelous Pirlo pass) which was disallowed for offside but should have stood.

In any case, it was certainly an entertaining match for the 60,000 Emirates stadium spectactors, and the Azzurri won’t need to wait long for a re-match opportunity. Both Italy and Brazil will square off again in June, as the attention of world football shifts to the Confederations Cup in South Africa.

The first half of the match went by very quickly, with both teams picking up the pace on the soft pitch of the Emirates. Brazil however, would be the only team able to maintain that pace later on. And such a shame too because Italy had scored very early on in the game: Pirlo sent a long ball into the Brazil box to Grosso, and the Lyon wing-back finished it on the volley. It looked like magic. And like most magic, poof! It disappeared into a cloud of smoke: disallowed for offside. Bad decision Mr. Webb (Polish fans worldwide silently nodding in agreement).

Brazil sighed in relief and replied as they know best: scoring goals, and this at their first opportunity close to Buffon’s net. It was a brilliant technical move by Robinho/Elano, finished by the latter after leaving Legrottaglie in the dust. 1-0 Brazil.

The Seleção became empowered… and more than the Azzurri could handle. Cue the Samba beats in the stands, cue the displays of technique and agility on the pitch. It didn’t take long for Robinho & friends to double their lead, and all thanks to the Chelsea Manchester City forward: first he stole the ball from Pirlo (who up until then had been the best Azzurri player on the field), then proceeded to pump Zambrotta full of dummies & fakes, and finished with an accurate left-footed shot inside the far post. No chance for Buffon, 2-0 Brazil and a pure Brazilian-style goal if there ever was one.

The Auriverde had taken full control of the match by now. With a lame attempt at redefining “stating the obvious”, I’ll say that every single one of their players (starting with the central backs) had top-notch ball control skills, and the result was a one-touch passing display up & down the field that enchanted the crowd, yellow & blue-coloured alike. Even Ronaldinho seemed to be slightly reborn amidst all this technique, barely missing the side of the net from set-pieces as Brazilian and Italian supporters blended into one unusually big “Mexican wave”.

Italy refused to be overtaken however and gave it their best towards the end of the first half. De Rossi led the charge, slamming from long-range to keep Julio Cesar on his toes, but it was not enough. Montolivo, so capital in Fiorentina’s moves, was absent; Gilardino, so capital in Fiorentina’s finishing, was poorly supplied. It was 2-0 at the half, with Brazil and their fans having fun, not so much the Italians.

The second half started with some expected changes: enter Perrotta, Camoranesi, Rossi and Toni, exit Montolivo, Pepe, Di Natale and Gilardino. Brazil did not make any substitutions… and why would they? Everything was working just great in Dunga’s team, even the defensive mids Gilberto Silva and Felipe Melo (who at his first appearance for the Auriverde gave a solid performance). Italy quickly picked up the pace however, with Rossi’s pace supporting the strong physical presence of Luca Toni. The Bayern striker even scored (exploiting another good pass by Pirlo), but after having controlled the ball with one hand. No goal.

The physical intensity of the match increased as time went by: Italy had no intention of playing the sparring partner role and they certainly didn’t like Brazil over-done display of technique (Dunga and Zambrotta even got into an heated argument after the latter’s over-physical challenge on Marcelo). Fortunately for Brazil, they had the world’s second-best keeper in net as Julio Cesar made a brilliant short-range save on Toni (after a fantastic assist from Rossi) and then repeeated himself later to stop Grosso’s angled free-kick. The ball just simply didn’t want to go in today, and thus Lippi lost his streak of 31 undefeated matches. Time to start a new one!


Confederação Brasileira de Futebol (Brazilian Football Confederation)
[Match Highlights]
 Federazione Italiana Giuoco Calcio
GOALSCORERS: 13’ Elano (B), 27’ Robinho (B).
BRAZIL (4-3-1-2) Julio Cesar – Maicon, Lucio, Juan (77’ Thiago Silva), Marcelo – Elano (70’ Dani Alves), Gilberto Silva (88’ Josué), Felipe Melo – Ronaldinho – Adriano (81’ Pato), Robinho (88’ Julio Baptista). (bench: Doni, Luisao, Adriano C.C.). Coach: Dunga.
ITALY (4-3-3) Buffon – Zambrotta, Legrottaglie, F.Cannavaro, Grosso – De Rossi (59’ Aquilani), Pirlo (74’ Dossena), Montolivo (46’ Perrotta) – Pepe (46’ Camoranesi), Gilardino (46’ Toni), Di Natale (46’ Rossi). (bench: Amelia, Bonera, Gamberini, Iaquinta, Quagliarella). Coach: Lippi.


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