Michael Jackson would have approved. Nearly 25,000 fans of Brazil and Ghana converged on Craven Cottage to watch a football match but, most of all it seemed, to chant, gyrate and revel. From what could have been a meaningless friendly they conjured a momentous event. This was intoxicating fun, from long before kick-off.
Although the fans certainly did not depend on the football to keep them entertained, the match proved a pleasing accessory to the festivities. As if inspired by the celebratory atmosphere, the players performed without inhibition. Tricks were tried, dribbles flaunted and all at a speed aimed to impress. It was marvellous mayhem. It was competitive, too, neither side wanting to sully the occasion with a defeat, nor deflate buoyancy in the stands.
What is more Brazil had an abject Copa América for which to atone. Tackles were launched with giddy recklessness. Five yellow cards in the first 30 minutes bore testament to both teams' commitment. In the circumstances it seemed forgivable. The frisson of danger intensified the thrill.
Ronaldinho and Neymar were the showmen Brazilian fans encouraged most, every slinky touch bringing yelps of acclaim and roars for encores. So frenetic and festive were proceedings that the driving rain almost seemed like ticker-tape. Ghana's Black Stars strove not to be outshone. They could have opened the scoring, either through an outrageous 20-yard swirling shot from Sulley Muntari in the 12th minute or after Derek Boateng sent Samuel Inkoom dashing down the left, only for the wide man to misplace his cut-back.
Brazil responded with aplomb. Lúcio, a centre-back tough and flamboyant in equal measure, sallied forward and subtly fed Neymar, who delighted his admirers with a gorgeous chipped pass to Leandro Damiao. He finished with an apt flourish, lifting it over the advancing keeper to trigger jubilation from the yellow-clad hordes. It took a while for anyone to notice that the goal was disallowed for a hairline offside.
The referee, Mike Dean, was the only person on the pitch from whom people wanted restraint. He failed to oblige in the 34th minute, when he issued a red card to Ghana's Daniel Opare, wrongly believing, apparently, that the midfielder had stamped on Lúcio. The Ghanaian fans reckoned Lúcio induced the referee's error with an exaggerated fall, so their repertoire of songs and sounds was augmented thereafter by splenetic boos every time the centre-back touched the ball. They did not grumble, though, three minutes later when Dean decided against showing another red card, this time for a ridiculously acrobatic foul by Jonathan Mensah on Damiao.
Damiao got back to his feet and soon had the Brazilian fans dancing anew on theirs. Just before half-time he eluded the Ghanaian centre-backs with an impudent run and was rewarded with a precise through-ball from Fernandinho. The keeper rushed out to close the striker down but was soon rushing back to retrieve the ball from the net.
Brazil attacked in waves, with the central midfielders, Lucas Leiva and Elias, providing the platforms on which Neymar, Ronaldinho and Hulk thrust and swaggered, with the overlapping Marcelo and Dani Alves frequently joining the fray. Their movement vexed and perplexed the Ghanaian midfield but the undermanned underdogs defended manfully to avoid being swept away. Mensah managed to thwart both Marcelo and Hulk with a single swashbuckling tackle in the 63rd minute and from the ensuing corner Adam Kwarasey blocked a shot from close-range before Lee Addy headed a follow-up header off the line.
Ronaldinho threatened with a curling free-kick, Alexandre Pato blasted over when he should have scored and Marcelo undid a delicious run into the box by throwing in one lollipop too many. If Brazil's finishing had matched the fluency of the rest of their play they would have won by a hatful. They seemed poised at least to plunder a second goal in the 86th minute, when Ronaldinho floated a wonderful ball to Pato, only for Kwarasey to push his powerful eight-yard header over the bar with a superb one-handed save.
The Ghana keeper seemed determined to upstage the Brazilians, as moments later he flung himself across his goal to tip another Ronaldinho free-kick around the post. A defeat by only 1-0 was ultimately a triumph of sorts for Ghana, on a night on which there was no real loser.