Evening all. Well, what a day it's been. On the pitch we've had Paraguay maintaining the South Americans' fine record in the competition thus far and New Zealand coming within a gnats whisker of beating Italy. Off it, there's been almighty ructions in the France camp and growing intrigue within the England one, with the players and Fabio Capello this evening set for talks crunchier than, er, a Crunchie. And to put the cap on it, we've got one of the group stages most tantilising fixtures kicking off in about half an hour.
Brazil have an impeccable record against African sides at World Cups - they beat Ghana in 2006, Cameroon in 1994, Algeria in 1986 and Zaire in 1974. Last year they won 1-0 over South Africa in the Confederations Cup, and they've already beaten Zimbabwe and Tanzania in friendlies this year.
It doesn't bode well for the Ivory Coast. But, of course, this Brazil side aren't the ferocious sabre-toothed superpredators of old. If we were to take a slightly polemical viewpoint of them: Kaka carried his Real Madrid form into the opening game against North Korea, Felipe Melo had a season to endure rather than enjoy at Juventus, Gilberto Silva isn't the player he was, Robinho is over-rated and Maicon didn't mean it.
A walkover for the Ivorians, then? Not quite. Didier Drogba starts for the Elephants, but he finds himself up against Lucio, who had the Chelsea striker in his pocket for much of the Champions League meeting between the Blues and Inter. Sven-Goran Eriksson's side, though, have been buoyed by the draw with Portugal and must be thinking that another draw and victory over North Korea would be enough.
The teams are in:
Brazil (4-2-3-1): Julio Cesar; Maicon, Lucio, Juan, Michel Bastos; Felipe Melo, Gilberto Silva; Elano, Kaka, Robinho; Luis Fabiano.Ivory Coast: Boubacar Barry; Emmanuel Eboue, Kolo Toure, Guy Demel, Siaka Tiene; Didier Zokora, Yaya Toure, Cheik Tiote; Salomon Kalou, Didier Drogba, Aruna Dindane.Referee: Stephane Lannoy (France)
So no changes for Brazil (unsurprisingly), while Drogba comes into an adventurous unSvenlike 4-3-3.
Pre-match email dept "In a tournament that is increasingly bizarre, with the French imploding, the English suffering stress fractures, the Italians losing their touch and the Spanish discovering their mortality, is it Brazil's turn?" wonders Joe Gibson. "It should soon be obvious to all that Dunga has made a huge mistake in leaving Ronhaldinho at home …" Well, you'd have to say Holland and Argentina are the only teams to come through two games unscathed thus far.
It's worth dwelling for a moment on the impact the South American sides have made at this tournament. Paraguay, Chile, Uruguay, Argentina ... they've all been superb, while the European big boys have been up-and-down at best, and abject at worst. Anyone got an explanation?
Click-clack, click-clack … the teams are holding hands with small children and emerging from the tunnel.
Anthemwatch: Brazil: Jaunty, nice bit of brass, kind of "we're proud of our country, but yours is probably good too. Let's go to the beach/pub/cinema together and have a jolly old time". Ivory Coast: Slower paced, but still quite upbeat. More: "Cote d'Ivoire is super. Let's keep it that way."
Dungawatch: A salmon-pink shirt and dark overcoat. Disappointingly low-key.
Peep! Ivory Coast, in Northwich Victoria's green and white hoops, kick us off. "What is going on in the Guardian? So much anti-Brazil bias from many of you. Fair enough many don't want them to win a sixth title and then have the chance to take a seventh at home next time around but even so. Dismissing them in comparison to past sides is either lazy or just anti-Brazilian bias. Against an ultra-defensive team they won scoring two beautiful goals in a tournament lacking both goals and big teams with the wit to break down very unadventurous small ones. If you are dismissing them as no good compared to their predecessors then you might as well bin the whole concept of football as not worth it anymore. The game has moved on, Brazil have adapted and yet still play some of the most eye-catching football around." I've got no axe to grind with Brazil (the preamble is tonge-in-cheek, really). My concern with them is that they have a fair few players out of form, so much so that I can't see them winning it.
1 min: Robinho strides forward and larrups a shot just over Barry's bar.
2 min: Aruna Dindane, beginning wide on the right attempts an ambitious through-ball, but, like my gut after this evening's pie-and-chips dinner, there's far too much weight on it.
3 min: Free kick to the Ivorians, 50 yards out. Tiene to take ... lumped out of play.
5 min: Re. Why are the South Americans doing so well, Nicky Turner's theory is that Rooney and co are committed only to their sponsors, while South Americans retain a sense of loyalty to their countries. Controversial. Kalou attempts to slip Drogba in, but its straight through to Julio Cesar. Still, a bright start from the African side.
7 min: "Surely it simply has a lot to do wit the fatigue of their respective domestic seasonsm," reckons David Hilmy. "For example, Argentina, Chile, Mexico, and Uruguay essentially play two separate seasons, the Apertura from August to December and then the Clausura, from February through June, whereas the European leagues (plus Uefa competitions) run straight through Christmas and New Year and total far more matches and a lot less recovery time..." Pass, pass, pass from Brazil, the first time they've really had a little time on the ball.
9 min: A lovely little four-man move from the Ivory Coast, almost sees Kalou finding Drogba with a deep cross. It's cagey stuff thus far, though.
10 min: Lucio maraudes forward, briefly, but another Brazil attack breaks on the rocks - Zokora and Touré - at the edge of the Ivory Coast area.
11 min: Another free-kick to the Elephants, again in a decent position. Drogba to take ...
12 min: ... like 93% of free-kicks in the competition so far, humped over the bar.
14 min: Brazil have not got going yet. Another free-kick to the Ivory Coast, again wasted, but then Kaka gives the ball away cheaply and Drogba is able to win another set piece down by the corner flag.
15 min: "How about this: the Europeans are having trouble adjusting to cooler temperatures and darker/shorter days," writes Pete Kimball. "The South Americans, and NZ, by contrast are playing on their own side of the equator. Maybe?" As AC Jimbo suggested a few minutes ago, maybe the blood in the northern hemisphere players' heads is going round the wrong way. Nice whip on the free-kick, but Cesar gets an excellent fist on it.
17 min: "Northwich Victoria? Really?" writes Allan Lynchehaun. "Honestly couldn't bring yourself to mention Celtic, who in that style of shirt were the first British team to win the European Cup?" But do Celtic have orange numbers on the back? No, didn't think so. Do Northwich. Er, possibly. Maybe. Once. Maicon gets his groove on down the right and wins a corner ...
18 min: ... Gilberto Silva gets a volley on the end of it, but its blocked by Toure. Robinho (I think) then wangs one over the bar. A long way over the bar.
19 min: A lovely dummy from Elano puts Maicon clear down the right, but Demel nods away his (too) deep cross. Corner ball. "Here's a novel theory," writes Eric Calhoun. "The South Americans are playing for goals."
21 min: Barry plucks the corner from the air. "How about this?" writes John McLauchlin. "The South American players are just much better than given credit for and the Europeans... you get the idea."
22 min: Lucio steals the ball from Kalou with a piece of defending - tackle, stepover, easy pass inside - that deserves to get replayed over and over again, but doesn't. Masterful, masterful stuff.
GOAL! Brazil 1-0 Ivory Coast (Fabiano 25) A belter. A real belter. Lovely interplay, beginning with Melo, flowing through Kaka and Robinho, almost running aground, before breaking to Fabiano who roofs the ball with venom. You can almost see the Back-To-The-Future firetracks in the air.
26 min: Just before that goal I was going to point out that Maicon and the two defensive midfielders had been the only Brazil players to spend any time on the ball. It's not exactly against the run of play, but certainly a nice little bonus for Dunga's side.
28 min: A little scare for the Ivorians as Drogba drops down heavily on his arm. He's fine, though, as his Lucio, despite dancing about like his ankle is about to fall off after being clipped by Tiote.
30 min: Yellow card for Tiene, who was done by Elano. "I think the answer can be found in qualification," writes Ben Dunn. "The South Americans play at altitude against Peru, Equador, and Columbia. They can pass from breathing as if inhaling warm tar on a mountainside to chilling-out on the beach within 24 hours. Europeans struggle with either happening in the same year. Were all teams forced to drink 10 pints of cheap Belgian beer in celebration of, erm, playing a game, then England's superior liver power would see them with 10 big stars above their badge instead of the one."
31 min: "Let me be the first to say he didn't mean it," chuckles Oliver Pattenden. The goal has really knocked the Ivorians back, they're looking a little shaky now.
33 min: 11 Green-and-white hooped men behind the ball now. Brazil patiently searching for an opening. Well, for 'patiently' read 'very, very slowly'.
35 min: Elano's turn to be sloppy in possession, but, despite working the ball to Demel wide on the right, the Ivorians can't take advantage.
37 min: Demel's low cross finds Dindane, who has half a chance on the volley but can only plant it at a Brazil defender. Brazil break with pace, but Fabiano and Kaka can't quite sort it all out between them, and then it's back down the other end and Dindane again pinging a shot - saved by Cesar - at goal. The best little spell of the game that.
38 min: "Tell Ben Dunn it's Peru, Ecuador and Colombia (the other one's a university in New York)," writes Simon Frank. "And he missed out Bolivia, which has the highest altitude of all. Whilst we are on Americas pedantry may I point out that Mexico is in North America? Most S American players play in Europe anyway, then the long season argument just doesn't stand."
40 min: Eboué, a man so full of joie de vivre he once turned up to a party dressed as a tiger (and it wasn't fancy dress), jinks forward and hammers a shot at goal. It deflects off Juan but a goal kick is awarded.
42 min: Drogba gets a rare touch of the ball, but Lucio is there at his shoulder like Jiminy Cricket with Pinnochio, nicking the ball away once more. Not that Jiminy Cricket would have made a decent centre half. Too small by far. A jinking winger maybe. And Pinochhio would be nowhere near the pitch - ball boy at best.
44 min: Kaka has a little dribble wide of the area, but his cross can't find a blue and yellow shirt. One minute added time to be played.
Peep! Peeeeep! Half-time, and an underwhelming half in we're honest. Brazil we're a bit of a risotto: solid, hearty, with (very) occasional flashes of brilliance. Ivory Coast: A bad ploughmans lunch, over reliant on one key ingredient and on this occasion not quite getting it right.
Forced analogy? What do you mean, forced analogy? Oh.
Half-time email dept
"All this debate and nobody nails it," reckons Matt Thomas. "South American players read Neruda before every game while their European counterparts listen to 'Eye of the Tiger' to pump themselves up. You be the judge …"
"Maybe all the South Americans playing in Europe and the Asians watching European football on TV mean that the rest of the world has got us figured out and knows how to stop us, while we, being insular, haven't a clue what they get up to outside of Europe," ponders Robin Hazlehurst. "Goes double for England who haven't a clue what Europeans get up to outside of England, which is why Slovenia represent a real threat."
"Actually about half of the Chile squad do play in South America and of the remainder who play in Europe, none had to play Champions/Europa League," respond David Hilmy, "and the same goes for Paraguay; and with Uruguay about a third of their squad still play 'domestically' in South America, as do about a third of the Brazil squad... then again, if you do play in Europe and get tired you could always do a Robinho and just quit for a bit, pretend you're ill, and then when you're rested, turn on what you were supposed to have had turned on when your club paid you all that dosh!
And, rather brilliantly:
"Re Pinnochio," writes Brian McAvoy. "If he moved to Madrid, do you think he would want to play for Real boy's club?"
Here to help dept. "Help me.," writes Mike Wilner. "My Brazilian friend Jeremias thinks that his team are playing impeccably. Maybe he doesn't understand the English word 'dull' (except for That Goal, of course)." Can't you both be right? It's certainly been dull, but Brazil are 1-0 up and have very little to concern them at the back. Dull ≠ a bad performance, just as exciting ≠ good performance. Just call me Soloman.
Peep! Half No2 is on.
46 min: "I'm sure after one of Sven's rousing half-time speeches his team will be transformed from ploughman's lunch to dog's breakfast," titters Ian Copestake. The pattern shows no immediate sign of change - Brazil have the ball and show no inclination of giving it up. Or moving forward with it.
47 min: Kaka gets a whack from Dindane. Free-kick on halfway, which Brazil work all the way back to Julio Cesar.
48 min: Maicon's turn to go down in a heap, but, again, he'll be fine very shortly. "Just thought I'd let everyone know that Demel (as in the Ivory Coast player's surname) means manure in Maltese," notes Richard from Malta.
GOAL! Brazil 2-0 Ivory Coast (Fabiano 50) Superb again from the Sevilla striker. Dinks the ball over Zokora, dinks the ball over Touré, (then brings the ball down with his arm), before cracking another fizzing shot past Barry. More than a hint of controversy about that one, but the skill was sublime in the build up.
52 min: Almost an instant reply from the Ivory Coast, Drogba for once finding space and nodding across goal but drifting his header just wide of Cesar's left post.
53 min: "Re Pinnochio, do you think Emile Heskey went to Pleasure Island?" wonders Gary Naylor. Isn't that in Cleethorpes?
55 min: "I'm all for the Brazilians and their 'beautiful football' (plus Fabiano is in my Fantasy team), but can someone please explain to me how that goals stands, while Australia's Kewell gets a red card?" head-scratches Matthew Judd. The ref must simply not have seen it. In his defence you could argue it was one of those that from a certain angle could possibly have looked like a chest. Possible. Oh, who am I kidding, it's an absolute shocker isn't it. Replays have just shown the referee asking Fabiano whether he handballed it as they jogged back towards the centre circle. Guess what his answer was?
57 min: Gervinho is on, though I'm afraid I missed who departed. A couple of hopeful long-range efforts have followed, but you get the impression that even the Ivorians don't think they can get back into this now.
58 min: I type the words "can't get back into this now" in the 57 min entry just as Gervinho twinkle-toes his way to the edge of the area and almost gets on the end of a give-and-go with Drogba.
59 min: Elano, probably the most impressive of the three behind Fabiano (Kaka has been utterly anonymous, save for the first goal), whumps a shot at goal. Wide.
61 min: I'm having a right run of form here. Kaka and Robinho have just shared a lovely little bit of interplay but Kaka's shot was punched away.
GOAL! Brazil 3-0 Ivory Coast (Elano 62) Kaka, who has responded to my 59th minute broadside by producing his best three minutes of the tournament, wriggles free down the left, cuts inside and rolls the ball across goal, on a plate for the onrushing Elano. Not the best defending from Tiene, but another aesthetically pleasing goal. And not a handball in sight.
64 min: Elano gets a full set of studs across the shins from Tiote, who was over the top of the ball. He's in serious pain and possibly serious trouble here.
66 min: Elano is off on a stretcher to be replaced by Alves. Mark Lawrenson, who accused Elano of being a moneygrabber after holding up his shinpads following his goal apologises after being told they're the names of his children with "It's a good job he hasn't got three." Utterly pitiful and pathetic.
68 min: Elano is on his feet on the touchline and hobbling down the tunnel, so fingers crossed its not too serious. Brazil won't need to play a full strength side in their final game anyway, so at least he has time to recover. Maicon cracks a long-range potshot at goal, but it fizzes wide.
70 min: Drogba wins a corner off the ever-attentive Lucio (he really must hate the sight of him by now), but its a shocker. Out for a throw. Romaric replaces Eboue.
72 min: "Given just how good he's been so far this tournament, if you were a Manchester City suit just how hard would you be kicking yourself for selling Elano to Galatassaray for a mere £8m and replacing him with the £32m sulking showboater known as Robinho?" ponders Adrian Cooper. He's been great in South Africa, sure, but sulking showboat was an epithet that could be applied to Elano while at Eastlands, no? Romaric hammers a shot at goal which Cesar paws away.
74 min: "African teams now with one win, three draws, and eight losses in the tournament. Ouch," writes Michael Meagher. It's been one of the disappointments of the World Cup so far, hasn't it? Still, Ghana could well make the second round. Keita gets booked for a studs-up tackle on Bastos. Another nasty one.
76 min: Here's Mike Wilner, watching the game with his excitable Brazilian friend: "Jeremias update. He's doing the I'm-dating-a-Brazilian-girl version of the samba at our local. Horrible except for the entertainment value. What happens if they score four? I shudder already." Brazil's pass, pass, pass has become something of a crunch, crunch, crunch as the tackles come flying in from the Ivory Coast.
77 min: Some lovely stuff from Brazil, with Robinho and Dani Alves at the heart of it.
GOAL! Brazil 3-1 Ivory Coast (Drogba 79) Again Brazil concede late on! Juan had just done superbly to deny Gervinho as he motored into the Brazilian half, but his team-mates failed to clear up fully, Yaya Toure lofted the ball back in and Drogba simply strolled through the otherwise watertight defence to nod past Cesar. Too little too late?
81 min: Alves gives the ball away cheaply and it takes a Maicon header to clear the danger. Ivory Coast pushing forward though ...
83 min: Zinedine Zidane and Luis Figo are heading for the exits, and Kaka scuffles his way into the referee's notebook after a bit of unneccessary handbags.
85 min: Tiote booked this time for slamming into Fabiano. It's all got a bit scrappy.
86 min: RED CARD!It's seriously kicking off now! Scuffles all over the pitch, an Keita is on the deck writhing round after bumping into Kaka. And Kaka is off! Replays show Keita running into the Brazilian, Kaka lifts his arm into the Ivorians chest, more or less to cushion the blow as Keita headed into him, and the Ivorian goes down like a sack of bricks.
89 min: "Ha ha ha! Revenge for Rivaldo, eight years late but still hilarious," cackles a delighted Niall Mullen. It was all very unedifying though. Two wrongs don't make a right, remember. Three minutes added time to be played.
90+1 min: A super bit of goalkeeping from Cesar, punching clear as the ball was bobbled into the box by Keita with Drogba homing it.
90+3 min: Ramires for Robinho as Dunga looks to wind down the clock. Fabiano gets a knock from Zokora, Fabiano goes down with a bit of drama.
90+4 min: From the free-kick Alves, curls a 30-yarder into Barry's midriff.
Peep! Peep! Peep! All over.
Well, that was an unedifying end to what was a forgettable match, with memorable moments. The red card was coming from about the hour mark, with the Ivory Coast throwing themselves into challenges with a little too much wild abandon, the only surprise was that it went to a Brazilian. A bad decision, but one that will soon be forgotten, as Brazil are already through and he'll be back for the knockout rounds. We'll be watching Fabiano's first goal a fair few times for the remainder of the tournament, and I think the double-handball in the build up to the second might get a few airings too.
Thanks for all your emails folks. G'night.
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