For those who winced through the final stages of Sven-Goran Eriksson's time with England, experiencing a conflict between dismay at the deterioration in the quality of the football and admiration for the sheer good manners of a manager who never once succumbed to the temptation to answer his critics in kind, there is a certain pleasure to be had from seeing the courteous Swede with a smile on his face once again.
Eriksson's post-England adventures with Mexico and Notts County seemed to confirm the caricature of the passionless, money-mad Swede. He can hardly be blamed, however, for finding it difficult to acclimatise to the strange conditions he found in Mexico City, where the raging drugs wars rendered him a virtual prisoner in his luxury accommodation, or Nottingham, where he was trapped in a web woven by the obscure Munto Finance.
Appointed to the job of Ivory Coast's head coach in March after Valid Halilhodzic failed to take them into the last four of this year's African Cup of Nations, Eriksson guided them to a goalless draw against Portugal in his first competitive match with the team. Today, at Soccer City, they play Brazil in a meeting that is not without poignancy for the Swede, since the South Americans were responsible for the elimination of his England at the 2002 World Cup in the first of the three quarter-finals reached during his time as an employee of the Football Association.
"We are so happy to get Eriksson as our manager because now when we play we are more solid and more compact," Emmanuel Eboué said before today's match. "Our objective is to defend well first. Every player feels very, very well and we've got confidence in ourselves."
Those players include Didier Drogba, who seems certain to start against Brazil after playing the last 24 minutes of the Portugal match. Drogba had surgery after breaking his arm during a warm-up fixture against Japan on 4 June and has been cleared by Fifa to play wearing a lightweight protective cast.
The striker will be able to resume the confrontation with Lúcio, Brazil's captain and centre-back, which was a feature of the Champions League round of 16 matches between Chelsea and Inter in March, ending with the London club's elimination and Drogba's dismissal in the second leg at Stamford Bridge.
"If Drogba plays, it will be very great for us," Eboué said, but Júlio César, Brazil's Inter goalkeeper, had his own view. "Lúcio completely dominated Drogba in the first match," he said.
Leading the group after beating North Korea 2-1 in their opening fixture, Brazil switched their training ground yesterday after expressing unhappiness with the quality of the playing surface at the school facility on which they played a practice match against a local under-19 side on Thursday.
Ivory Coast, with only a point to their name, will be looking for a win today. "They have a lot of quality players who play in top clubs," Nilmar, one of Brazil's reserve forwards, said. "They will be trying to beat us so they can advance from the group."
North Korea kept Brazil at bay for 55 minutes, reawakening the criticisms that Dunga, the coach of the five-time champions, has built a side that lacks the creative fluency associated with their predecessors.
"It's harder when the opponents keep 11 players behind the ball," Nilmar said. "It's what we expect, but it makes it a lot more difficult for us."
In Robinho's mind, patience is the key. "We have to keep passing the ball around from side to side until we find an opening," he said. "We can't try to rush things."
Dunga would be happy to see a more telling contribution from Kaká, his principal creative influence, who ended a highly productive six-year spell with Milan by moving to Real Madrid 12 months ago for £68.5m but then struggled through the latter part of his first season at the Bernabéu with a nagging thigh injury. His recovery was so protracted that Real's president, Florentino Pérez, questioned whether the player's real priority was getting fit for the World Cup. If so, the success of Kaká's plan was not evident in Brazil's first match.