JOHANNESBURG, Jun 19: Five-time World Cup winners Brazil are looking for a much-improved World Cup performance against the Ivory Coast on Sunday having failed to impress in their opening win over North Korea, reports AFP.
A wonder goal by right-back Maicon and a late strike from Elano were all Dunga’s side had to show for 90 minutes against the dogged defence of the North Koreans who grabbed a late consolation goal through Ji Yun-Nam.
Dunga admitted he was unimpressed with his side’s 2-1 victory and is looking for an improved display against Sven-Goran Eriksson’s Ivory Coast with Chelsea star Didier Drogba expected to play, despite a broken arm.
Now the Brazilians get down to the business end of Group G - dubbed the ‘Group of Death’ - with a showdown against Ivory Coast at Johannesburg’s Soccer City, followed by a clash with Portugal in Durban on June 25.
Midfielder Julio Baptista says he expects the Ivory Coast to give Brazil their toughest test before the knock-out phase between two sides who love to attack.
Dunga’s team are not expecting the rigid marking they encoutered against North Korea, but Baptista, who did not face the North Koreans, said they expect an open game.
“I think they will come against us and they will try to play,” he said.
“Brazil will have enough space to play its own football.
“This will be our most difficult game because of the way the Ivory Coast play.
“Their players are physically strong and most of them play their club football in Europe and they know our style of play.
“We will try to neutralise their game and try to do our best.”
Brazil midfielder Gilberto Silva said the team expect a tough ride from Eriksson’s side who held Portugal to a goalless draw in their opening game.
“We will be expecting a lot of difficulties against them. They have a strong team, but we are very confident that we can do well and win the game,” he said.
Eriksson has said that “it wouldn’t be surprising” if skipper Drogba started against the Brazilians after the Chelsea ace came on as a substitute against Portugal with his broken right arm in a protective cast.
But Brazil face a tough battle with or without him in the team.
“We don’t know yet whether he (Drogba) will play or not, even though he came on as a substitute, but we’ll see,” Silva said.
“Of course, we respect him when he plays against us, he’s a very important player for them. He is a player about which we should be very careful.
Elephants striker Salomon Kalou says his side need to take a leaf out of North Korea’s book and ‘annoy’ Brazil without letting the flamboyant South Americans play their natural attacking game.
“I saw the first-half of their match, and North Korea defended really well and annoyed Brazil, they serve as a good example,” said the 24-year-old.
“We have the players who can make a difference, our strength will always be in attack, but we must focus on defence.
“When you play against a team that is stronger than you, one has to stop them from playing, and afterwards to play on ones strengths: for us it is technique and catching them on the counter-attack.
“Brazil is a team of the same level as Portugal, with a lot of players capable of an individual moment that makes the difference.
“We have to play the same as we did against Portugal:
compact, as a unit, and to battle for every ball. We must on no account allow Brazil to play their natural game.”
KEY TO MATCH
Drogba’s presence on the pitch will have a massive effect on the Elephants’ attack should Eriksson decide to start with him, despite his fractured arm.
Brazil’s defence held firm for 89 minutes against North Korea, but the Ivory Coast’s attack is expected to provide a firmer test than the Asian minnows and will shed more light on whether Dunga’s side are genuine title contenders.