Brazil v Paraguay, World Cup qualifier, June 11, 2009
Having completed his world transfer record move to Real Madrid, Kaka proclaimed: “I hope that I can help put an end to Barcelona’s hegemony and make Real Madrid the team that starts winning all the trophies.”
Kaka though has a more pressing engagement, as Paraguay come to Recife in a top of the table challenge for Dungaâ€™s side, who without really impressing lead the South American standings on goal difference from their visitors.
Although most of the world goes all weak at the knees when Brazil come to town, with memories of Pele, Rivelino, Zico, Rivaldo et al, the truth is that the current Brazil side is based on a strong defence, very much in the image of their coach Dunga. (Brazil are 5/1 to win the World Cup.)
In 13 games of World Cup qualifying so far, Brazil have let in a paltry five goals and even their first win in Montivideo in 33 years on Saturday, a 4-0 win over Uruguay, was based on a sound defence, rather than the swashbuckling attacking football that sells so many Nike shirts. (Paraguay are 4/6 to be shut-out by Brazil.)
Despite letting in four, Uruguay won the corner count 15-2 and their goalkeeper Sebastian Viera had a hand in Brazilâ€™s opening goals which led to a 2-nil halftime lead which flattered the Samba Boys. From then on Brazilâ€™s defence remained strong, and the likes of Kaka, Robinho (5/4 to score) and Luis Fabiano were able to take advantage on the counter.
Brazilian keeper Julio Cesar was terrific for Inter Milan all season and he is swiftly becoming a key man for club and country. The defensive spine of this Brazilian side – Lucio, Juan and Felipe Melo – is incredibly strong and is definitely good enough to taste success in South Africa in a yearsâ€™ time.
Visitors Paraguay have been the surprise team of South American qualifying, surging to the top of the table and with a seven point lead over fifth-placed (the play-off position) Uruguay, they have all but secured their place in South Africa.
However, the wheels are undoubtedly falling off for Paraguay (9/1 to win), who have picked up just one point from their last three games and lost 2-nil to a very capable Chile side on Saturday.
Paraguay coach Gerardo Martino has attempted to put things in perspective: “Our goal is not to finish first in the group but to qualify for the World Cup,” and with injury problems building up, Brazil should win this qualifier.
Defender Julio Manzur and forwards Nelson Haedo Valdez and Oscar Cardozo are definitely out. Midfielders Edgar Barreto, Claudio Morel are major doubts and Blackburn striker Roque Santa Cruz (10/1 to be the first goalscorer) hasnâ€™t played for his country all year, significantly lowering their goal threat.
As a result, the potential goal scorers for Paraguay are Benfica striker Oscar Cardozo, who over the past two seasons has impressed in European football, and Nelson Valdez, who plies his trade for Borussia Dortmund.
Paraguay may be second in South America but Brazil are heavy favourites to win this game. This will be a good opportunity for the home side to illustrate their attacking talents and with Kaka the center of attention, donâ€™t be surprised if the new Real Madrid â€œgalacticoâ€ celebrates his world record transfer with a goal.
Full match odds here.