Killian Woods, at the Emirates Stadium, London
Ireland took on Brazil in this exhibition fixture in what has been touted around as a the moral compensation that Sepp Blatter promised the Ireland in wake of their unscrupulous exit to France in the World Cup playoffs. With Brazil fielding what is likely to be the core of their squad to board the plane to South Africa this summer, this friendly fixture was seen as vital preparation for their coach Dunga as he aims to finalise his World Cup squad.
Before the game, Brazil’s former World Cup winning captain and now coach, Dunga, was very vocal in his expectations for this mid-season friendly. With the World cup roughly three months away, his main agenda revolved around damage limitations and keeping his teams, but mainly his own, reputation intact in the lead up to South Africa. The Brazilian media, as per norm, are known to be an over-analytical crowd, and in the lead up to the World Cup Dunga’s main aim is to prevent the supply of negative kindling to the burning fire.
Brazil lined up in their typical rigid defensive pattern involving two defensive midfielders protecting the back four and the forward trio of Kaka, Robinho and Adriano having license to interchange. A range of attacking flair was on show and Inter Milan defender Maicon gave a masterclass in the role of an attacking wing back throughout the game and at times had the Irish defence backpedaling.
With a decent crowd of around 40,082 in attendance at Arsenal’s Emirates stadium, there was a vibrant atmosphere from a crowd that wanted to see Brazil accumulate a decent scoreline against a weaker team. However, Ireland, known to be an effective defensive unit, managed to subdue the Brazilian attack for most of the first half, while looking to counter in broken play.
It was Ireland who started the game in good spirit as they depicted a side who were highly motivated for a game against one of the world finest international football sides. Robbie Keane found himself through on goal in the fifth minute only for his weak attempt to be easily saved by Julio Cesar.
The early chance for Ireland’s captain was crafted by Ireland’s best player on the night, Kevin Doyle, who kept his Brazilian markers struggling on numerous occasions to deal with his ability to hold the ball up. Most of Ireland’s play revolved around Doyle who kept the impetuous in Ireland’s attack.
Continuing to utilise this frailty in the Brazil defence, Ireland used this avenue repeatedly and nearly opened the scoring on the night when Doyle met Damien Duff’s right wing cross unmarked in the penalty area. His effort brought an acrobatic save out of Cesar as the Brazilians saved their blushes. This served as a wake up call for the South American’s as they increased the pace of their attack.
For most of the first half, Brazil’s front three were linking well in the first two-thirds of the Irish half, but lacking the final ball. Their first real chance of notice came after 27 minutes when from a free kick straight in front of the Irish, goal Adriano curled the ball to Givens top left corner with the goalkeeper forced to make the save.
As the game edged towards half time, there was not much between both teams. Ireland were doing well to keep Brazil from penetrating their defence in key areas and dealing with the pace of Brazil’s play. However, when Brazil began to create numerous overlaps and push the Irish defence deep into their own half, the pressure was mounting on Ireland and one mistake was going to give Brazil a chance to take the lead.
In the 44th minute did just that as Duff was caught out of position. Maicon exploited that space to feed Robinho whose cross into the six-yard box was deflected into the net by Keith Andrews. This was a cruel blow to the Irish cause as until then they had defended valiantly and with their numerous chances were well in the game (Also there may have been a case for Robinho being offside).
Brazil carried over their momentum into the second half and continued to attack down both flanks, while Doyle continued to hold the ball up well in the Brazil half, though he lacked sufficient support from his teammates.
After an hour of play, a flurry of substitutions took a lot of life out of the Irish team. Brazil also changed their ranks, though the substitutions by Dunga had much more of a positive effect on his team. After 61 minutes, Daniel Alves came on for Ramires and within seconds, Alves found space in behind the Irish defence and rounded the helpless Given only to hit his shot wide of the goal which was at his mercy.
Minutes later, Robinho looked to have made amends for Alves’ mistake when he slotted past Given after Grafite had threaded a ball through the Irish defence. However on this occasion, Robinho was judged to have been in an offside position and the goal didn’t stand. This was one of a number of chances which fell to Robinho during the night and adding them all up, the Santos player could have had at least three goals
He did appease his naysayers somewhat ten minutes later when he effectively ended the contest by scoring Brazil’s second goal. The score came as a result of good interchange play between Kaka and Grafite which eventually set Robinho up to put the icing on the cake.
The final ten minutes consisted of Brazil efficiently finishing off a spirited Irish side as they attacked only if the opportunity arose. Even though defeat is never easy to absorb, no shame should be associated with this result. Ireland played to their potential and lost to a side that are genuine contenders to win the World Cup this summer.
Rep of Ireland
Shay Given, Stephen Kelly, Sean St. Ledger, Paul McShane, Kevin Kilbane, Liam Lawrence (James McCarthy), Glenn Whelan (Darron Gibson), Keith Andrews, Damien Duff, Kevin Doyle, Robbie Keane.
Julio Cesar, Maicon (Carlos Eduardo), Lucio (Luisao), Juan, Michel Bastos, Ramires (Daniel Alves), Silva, Felipe Melo, Kaka, Adriano (Grafite), Robinho (Nilmar).