x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

Samba boys hit top form

A vastly improved performance helps Brazil to a 3-0 win over the United States and puts them a step closer to a semi-final spot in the Confederations Cup.

Brazil's Felipe Melo rises above the American Jonathan Spector to head home the opening goal in their 3-0 win last night.
Brazil's Felipe Melo rises above the American Jonathan Spector to head home the opening goal in their 3-0 win last night.

PRETORIA // What matters, the Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson always said, is not a setback, but a team's response to a setback, and in that regard Brazil confirmed themselves among a small clutch of favourites for next summer's World Cup with an emphatic victory over America. The sloppiness of their 4-3 victory over Egypt had cast doubt both on Brazil's mental toughness and on their defensive capacity, but yesterday they were highly impressive against an American side described by their coach Bob Bradley as "tentative". Or perhaps, it was that Brazil did not allow themselves to be rattled by America's physical approach. Seemingly stung by the reaction to the Egypt game, there was an admirable sense of purpose to their play; America's attempts to unsettle them made about little impact. The dismissal of Sacha Kljestan after 56 minutes for a late challenge on Ramires was the predictable result of America's aggression and increasing frustration. Jay DeMerit will not have many more fruitless afternoons than he had trying to deal with Kaka. Robinho was a constant menace, while Ramires, the Benfica midfielder, was quick, inventive and incisive on the right. Most impressive of all, though, was the Inter Milan right-back Maicon, who was far more dominant than Dani Alves had been in the same position against Egypt, controlled his flank to arc ball after menacing ball across the face of the American goal before adding the third. He was a thoroughly merited man of the match. It was Maicon's delivery from a free-kick wide on the right that led to Felipe Melo heading a seventh-minute opener. But it was Brazil's second goal, after 21 minutes, that exposed their opponent's limitations. Landon Donovan took a corner short to DaMarcus Beasley, who slipped, allowing Andre Santos to clear. Kaka gathered on half-way, and rolled the ball to his left to Ramires, who charged down the right before squaring for Robinho to finish. The third was also majestic, Maicon cutting in from the right, and running on to receive the return after a rapid exchange between Ramires and Kaka, before slamming his finish past Tim Howard with the aid of a slight deflection. Benny Feilhaber and Conor Casey may both have hit the bar for America late on, but by then the game was long gone.