Brazil's rocks of strength
Brazil are sure to remember their handsome 3-0 defeat of Italy in Tshwane/Pretoria on Sunday for a long time. After all, comfortable wins over old adversaries tend to be few and far between, which explains why the Brazilians were celebrating gleefully at the final whistle and then in the changing room.
The party over, Dunga's men finally started making their way out of the stadium complex en route to the bus taking them back to their hotel, giving FIFA.com the opportunity to catch up with defensive mainstays Maicon and Lucio. Understandably, the duo were happy to talk and gave their exclusive views on a memorable night for Brazil and their army of fans around the world.
"It's a historic match," was the Inter Milan full-back's verdict on the evening. "We played an absolutely fantastic game. We were extremely focused and we played with a lot of quality. It was one of those games you remember for a long time. We beat the world champions and we have to make the most of it."
His captain and defensive colleague was in similarly euphoric mood. "I don't know if it was the perfect match but was a great night for us. We produced an excellent display at the back and we played a high-tempo game. We knew that they had to come out and try and win the game but we controlled things calmly, defending well and hitting them on the break."
The Brazilian back-line gave a masterclass in the art of defending against a side well-known for its abilities in that department. One man to benefit from that solidity was goalkeeper Julio Cesar, who enjoyed a relatively untroubled evening between the posts. And as Maicon explains, that solidity has become a feature of Brazil's performances in South Africa. "It's very important," he said. "That's two games we've gone now without conceding a goal and we've also been very effective up front. That's what makes this such a rewarding win for us. Scoring three goals against a top team and not conceding any is quite an achievement."
Though the Brazilians have now beaten Italy in their last two meetings, Lucio does not believe they have established a hold over the reigning world champions. "It's always difficult to predict a Brazil-Italy match. They've got some great players and I really don't know if we've come across the formula for beating them. What I do know is that we were the better side today and we deserved to win."
For Maicon, meanwhile, there is the obvious temptation of teasing his Inter Milan team-mates in the Italy side. "No, no (smiles). I won't be doing that. I'll be celebrating this but we're going to let them enjoy their holidays."
Next up for the Brazilians comes a meeting with the tournament hosts. And while the South Africans lie over 70 places below Brazil in the FIFA/Coca Cola World Ranking, the Copa America champions will not be taking their opponents lightly, as the right-back explains.
"We know South Africa. We've seen their games on TV and they're a very quick team. We need to be on our guard because they could give us a nasty surprise. What's important now is that we get as much rest as possible.
Maicon's caution is shared by his captain. "Yes, they're very rapid and they'll have the fans behind them too. Giving ourselves time to recover is the key to winning the match."
As the Brazilians well know, the winners of the FIFA Confederations Cup have never gone on to lift the FIFA World Cup™ Trophy the following year. But as Maicon explains, A Seleçao are not in the least concerned about hoodoos. "The Brazilian newspapers have been talking about that to but I don't think it's important at all. We've already put an end to some bad runs in the qualifying competition. We won for the first time in years in Chile and at the Centenario against Uruguay, and we can do the same here and win next year too."
The five-time champions are determined to avoid a repeat of four years ago, when they claimed the FIFA Confederations Cup only to flop in Germany 12 months later. "The Confederations Cup is what matters now," explains Lucio, focusing on the immediate task in hand. "We'll see what happens in the World Cup next year. That said, I do think the team is going to be stronger and more mature and the experience of Germany 2006 is going to be very important, as we want to make sure it doesn't happen again."