As far as Brazil are concerned, the most satisfying aspect of their comprehensive 3-1 win over Côte d'Ivoire on Sunday evening was not the three fine goals they scored or the string of chances they created, but the fact they passed a stern test without having to play their best football.
Speaking exclusively to FIFA.com not long after the final whistle at Soccer City in Johannesburg, ball-winning midfielder Felipe Melo expressed his satisfaction at the fighting spirit and commitment displayed by the team as a whole. "It was a game we were really pleased to win," said the Juventus player, his face wreathed in smiles. "We knew they would present a physical challenge because they are very muscular players. That's one of their strengths. I'm pleased because we were able to overcome that challenge and play some good football in the end. After all, that's what Brazil fans want."
The opening 25 minutes were all about resisting the power of the Ivorians, and it was not until Luis Fabiano's goal midway through the first half that Brazil began to take control. "Up until then I had the feeling that they weren't that comfortable," said Elephants defender Guy Demel. "But when they scored they started to loosen up and play more freely."
Striking at the right time
Under Dunga's tenure Brazil have won the 2007 Copa America and the FIFA Confederations Cup last year, achieving such triumphs without necessarily having to dominate possession or their opponents to score goals. The current Seleção seem to have the happy knack of choosing the right moment to score, even if that is an impression that Melo is quick to reject.
"There’s no way we can go out and just score goals when we want to, that's not the case," he said. "Look at Spain. In their first game they played as if they were just waiting for the right time to score and they ended up losing. It would be very disrespectful to think like that. We respect all our opponents and that means we have to score as early as we can, as soon as we have the chance to. We struggled to begin with today, although the problems we had in breaking through were different to the ones we faced against Korea DPR."
Having eased their way into the Round of 16 already, the Brazilians will be under no pressure when they take on Portugal in their final Group G game in Durban on Friday, but Melo is not convinced they will be turning on the style just to please the fans. "I don’t know if we'll play more freely. All I can say is that we are going to carry on improving. Tonight we played much better than in our first match and that trend should continue. In fact it needs to continue because we still have a long way to go."