Luis Fabiano scored a pair of goals in a 3-1 Brazil win over the Ivory Coast Sunday in Johannesburg, as the Seleção clinched a second-round berth at the FIFA World Cup.
The main storyline
One continent celebrates, while another mourns.
The collective state of Africa's World Cup teams resembles a macabre zoo cemetery — population one Indomitable Lion (aka Cameroon), with the plots being dug for a Super Eagle (Nigeria), a Desert Fox (Algeria) and an Elephant (Ivory Coast).
South Africa is in danger, too. The hosts' Bafana Bafana nickname translates to "the boys," which doesn't lend itself to the animal metaphor, but you get the idea.
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Only the Black Stars of Ghana remain in a strong position to qualify for the next round, carrying the hopes of an entire continent with them. All the rest of the African pretenders have either been eliminated (Cameroon) or need minor miracles to stay alive (Nigeria, Algeria, South Africa and Ivory Coast).
It's a sad reflection on the shortcomings of the continental game, especially at a historic World Cup tournament that is being staged on African soil for the first time.
Maybe we shouldn't be so surprised, though.
Maybe we over-estimated the strength of the African sides. Maybe we were fooled by the bold proclamations of no less of an authority than Pele who stated a team from Africa would excel at soccer's showpiece event. Maybe we so wanted to believe an African representative had a legitimate chance of winning this competition that it blinded us to the facts.
Unquestionably, Samuel Eto'o and Didier Drogba (who scored in the 79th minute against Brazil) and Michael Essien are among the biggest stars on the planet, but players of their world-class calibre are few and far between in the African game. They can only do so much, and no matter how good they are, they can't make up for their respective teams' glaring lack of depth.
Abdul Keita's disgraceful play-acting late in the game, which led to the expulsion of Kaka, did prove that the Africans are every bit as deceitful as their South American and European counterparts at this World Cup.
A shame, really.
The winning goal
The breakthrough came in the 25th minute, with Kaka and Robinho working the ball between them before Luis Fabiano latched onto the end of a defence splitting pass and blasted a shot past goalkeeper Boubacar Barry.
Turning point of the game
Fabiano's second goal, scored in the 50th minute (albeit with the benefit of a handball), put the game beyond the reach of the Ivorians. Brazil's third goal, by Elano 12 minutes later, merely confirmed it.
What this result means
Brazil leads Group G with six points, ahead of the Ivory Coast and Portugal (one point each) and winless North Korea. The Portuguese face the Asians on Monday.
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The Ivory Coast is still mathematically alive, but assuming the Portugal-North Korea game produces a winner, the Africans would need a victory in their final game to have any hope of qualifying for the round of 16.
Man of the match
His second goal shouldn't have counted, but Fabiano still showed why he is considered one of the best strikers in the world with his sublime finishing skills.
Goal of the match
Fabiano's first goal bore a striking resemblance to Landon Donavan's strike against Slovenia, the perfect combination of skill and power.
The Ivorian perspective
"I think Brazil can go all the way. To beat Brazil you must be almost perfect." — coach Sven-Goran Eriksson
The Brazilian perspective
"It's true, the ball really touched my hand and then my shoulder. But it was involuntary. It was one of the greatest goals I've scored in my career." — Luis Fabiano
Brazil takes on Portugal in Durban on June 25 (CBC, CBCSports.ca, 9:30 a.m. ET), while Ivory Coast meets North Korea on the same day in Nelspurit (CBC Bold, CBCSports.ca, 9:30 a.m. ET).