Walking around the
ground, it was a vivid palate of colour, as the yellow of Brazil clashed
with the red Welsh shirts and the bevy of Brazilian beauties paraded in
their customised shirts. The game failed to live up to the prelude
outside White Hart Lane, but it was an interesting clash of styles, in
which the South Americans came out 2-0 winners with a subdued
While I had encountered some of the
beautiful fans of the game in the streets of Tottenham, once inside, in
a seat at the back of the West Stand for a change, I was not so
impressed. Having thought I might be placed among the vibrant
Brazilian fans, I found myself sitting next to three unattractive (and
faintly smelly) Welshmen who considered it the height of humour to shout
out "Ronald who ?" every ten minutes.
Luckily, there were enough Brazilian fans
around to make it entertaining, but it was the East Stand lower where
the centre section had been claimed as a part of Rio for the night.
Samba drums, banners, flags and a whole
of Brazilian club shirts. The drums echoed around a 2/3 full
ground and people were still coming in near half-time, as the queue to
pick up tickets had been huge just ten minutes before kick off.
One visitor was decidedly unimpressed, as I walked alongside him up the
Paxton towards the High Road, he expounded his lack of warmth for the
club (in no uncertain terms) as he joined the end of the queue to pick
up his tickets from the windows in that road ... outside the fish and
chip shop in the High Road.
Inside, we were informed that the kick
off had been delayed for fifteen minutes to allow as many of those
queuing outside to get in. While normally this would bring groans,
the Brazil fans continued their party and the neutrals were left to
enjoy the sight of the Brazil squad warming up. Not so easy on the
eye was the Welsh warm-up, where a shooting drill ended with the
goalkeeper having a decidedly quiet time.
Once the game started, it was Wales who
set the early pace. They also let Brazil know they were there and
the highly regarded SCBC defender Gareth Bale went through Maicon in the
first couple of minutes. Brazil looked comfortable in possession,
but Wales took the visitors by surprise with the speed of their counter
attacks. One such break saw the ball played through to Giggs
centrally and his Brazilian piece of skill saw him back-heel the ball
into Earnshaw's path and his shot was beaten aside by Gomes' rush from
his line. It was a good opening and one which could have altered
the outcome of the match. Despite the red shirts setting the pace,
it was the yellow ones that had the better openings. Cearense went
close with a near-post header that just cleared the bar just two minutes
in and shortly after goalkeeper Paul Jones had to make a close range
block to stop Alex's shot.
With Ronaldinho joining the list of great
players I have seen at the Lane ... Maradona, Cruyff, Ardiles, Hoddle,
Greaves, Paul Mahorn ... he had a match where he was content to play
within himself, leaving the Welsh unable to get at him. The
skillful midfielder failed to show off too many of his tricks, but he
kept the ball moving towards the Wales goal and even though he misplaced
a few passes (just to show he was human), his touch was true and his
With Edmilson bringing the ball out of
defence to join the attack, you could see why the Brazilian team are so
hard to play against. In fact, it was the captain who might have
opened the scoring in the fourth minute, when a Ronaldinho corner fell
to Alex and Jones blocked his shot, but when the rebound came to
Edmilson, he slammed his shot over the crossbar. The superstar's
corners caused Wales all sorts of problems, as they were struck with
pace and he manages to get them to dip just as they reach the six-yard
box. Kaka headed another wide, when he would have scored had he
hit the target, while Luisao also went close. The big, bald Luisao
had a fine game and looked solid for a Brazilian defender.
Julio Baptista lived up to his nickname
of "the Beast" with his strength his obvious asset, but I hope he
replicates his display when he returns in an Arsenal shirt, as he looked
as though he couldn't hit a barn door with his shooting. His new
team-mate Gilberto got warmly booed when the camera fell on him when he
was about to make his second half entrance straight after the interval.
Kaka also manufactured a volley for himself and smacked the ball low,
but Jones got down to it to keep the ball out.
The interval saw a continuation of the
entertainment, with Spurs freestyler Billy Wingrove came out to show off
his ball-juggling skills. So impressive was his display that he
stopped the Brazilian subs in their own ball-juggling keepy-uppy warm-up
tracks, to watch him in action. Keeping two balls in the air at
once, the Brazilian boys decided to put his skills to the test by
introducing a third ball that they kicked to him !! Ever willing
to have a go, he took on the challenge and kept all three up for a short
while. The applause and winks from the boys in the yellow and blue
showed their respect for his ability.
At the start of the second half a long
ball was played up the right wing and Alex seemed to elbow Joe Ledley in
the head. The Cardiff City defender needed lengthy treatment, but
was able to continue and all Mike Riley did was have a word with the
Brazil centre half.
Baptista had fired in a shot that Jones
blocked out and Brazil had a goal disallowed right before the half-time
whistle, when Wagner Love shot past Jones, but he was standing clearly
in an offside position when he received the ball.
Bellamy used his pace to test the
Brazilian defenders, but their long legs caught up with him, with a good
chance to put Wales on the score-sheet when he was alert to Alex's short
back pass and he was unlucky to see Gomes extend a leg to keep the ball
out. He had another effort, set up by Simon Davies that flew too
high, in what was one of the better contributions the ex-Spurs man made.
His passing was poor and he looked a shadow of the player he was at
It took an hour for Brazil to finally net
their goal. When Kaka played the ball square into the path of
Junior Marcelo, there looked little trouble, but when he did not break
his run, he struck the ball left-footed in the style of Roberto Carlos
to produce a shot that bounced before Jones and beat him in off the
post. The debutant was clearly pleased, as were his team-mates,
who swamped him.
This was a signal for the South Americans
to step up the pace. Ronaldinho finally showed what he is capable
of with a free-kick that brought a dive from the Welsh keeper and when
he ran and found space on the edge of the area, he produced a curling
shot that flew a couple of feet past Jones left hand post. It
turned out to be his last action in the match, as he was replaced by
The little striker was instrumental in
the second goal, as he held off a challenge to play the ball wide to
Cicinho, who crossed for Wagner Love to steal in front of Collins and
glance a close range header past Paul Jones to make it 2-0 on 74
minutes. Junior Marcelo almost repeated his goal-scoring shot, but
Jones this time managed to get a hand to it and pushed the ball wide.
To their credit, the much rearranged
Welsh side still tried to get something out fo the game and Craig
Bellamy pulled the ball back from the left wing to substitute Sam
Ricketts, but his finishing matched that shown in the pre-match warm-up,
with an effort that went a long way wide. He tried another go at
goal, but Gomes knocked out his shot to keep a clean sheet.
It was an interesting experiment and the
price of tickets perhaps prevented it being a bigger crowd. You
can understand a sell-out for Brazil v Argentina, but with Wales not
having quite the same allure, a downgrading in ticket price might have
attracted more spectators.
But the Lane will seem a different place
when Fulham come to visit. The Brazilian drummers made the Spurs
man seem ploddingly pedestrian in comparison and the colour made the
event vibrant. But then, when a full stadium gets going during a
Premiership match, it matches the atmosphere in a different way.
It was funny realising just why Brazil
look so good. It is because they do the simple things very well.
Their game is based around the ability to keep the ball and to keep it
out of the reach of their opponents. They do it with a certain
panache, but if you analyse what they do well, they pass and move.
Or, as it used to be called at White Hart Lane "push and run."
Marco van Hip