[WORLD CUP COUNTDOWN] Such is the optimism about England's chances at the 2010 World Cup that Brazil's visit to the Emirates Stadium Tuesday was billed a sneak preview of England's possible semifinal opponent in Cape Town. Just how did Brazil sem Ronaldinho look to the locals in its 2-0 win over Ireland?
Brazil was fortunate to go ahead when Keith Andrews knocked Robinho's cross into his own goal just before halftime, but Robinho fully deserved the second goal after exchanging passes with Kaka and Grafite and putting game away in the 76th minute.
This Brazil was nothing compared with Brazil that met Ireland in another pre-World Cup warmup 28 years earlier. That Brazil team won, 7-0. It had the likes of Zico, Socrates and Falcao.
Missing was Ronaldinho, in fine form at AC Milan but unwanted by Coach Dunga. Ditto for Ronaldinho's Milan partner, Pato Alexandre.
"Everybody has had the chance to show what he can do," Dunga said. "Both Ronaldinho and Pato have had this chance, and now things are decided."
Fortunately, Brazil has Robinho.
"Robinho is a lot happier now that he has left Manchester City and gone back to Brazil and Santos," said Dunga. "You can see that he is happy again."
Even without Ronaldinho and Pato, Brazil will rank among the favorites to win the World Cup.
The reaction of the locals?
According to the Times, "It is hard to believe that Brazil will not be in the final mix."
As the Sun noted, England coach Fabio Capello must accept that "if the South Americans produce their best, our boys just cannot beat them."
The Daily Mirror bemoaned the absence of Ronaldinho, which meant "the Brazilians looked more like an average Premier League side than the all-conquering outfit that should take South Africa by storm in June."
But it went on to add that Brazil still has an embarrassment of riches that makes it the envy of every team around the world.
It was a point upon which Dunga would concur.
"I think Brazil has players of great quality in every position and it's a question of putting the right players in those positions," he said. "If there are four, we will just choose two."