Brazil edged South Africa 1-0 in a very tight semi-final thanks to Daniel Alves’s brilliant late free-kick. The Barcelona wing-back only entered the fray in the latter stages, but his 88th-minute rocket finally undid goalkeeper Itumeleng Khune.
The game kicked off to the sound of vuvuzelas reverberating around the stadium, and within seconds, so too was the roar of ‘Booooooth’ as South Africa’s towering defender got his first touch. Teko Modise drew gasps from his adoring supporters in the fourth minute by bursting past two opponents before Lucio aborted the attack, and Felipe Melo did brilliantly to dispossess Steven Pienaar after the Everton playmaker had wriggled away from two markers down the left.
South Africa had begun brightly, but it was Brazil who created the first opportunity on 14 minutes. Maicon galloped down the right flank and neatly cut the ball back for Luis Fabiano, on the edge of the area. The Sevilla striker squared the ball for Ramires, whose left-foot shot was gathered by goalkeeper Khune.
Bafana Bafana instantly responded with an opportunity of their own. Siboniso Gaxa won the ball inside the opposition half, raced forward and unleashed a piercing, 30-yard drive that went narrowly wide of Julio Cesar’s right post. Aaron Mokoena came even closer to breaking the deadlock on 21 minutes, heading a pinpoint Modise free-kick inches over when unmarked.
Another set-piece, this time a direct shot on goal from Tsepo Masilela, was tipped over by Julio Cesar on 27 minutes. Kaka then sprung to life, collecting the ball in midfield, accelerating past two adversaries and feeding Ramires, who, well placed inside the South Africa box, failed to control the ball. Ten minutes before half-time, Andre Santos employed fine technique to test Khune, who was nonetheless equal to his long-range attempt.
Kaka was next to try his luck. The Brazil No10 raced inside from the left and curled a trademark effort just wide of the post, and the same player forced a save out of Khune, following another charge into opposition territory, with the half running out. There was still time for Pienaar to shoot narrowly wide from 25 yards and to block a fierce Andre Santos free-kick, before the referee’s whistle brought an entertaining, albeit goalless, half to a close.
Brazil swiftly assumed the initiative upon resumption of the second half. First, Kaka sprinted down the left touchline, before darting inside and winning a corner, which came to nothing. Then, Maicon played a one-two with Luis Fabiano and crossed for Kaka, who headed over but had been penalised for a foul anyway.
The pendulum then swung in the favour of Joel Santana’s side. Pienaar’s on-target shot was blocked by Luisao, before a Modise shot took a wicked deflection off the aforementioned defender and forced Julio Cesar to dive to his left and tip the ball round his upright. This spell of pressure prompted vociferous shouts from the South African faithful.
Luis Fabiano and Robinho then wasted half-chances inside the Bafana Bafana box, but it was the underdogs who were doing the majority of the pressing. And when Masilela cruised past two Brazilians down the left wing, his ensuing cross was just inches too high for the leaping Bernard Parker.
In the end the Brazilians needed a set piece to seal the deal and book a place in the final against the United States, who they beat 3-0 in the first round. After a foul on the edge of the area by Mokoena, substitute Daniel Alves curled his shot home with his right boot to end the Africans’ brave fight.
Story courtesy of FIFA Media