Former coach Carlos Alberto Parreira promised to introduce South Africa to ‘samba football’, a mission pursued by his successor, Joel Santana.
Well at Ellis Park on Thursday the willing pupil will have the chance to test precisely how much they’ve learned when they take on the country who invented the concept.
The smart and not so smart money is on Brazil overpowering South Africa in this Confederations Cup semi-final to set up a dream final Sunday with Spain, favourites to beat the United States on Wednesday.
But this 2009 Confed Cup has been nothing if not unpredictable – witness the USA’s advance to the last four at the expense of world champions and African champions Italy and Egypt.
South Africa owe their presence here to having narrowly shaded Iraq on goal difference to emerge as Group A runners-up after goalless draws against the Asian champions, a 2-0 win over New Zealand and a 2-0 loss to Spain.
Brazil strode imperiously through Group B, following up the last minute 4-3 victory over Egypt with 3-0 drubbings of the USA and then astonishingly Italy.
That has left Kaka and company in prime shape to defend the title they collected in Germany four years ago, but South Africa are counting on their vibrant and colourful support and some class acts like Everton’s Steven Pienaar, Bernard Parker and Teko Modise to help them dethrone the five time world champions.
The last time the hosts and holders met was back in 1996 in Joburg when South Africa, with Lucas Radebe and Doctor Khumalo on board, were leading a Brazil side captained by Dunga two nil at half time only to go down 3-2.
Santana, constantly criticised in the local media for his defensive tactics, is talking a big game ahead of what promises to be an electric encounter at a sold-out Ellis Park.
“We deserve to be in the semi-finals, we got four points,” said the Brazilian.
“We outplayed New Zealand. We beat them 2-0, but could have scored six while Iraq were totally negative.
“I am happy to be in the semi-finals, I could have been heading home. But now I am looking forward to a major semi-final of a big FIFA event.”
Dunga rates his compatriot highly as a manager and is wary of the threat presented by his team.
“South Africa are an emerging team, but we know they will give us a difficult test.
“They’re strong, quick and they will have the crowd behind them. But we’ll be well prepared. Brazil have a very strong squad, which helps in a tournament like this. Every player in the squad is a first-teamer.”
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