Brazil beat Ivory Coast 3-1 to advance to the round of 16 at the World Cup, while defending champion Italy was held to a 1-1 tie by New Zealand and Paraguay defeated Slovakia 2-0.
Luis Fabiano scored twice for record five-time winner Brazil in Johannesburg last night with Elano also getting a goal for the South Americans, who finished with 10 men after Kaka was red-carded. Didier Drogba got the Ivory Coast goal.
“Congratulations to Brazil, they are strong,” Ivory Coast coach Sven-Goran Eriksson said at a news conference. “If you do a mistake against them they are very quick to punish you.”
Brazil tops Group G with a maximum six points from two games. Ivory Coast and Portugal have one point, with North Korea losing its only match. Portugal plays North Korea today.
Brazil last won the title in 2002. Ivory Coast exited in the group stage on its World Cup debut four years ago. The Netherlands, in Group E, are the only other team to have secured a spot in the next round.
Italy, which is aiming to match Brazil on five titles, needed a penalty kick from Vincenzo Iaquinta to tie its game in Nelspruit. Shane Smeltz gave New Zealand an early lead.
Paraguay tops Group F on four points through two matches, Italy and New Zealand have two each, and Slovakia has one.
In Johannesburg, man of the match Luis Fabiano collected Kaka’s pass and fired Brazil into a 25th-minute lead. The striker’s second goal arrived on 50 minutes, although television replays showed he controlled the ball with his arm.
“I heard Brazil complain a lot, but I think they should feel very lucky,” Eriksson said. “It’s difficult to cope with Fabiano already, and even more if he uses his hands.”
Fabiano denied deliberately handling, saying the ball hit his arm.
“There was no voluntary handball, so it was a legitimate goal and one of the most spectacular of my career,” he said. “It was an involuntary handball and a magnificent goal.”
A goal from Elano after 62 minutes secured the win. He was substituted soon after with a shin injury. Drogba, wearing a protective cast after breaking an arm in a warm-up game, got a goal back with 11 minutes remaining.
Kaka was booked twice in four minutes near the end and will miss at least one match for his red card. The second yellow was for elbowing the chest of Kader Keita, who fell to the floor clutching his face.
“The beautiful game has to be controlled, and when the referee allows certain incidents to go unpunished that’s not right,” Brazil coach Carlos Dunga said. “It was a totally unjustified sending off of Kaka. He was fouled and he was punished for it and given a yellow card.”
In Italy’s game, Smeltz gave New Zealand a shock lead from close range in the seventh minute, following up a Simon Elliott free kick as Fabio Cannavaro was unable to clear.
Italy’s chances mainly came from long-range shots, with Riccardo Montolivo only denied by a post on 27 minutes.
A penalty kick, awarded after Tommy Smith held Daniele De Rossi, gave Italy an opportunity after 29 minutes. Iaquinta placed his kick into the bottom right corner as goalkeeper Mark Paston dived the other way.
Italy continued to press, although New Zealand substitute Chris Wood came close to sealing an upset win as he shrugged off a defender before firing a low shot across the face of the goal in the 88th minute.
“It was the hardest work that we’ve ever put in,” New Zealand captain Ryan Nelsen told reporters.
Italy, the world’s fifth-ranked team, started with three draws when it collected the title in 1982. That was the year of New Zealand’s only previous World Cup appearance.
New Zealand’s All Whites, No. 78 in the rankings of soccer’s governing body FIFA, only earned a first-ever World Cup point in a 1-1 draw against Slovakia on June 15.
“We didn’t have much luck but we didn’t play a great game,” Italy coach Marcello Lippi told reporters. “Starting in such a way gave us an uphill battle.”
Goals from Enrique Vera and Cristian Riveros in Bloemfontein secured the win for Paraguay, which is attempting to reach the round of 16 for a fourth time.
Vera got the opener in the 27th minute, finishing with the outside of his right boot after collecting a pass from Lucas Barrios.
Paraguay had to wait until 86 minutes to score again. Slovakia registered only one shot on target during the match.
“We played the perfect game,” Paraguay defender Paulo da Silva said. “We scored early, we defended well and then killed the game off at just the right time.”
In today’s Group H games, Spain plays Honduras and Chile faces Switzerland.