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Final date for Lucio

Brazil edge past hosts South Africa

Bayern star Lucio and Brazil remain on course to lift the Confederations Cup after defeating hosts South Africa 1-0 in Thursday’s second semi-final. The Seleção now remain in Johannesburg for Sunday’s final against surprise package USA. Barcelona man Daniel Alves netted from an 88th minute free-kick to seal victory for the largely uninspiring South Americans.

The home majority in the 48,049 crowd at Ellis Park gave their heroes a rousing reception for a glittering display against one of the best teams in world football. The hosts now face another prestige fixture in Sunday afternoon’s third-place play-off against European champions Spain.

Vibrant atmosphere

The air temperature was a mere eight degrees but the emotional heat was almost overwhelming at Ellis Park, as the fans danced and chanted to the ceaseless drone of the local vuvuzela in support of Bafana Bafana. President Jacob Zuma wore a green team jacket in his VIP seat next to FIFA President Joseph Blatter. When it came to the pre-match national anthems, tears glistened in the eyes of South Africa’s Brazilian coach Joel Santana.

Prior to kick-off, team captains Lucio and Aaron Mokoena read out a strong rejection of racism, mirrored by a banner in the crowd reading “Mandela is Brazilian”. Nobel peace prize winner Nelson Mandela had personally wished each individual South African player luck the previous day.

Slow-starting Brazil

In stark contrast to their 3-0 romp against World Cup holders Italy, the Seleção made a muted start and only really upped the tempo after half an hour. The first half-chance fell to Ramires (12), but the home side almost took a shock lead when Mokoena headed playmaker Teko Modise’s set piece delivery narrowly over the goal tended by Brazil keeper Júlio César (21).

Bafana Bafana now turned in their best display of the tournament, taking the game to the five-time world champions, as Siphiwe Thabalala, Modise and former Dortmund man Steven Pienaar bossed the midfield area. The South Americans seemed more concerned to avoid the fate of the heavily favoured Spanish, who were outmuscled by the USA in Wednesday’s first semi-final.

Even stevens

Superstar Kaka’s first involvement of note came on 37 minutes with a 20 yard shot wide of the target, before South Africa keeper Itumeleng Khune saved from the midfielder after 42 minutes. At the other end, Pienaar’s drive skidded just wide a minute later.

Looking anything other than underdogs, the South Africans continued to dictate the play after the break. The impressive Modise’s deflected shot on the hour seemed certain to go in, only for Julio Cesar to avert the danger with a world-class save. However, the Brazilians finally seized the game by the scruff of the neck in the final quarter, and sub Alves’ late winner was not entirely undeserved by the end.