London bears witness as Brazil outshine Italy
Such was the volume of the wildly excited and high pitch screams echoing around the Emirates Stadium that you could have been forgiven for thinking a boy band were about to take centre stage.
Westlife, Take That or the Backstreet Boys would have felt quite at home amid the 60,077 fanatics in attendance on this chilled North London night and all present created the sort of carnival atmosphere this stadium has not been used to during a campaign when the resident team have fallen from the lofty perch.
In a season when this impressive venue has lacked some soul when it is bursting full with increasingly frustrated Arsenal fans, the followers of Brazil and Italy brought it to life in a grand manner.
Clearly, the novelty value of seeing two of the world's iconic international sides going head-to-head clearly helped to heighten the expectation for London-based supporters who may not have believed their national heroes had come to perform before them, yet the jovial nature exuded by all was an example of what this great game should be about.
Football loving Brazilians and Italians worshiped together and only battled to sing louder than one another. While it would be tough to inject regular Premier League football attendees with the enthusiasm and passion displayed by those present for this game, it was a delight to share the experience with them.
It was also refreshing to sit through two national anthems celebrated with the sort of gusto and respect England fans are always keen to ignore. Internationals at Wembley are generally marred by jeers for the opposing musical rallying call, yet Italy's familiar signature tune and Brazil's up tempo number were toasted by all.
The game itself had to be special to live up to the pre-match euphoria, but it more than satisfied the appetite as it quickly clicked into gear. Brazil are only allowed to play this game in the beautiful manner and even though the method of the Azzurri is often less eye-catching, their quality can be equally captivating.
We were given an idea of just how high pitched the volume level would rise to greet the first goal when Fabio Grosso saw his effort incorrectly chalked off for offside in the fourth minute. The Italy full-back looked to have timed his run perfectly and produced a fine finish before his celebrations were cut short by the misplaced flag from the English official.
It soon became apparent that a fixture billed as a friendly would have a cutting edge. The tackles may not have been flying quite as fiercely as they may be if they two sides are to contest the World Cup final next year, but this was to be a feisty and thrilling affair.
The first goal was not long in coming as a typically brilliant Brazil move featuring Robinho and the recalled Ronaldinho, who combined to carve open the normally rock-solid Italian defence and allowed Manchester City's Elano to score with glee.
This game can occasionally send a shiver down the spine when its most gifted exponents hit the right notes and even though they were helped by some indifferent defending, this was one of those moments.
Brazil's second goal was just as memorable. While the experienced Andrea Pirlo may not have allowed Robinho to win the ball so easily on the edge of his box if this game had points resting on it, the quick-footed brilliance of Manchester City's record signing was a sight to behold before he fizzed a fizzing left footed shot past Gianluigi Buffon.
The sparkling first half showing was timely for Brazil boss Carlos Dunga, who would have noted the departure of Luiz Felipe Scolari at Chelsea on Monday with some trepidation. He has had his troubles trying to living up to expectations at the helm of a national team who don't tolerate second best, so constant success is now required to dampen down the theory that Scolari may return to try and recreate his World Cup glory of seven years ago.
Azzurri chief Marcello Lippi was the coach with all the worries at the break and his response was to unleash the towering Luca Toni from his place on the bench, along the veteran Mauro Camoranesi and ex-Manchester United starlet Giuseppe Rossi. Clearly, this veteran mastermind was not satisfied with the efforts of many he opted to name on his initial team-sheet.
Bayern Munich's Toni, in particular, had a positive impact for Italy and he had a goal struck off when he handled the ball in the build-up. He went on to miss a great chance with eight minutes to go as he nipped in front of the Brazilian defence and was denied by a fine save from Cesar and went close again in the dying minutes, but the game was lost by then.
Brazil's quality of passing and impressive work rate ensured they recorded a comfortable victory and Dunga was a content figure as he sat before an excited press pack. ''The goals we scored were well worked and Robinho was exceptional to create the second,'' stated the USA'94 World Cup winning skipper.
He also had a few good words for the recalled Ronaldinho. ''I felt he worked hard for the team and he gave us some extra options,'' was his view of the celebrated AC Milan star. ''We have great talent in this squad and Kaka still has to come back, but it's all about working it together for the team.''
Marcello Lippi was targeting a record breaking 32nd unbeaten game as Italy boss, yet found some positives despite being was denied the milestone.
''We did not start the game well and this was partly due to the fact we only had 48 hours to think about this game,'' he said. ''Brazil took advantage of our mistakes in the first half and it was difficult after that.''
It is always hard to assess the true importance of a friendly international, yet the Italy of 2009 look a long way short of the powerful champions who ruled the world three years ago. As for Brazil, they were impressive as both an attacking and defensive unit and look set to be the team to beat when the soccer world convenes in South Africa some 16 months from now.
MAN OF THE MATCH: Gilberto was shown the door by Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger, who apparently believed he was past his prime. On this evidence, his brand of no-nonsense midfield industry is just what the misfiring Gunners have been missing this season. Robinho's fancy footwork earned him top honours from the sponsors, but Gilberto deserved credit for his less eye-catching effort.
PRESS BOX NOVELTY: Confirmation that this was a very different occasion at the Emirates Stadium was came with a packed out press room bursting with attractive female reporters. The British written press pack are generally an aging and slightly grumpy bunch, but those charged with reporting on Brazil and Italy are far more pleasing on the eye and appear to be less interested in consuming cream cakes.
BRAZIL VERDICT: The combination of Ronaldinho, Robinho and Elano was electrifying to watch at times and they also showed impressive commitment to the cause in a friendly international. The recently unemployed Scolari is not required to revive this reinvent this brilliant team just yet.
AZZURRI VERDICT: Italy boss Marcelo Lippi admitted he was frustrated by the lack of preparation time prior to a battle with the 2002 World Champions and his side lost this game with their slack first half defending.