The car horns (and the odd vuvuzela) are honking outside my window in North West London, which can only mean one thing; Brazil's safe passage into the World Cup quarter-finals. The seleção maintained their imperious recent record against Chile with a comfortable 3-0 victory at Ellis Park, earning a date with Holland on Friday.
Marcelo Bielsa's Chile have been a joy to behold at times in South Africa, but from the moment they secured second spot in their group, one had the impression that this was a favourable draw for Brazil. After guiding Brazil to resounding home and away victories against la roja during qualifying, Dunga surely felt he had the measure of tonight's opponents, and so it proved.
With Elano and Felipe Melo failing to recover from injury, Dani Alves and Ramires were given the nod in midfield. It was the latter who took up Melo's defensive remit, and turned in an impressively dynamic performance. Otherwise, Brazil lined up at full strength, welcoming back Kaká after his one match ban.
From the first whistle, there was a conviction about Brazil that had been lacking in the draw against Portugal. Chile have carved themselves a reputation as quick, daring starters, but were unable to assert much attacking influence in the early stages, managing only a weak attempted lob from Humberto Suazo. At the other end, Gilberto Silva tested Bravo from range, but as so often, Brazil required a dead-ball to break the deadlock.
On 34 minutes, Maicon found Juan with a trademark corner to the far post, and the Roma defender made no mistake; powerfully heading into the roof of the net. Within five minutes, it was two. Robinho led a classic counter-attack, flying into acres of space on the left before squaring to Kaká. The No.10 slid a first time ball to the onside Luís Fabiano, who rounded the 'keeper for the simplist of finishes. It was a rapid and ruthless move, the kind Brazil have made their speciality in recent years.
The seleção played the second period in cruise control, thanks largely to an assured defensive display. Lúcio, Juan and Maicon were imperious as ever, and praise too goes to Michel Bastos, who coped admirably with Chile's livewire winger Alexis Sanchez. The left-back's job was made easier thanks to some fine protection from Gilberto Silva and Ramires, who comfortably marshalled all midfield traffic. The latter, indeed, was the architect of Brazil's third, which arrived just before the hour mark. Surging from the halfway line, Ramires encountered precious little Chilean resistance before reaching the edge of the area. The Benfica man poked the ball to the onrushing Robinho, who effortlessly curled his shot into the corner.
The game appeared over, and so it turned out; Chile mustered a couple of half-chances but Júlio César was never called into serious action. Dunga threw on Nilmar, and allowed Kléberson and Gilberto their first appearances of the tournament. That Brazil had this luxury speaks volumes about the ease of this win; one which (in my view, at least) confirms Brazil's status as favourites.
The joy of the ex-pats in the neighbourhood is something to behold this evening, but from Thursday I'll be able to get a real taste of Brazilian World Cup fever; I'm heading out to Rio for the rest of the tournament. Forget England's non-performance; from here on in...eu sou Brasileeeeeeeiro, com muito orguuuuuuuulho, com muito amoooooor!!!
(Photo credits; (1) Clive Rose/Getty Images, (2) Lancenet.com.br.)