Cristiano Ronaldo is furious he won’t be lining up opposite Real Madrid teammate Kaka, when Portugal face Brazil tomorrow in the biggest game of the World Cup so far.
The presence of the world’s two most expensive players was expected at the magnificent Moses Mabhida Stadium, as Group G comes down to the wire.
But a ridiculous red card during Brazil’s 3-1 win over the Ivory Coast means Ricardo Izecson dos Santos Leite (his younger brother could only manage “Kaka”) is suspended.
With over a million Portuguese-speaking people in the Rainbow Nation, this was the second game sold out at South African 2010―after the final at Soccer City on July 11.
Though both sides should qualify comfortably for the last 16, the clash between the nations ranked first and third in the world is expected to draw the highest global audience of an absorbing tournament.
Ronaldo, who moved to the Bernebeu from Manchester United for £80m, and Kaka, who joined from AC Milan for £56m, would have lit up the arched stadium. Like so many others, Ronaldo fumes, "It's not fair because Kaka did nothing in my opinion, and now he won't play against us.
"He didn't deserve that red card. I saw the game and I spoke with him about it afterwards. He was angry at the time but after the game he's cool, he understands it's part of the game."
Kaka's dismissal rates as the worst of several appalling sendings off in the tournament so far.
He was given a second yellow card when Kader Keita ran into him and fell down, clutching his face. Though Didier Drogba and Kaka were chatting amiably while the referee sorted out the mess, he was summoned and given his marching orders.
Having made the first and third goals on Sunday night at Soccer City—and had a good effort well saved—Kaka looked like he was just returning to form after a winter marred by a serious groin injury.
Brazil boss Dunga called it an “unjustified dismissal,” and FIFA were expected to overturn the decision. But, as normal, the global football body let South Africa down, and Kaka is ruled out.
Dunga said, “The player who commits the foul escapes the yellow card, I have to congratulate him for that. It was a totally wrong. Kaka was fouled and yet he was punished.”
Ronaldo, man of the match in Portugal’s first two games here, will hope to add to his goal in the 7-0 win over North Korea on Monday―a strike which ended an international drought going back to his effort against the Czech Republic in the 2008 European Championship.
His goal, the sixth against the so-called Democratic People’s Republic scored three minutes from time, owed a little to a fluky touch with the back of his perfectly gelled hair.
Ronaldo grins, "I knew the goal would come eventually. I smiled when I scored because it was a funny goal, the way it hit me on the neck. I am under no pressure."
Neal Collins is in South Africa to complain about England's performance and promote his first novel A GAME APART. See www.nealcollins.co.uk .
To see Neal at the National Arts Festival on July 4, go to http://www.computicket.com/web/event/neal_collins_a_game_apart/148367625 .