LONDON, February 11 – Brazil forward Robinho shattered Italy coach Marcello Lippi's record bid with a breathtaking display in his side's 2-0 friendly win over the world champions here on Tuesday.
Robinho made the opener for Manchester City club-mate Elano with a defence-splitting pass and scored a sublime second himself to give Brazil an impressive victory at Arsenal’s Emirates Stadium.
Lippi was attempting to set a new world record for consecutive unbeaten matches by an international coach, but his run ended at 31 as he suffered a first loss with Italy since defeat against Slovenia during his first spell in charge way back in 2004.
As Lippi reacquaints himself with the unpleasant taste of defeat, Brazil coach Dunga is finally looking more comfortable in one of football’s most demanding jobs.
Dunga’s perceived penchant for cautious tactics has riled some in Brazil but this performance should earn him some respect at last.
These two giants of the global game have won nine World Cups between them, contested two finals and produced some of the finest matches in the competition’s history, but this was their first meeting for 12 years.
In the intervening decade each country had added another World Cup to their collection, yet both teams arrived in England with plenty to prove after spluttering starts to their 2010 qualifying campaigns.
With that in mind it wasn’t surprising that the match started at a frenetic pace. Italy had the ball in the net in the opening moments when Fabio Grosso met Andrea Pirlo’s lofted pass with a volley past Julio Cesar but the left-back’s effort was ruled out for offside.
The absence of AC Milan playmaker Kaka gave Dunga a chance to bring Ronaldinho back from a three-match exile, while Adriano, carrying more weight than ever, was also in the Selecao’s forward line.
While those two remain two of Brazil’s star attractions, the relatively unheralded Elano has become an integral part of the team under Dunga and the right sided midfielder underlined his importance as he opened the scoring in the 13th minute.
A swift and incisive exchange of passes with Robinho opened up the Italian defence and Elano gracefully applied the finishing touch as he guided his shot past Gianluigi Buffon.
Brazil have become accustomed to playing friendlies at Arsenal in the last two years and they were clearly in the mood. Even a defence as parsimonious as Italy’s couldn’t contain them.
If Elano’s opener had been a tasty appetiser, then Robinho’s strike in the 27th minute was a truly sumptuous main course.
Quickly dispossessing Pirlo as he dwelt on the ball in his own penalty area, Robinho teased Nicola Legrottaglie with a series of elaborate step-overs before wrong-footing his marker with a neat back-flick and driving a low shot into the far corner.
Debutant midfielder Felipe Melo was driving Brazil forward impressively and the Italians were being made to look distinctly second rate.
There was no sign of Brazil easing off, with Elano sending a stinging drive inches over on the stroke of half-time.
The capacity crowd of 60,077 were lapping up every feint and flick from Brazil’s showmen, but Italy emerged after half-time determined to salvage some pride.
Luca Toni beat Cesar with a bundled effort midway through the second half, only to see his strike disallowed because he had handled while trying to control Pirlo’s pass.
Both teams were fiercely competitive until the end. It was Italy who finished on top though and it took a brilliant reflex stop from Cesar to deny Toni a late consolation goal.
Gilberto, who left Arsenal in the summer for Greek club Panathinaikos, told Sky Sports he was happy to be back at his former club’s ground, "It was very special to be here after six years with Arsenal," Gilberto said.
"This is the first time I have come back to England since and to see so many people here at the Emirates made me happy to be back. I think this stadium is now the Brazilians home in Europe."