Kaka in Robinho's shadow


JOHANNESBURG, June 18- Manchester City fans might not believe it, but Robinho is the toast of the Brazilian World Cup squad.With Kaka not firing on all cylinders after a difficult season at Real Madrid it is Robinho who looks like being key to Brazil’s hopes of lifting a sixth world title.

With coach Dunga demanding the South Americans be miserly at the back and show grit in central midfield, it’s Robinho who could be the man to unlock the tightest defence.

The former Real Madrid man certainly appeared to be revelling in the role with his slide rule pass providing Elano’s clinching goal in the 2-1 win over North Korea.

Baby-faced Robinho is now approching the veteran stage at international level with 71 caps, having made his bow in 2003. He already has a Copa America title and two Confederations Cups.

But at club level, he has blown hot and cold.

Two league titles at Real were followed by an unproductive year at Manchester City.

Now on loan at Santos, Pele’s former club, he appears to have recharged batteries which looked semi-drained at times at Eastlands.

"I am in a really good place right now and I want to carry on improving," said Robinho.

That will be music to the ears of Dunga who is unstinting in his praise of his forward.

"Robinho can play in various positions and I am very pleased with how he is doing. Just think that last year he was with Manchester, nobody loved him and there were even calls for me to drop him."

After the match against North Korea, Robinho told reporters that "for me there would be no problem if I had to play in a slightly more withdrawn position – I played there before and there were no problems."

Robinho proved his worth in the 2007 Copa America when he helped Brazil to victory in the absence of Kaka who has since taken on the number 10 shirt which holds mythical qualities owing to its association with Pele.

Robinho, who himself is wearing number 11 in the World Cup squad, hails Kaka’s qualities.

"He is great – he can win a game on his own on his day," said Robinho.

But he insists that "Brazil have excellent footballers who can come in in his place."

"Julio Baptista has been training really well and he can take on Kaka’s role as he did at the Copa America," Robinho insisted.

Others looking to force their way into the starting 11 are Michel Bastos of Lyon and Daniel Alves, who can both do a job in the middle of the park.

Having established himself as one of country’s form players Robinho now has high ambitions.

"My main objective – and that of the group – is to be world champion," he insisted.