NED 2 BRA 1: Calamity Phil

ANY self-respecting Serie A fan will tell you that Felipe Melo was an accident waiting to happen. That’s because the Brazilian defensive midfielder holds an award which declares him a worse footballer than every single member of Italy’s World Cup squad.

Seven months ago, Melo won the Bidone d’Oro (the Golden Trashcan) after listeners to Italian state radio station RAI Radio 2 voted him to be the worst player in the country’s top flight.

That’s some achievement when you consider that all 23 players who went to South Africa with Italy – and were home again almost before you could say “knackers’ yard” – featured in Serie A last season.

(Although I suspect if the poll was being taken again now, at least half-a-dozen members of Italy’s squad would be challenging for the title. I should also point out that Melo won with 22.87 per cent of the total votes cast, which is no one’s idea of a sweeping majority.)

Melo – or Calamity Phil, as no one calls him – is not a popular player among Brazil’s fans. And after a bright start in Port Elizabeth this afternoon, he showed why.

Sure, he played the ball through a dozy Holland defence for Robinho to give Brazil a 10th-minute lead. But he also scored a bizarre own goal when he and keeper Julio Cesar got into a mess defending a Wesley Sneijder cross after the break. And after Sneijder had headed Holland into the lead, he was needlessly sent off for stamping on Arjen Robben.

The foul was not out of place in a very physical match. This wasn’t Total Football. At times, it was barely partial football. It was gripping to watch, though – a proper cup tie.

Melo was Brazil’s fall guy – despite his best efforts to deflect the blame afterwards.

“There’s no way I’m the villain of the 2010 World Cup,” said Melo, perhaps wary of collecting another unwanted award. You’ll be in the frame, Felipe – but if a public vote was taken tomorrow, I reckon the running order would be:

5th: Jorge Larrionda
4th: John Terry
3rd: Raymond Domenech
2nd: James Corden
1st: A vuvuzela

See, Felipe? You’re not even in the top four.

Dunga’s selection of Melo, though, didn’t make him particularly popular in Brazil, and today’s defeat prompted the coach’s resignation.

That will have pleased the Brazilian media, who have fought a running battle with the grumpy, frequently unco-operative coach before and during the tournament. By the sounds of it, Pele will be glad to see the back of him too.

Football’s most famous Maradona-baiter criticised Dunga for setting up his team to play on the counter-attack, rather than being more positive. And while it worked well enough in getting Brazil to the last eight, that approach cost them against Holland, who were on top even before Melo saw red.

I thought Brazil would win this World Cup. So too, by the sound of it, did most of their fans. This has not been a great tournament, but it has started to get very interesting. Melo has played a big part in that – just not the one he would have wanted.


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