internationals24 November 2022


Brazil are set to face Serbia: a World Cup memory involving the former AC Milan man

Reigning World and South American Champions, Brazil went into the 2006 World Cup with the aim of securing back-to-back World Cup triumphs for the first time since they followed up their 1958 victory in 1962. Before that, Italy had achieved the same feat in the 1930s. Led by Carlos Alberto Parreira, the 2006 World Cup contingent were looking to achieve footballing immortality. Ten out of the 23 players in the squad had won the trophy four years earlier in Yokohama, and some had been part of the setup during the 1990s, a decade which saw Brazil become World Champions in 1994 and reach the final in 1998.

The Brazilians had thus reached three consecutive World Cup finals, a record they shared with West Germany (1982-1990) and could have beaten 16 years ago. Parreira selected a mix of experienced players and emerging talents, including some of the biggest names in world football. After he’d made just one appearance during the triumph in 2002, many were excited to see a certain Ricardo Izecson dos Santos Leite, better known as Kaká, in action.

In addition to the 42 goals he’d scored in his first three seasons for AC Milan after his arrival in the summer of 2003, Kaká had performed well at international level, helping Brazil finish first on the same number of points as Argentina in CONMEBOL qualifying to secure their spot at the World Cup in Germany.

Looking at Brazil’s line-up for their opener against Croatia at the Olympiastadion, which would host the final, it’s clear to see how talented the team was. Kaká, Ronaldinho, Adriano and Ronaldo were all on the same pitch in a game where the Rossoneri colours were very much present: in addition to Ricky, Dida, Cafu and Dario Šimić were among the 22 starters.

The hope was that it was going to be a spectacular affair, but it didn’t turn out that way. In a balanced and tense game, the decisive moment came in the 44th minute and it was “Made in AC Milan”. Cafu played the ball to Kaká, who, in controlling it, got the better of Kranjčar and then let fly with a fine left-footed strike from distance that flew past Pletikosa.

It turned out to be the only goal of the evening and also the only time Ricky scored at a World Cup in his career. Brazil’s dream of rewriting the record book didn’t come to pass: after winning their first four games – after the 1-0 victory over Croatia, they beat Australia 2-0, Japan 4-1 and Ghana 3-0 – Perreira’s side were eliminated by France in the quarter-finals, thus failing to gain revenge for their final defeat in Paris eight years earlier.

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