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Daniel Alves scores late as Brazil knocks out host

DANIEL Alves scored with two minutes left yesterday to give a lackluster Brazil a 1-0 win over South Africa and a place in the Confederations Cup final against the United States.

South Africa had unsettled Brazil with a frantic hustling game of quick challenges and tight marking, but the substitute defender curled in a shot from the edge of the area to give his team a chance of a record third title after Ramires tumbled right on the edge of the area under a challenge from South Africa captain Aaron Mokoena.

"The game was very closed so I put on a very quick player, a very aggressive player, who is strong on set pieces," Brazil coach Dunga said. "It was one of the few opportunities we were going to have. The foul was right in front of the goal area, so it was perfect for us."

South Africa's packed midfield and attentive defense had displayed far more energy and guile than Brazil, and Bafana Bafana was denied a famous victory only by the lack of finishing up front.

Instead, Brazil held on for a seventh straight win and a place in Sunday's final at Ellis Park against the United States, which upset European champion Spain 2-0 Wednesday.

"I'm always ready to come in, regardless of where the coach wants me to play," said Daniel Alves, normally a right back who came in on the left of defense in the 82nd. "I just wanted to go out there and do everything I could to help the team. Gladly it worked out perfectly."

Dunga said he had not watched the United States since the group stage, where Brazil beat the Americans 3-0.

"I didn't watch the game last night because I was more concerned with the game today," Dunga said. "We will watch that game tomorrow to prepare ourselves for the final."

Just four days after routing World Cup holder Italy 3-0, defending Confederations Cup champion Brazil looked short of ideas and labored in its efforts to find an opening - largely trying to play through the middle.

But that was mostly due to a vastly improved home team, which covered almost 10 percent more ground throughout the game and matched their opponents' 12 shots on goal.

Only former world player of the year Kaka seemed able to direct his passes with any regular accuracy as South Africa equaled its illustrious opponents' skill and surpassed their work rate.

South Africa finally showed fans they could be something of a force at next year's World Cup, shrugging off indifferent group form to outplay the record five-time World Cup winners.

"Maybe with a year's preparation, we can win a game like this against Brazil," South Africa coach Joel Santana said. "You cannot make these mistakes. A set piece was enough to knock us out of the semifinals."

With central defender Matthew Booth snuffing out almost every attempted attack from the wayward Luis Fabiano and ineffective Robinho, Brazil's best chances had been shots from Ramires, Andre Santos and Kaka that goalkeeper Itumeleng Khune easily saved.

"We played in a similar way to the way we did against Spain," Booth said. "We knew Brazil would have a lot of possession and we had to get players behind the ball. But we had a go at them."

Backed up by Siphiwe Tshabalala, who replaced the suspended MacBeth Sibaya, Teko Modise put three disappointing displays behind him to drive the home midfield and came close to securing a famous win when his 58th-minute shot deflected off defender Luisao and almost beat goalkeeper Julio Cesar.

South Africa displayed far more purpose and skill than in its first-round group, where it progressed with a 0-0 draw with Iraq and 2-0 win over New Zealand.

And, just as importantly, it made clean tackles in defense to deny Brazil the set pieces from which it can be deadly efficient.

Until the 88th minute, that is.

"We wanted to come here and win but unfortunately we did not go all the way," Booth said. "We were not very happy with the free kick and I think television replays will show it was unfair."


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