Kaka optimistic despite lackluster World Cup start

Kaka optimistic despite lackluster World Cup start

Published Jun. 16, 2010 12:27 p.m. ET

Kaka is keeping his head up despite a lackluster performance in Brazil's opening World Cup game, and is optimistic he will keep improving as the tournament goes on.

Kaka was not a factor in Brazil's 2-1 win over North Korea on Tuesday, but said he performed as expected considering he is coming off a season plagued by injures with Real Madrid.

"I'm happy with the way I played, I didn't really know what I could expect," Kaka said. "I think I got better as the game went on. Hopefully in the next match I'll be able to play better and until the end."

Still not fully fit, Kaka was substituted by striker Nilmar in the 78th minute at Ellis Park Stadium.


He tried a couple of his trademark runs through defenders but never looked comfortable. He never fully connected with the strikers up front, and made some uncharacteristic passing mistakes.

His best chance came just two minutes into the match after a setup by Robinho inside the area, but Kaka failed to get a shot off as a defender came to easily steal the ball from him. He only hit the target once, and without much of a threat.

Kaka is taking a lot of positive out of the opener, though.

"In each match I'm getting better and better," Kaka said. "There is still a lot to improve, but that will come with time."

Kaka had played the entire match in the warmup against Tanzania on June 7, but there were doubts about how he would perform when the World Cup got under way.

"I wasn't sure how it would go, but I think I did all right," Kaka said.

With Kaka not at his best, Brazil found difficulties to get past the tough defensive setup of the North Koreans. Without the playmaker's creativity at midfield, Brazil failed to create a lot of dangerous scoring chances.

Right back Maicon came through with a goal from a tight angle to give the five-time champions the lead in the 55th minute, and Elano added to the lead with a one-touch shot from inside the area after a perfect pass from Robinho in the 72nd. North Korea got is goal from Ji Yun Nam in the 89th.

Kaka had scored the winner in Brazil's opener four years ago in Germany, a 1-0 victory against Croatia in Berlin.

The playmaker is struggling to find his form after sustaining groin and thigh injuries that forced him to miss several matches with Real Madrid last season. He was still treating the left thigh ailment when he arrived in South Africa but doctors said the problem is not affecting him anymore. Because he was sidelined for so long, he is having a hard time regaining his game rhythm.

"We are seeing some difficult matches in the World Cup so far and we need to be aware that it's how it's going to be," the 28-year-old player said.

With Dunga omitting players such as Ronaldinho, Ronaldo and Adriano from the squad, Kaka has taken the responsibility to lead the Brazilians in South Africa as it tries to win a record six world title.

He was in Brazil's squad when it won the 2002 title in South Korea and Japan, and was a starter when it was eliminated by France in the quarterfinals four years ago.

After his disappointing season with Real Madrid, Kaka would need a stellar World Cup to try to add a second FIFA world player of the year award he won in 2007 with AC Milan.

Brazil leads the tough Group G after Portugal and Ivory Coast drew 0-0 in their opener earlier Tuesday. Brazil will face the Ivory Coast on Sunday at Soccer City and then it closes play against Portugal on June 25 in Durban.