Not so fabulous warm-up for Fabiano

JOHANNESBURG - The golf course in front of Luis Fabiano's hotel room is permanently watered but the goals have dried up for the Brazilian target-man.

After firing another blank in Monday's 5-1 win over Tanzania in Dar-es-Salaam, Luis Fabiano, angry with his own performance, stormed passed the waiting reporters without uttering a word.

He even looked sheepish when he was applauded by coach Dunga after being substituted in the second half.

Luis Fabiano has inherited the number nine shirt worn by Ronaldo at the last three World Cups but the same figure also represents the number of months which have passed since his last international goal.

When Brazil beat Argentina 3-1 away last September to book their place in South Africa with Luis Fabiano among the scorers, the player known as the Fabulous One looked unstoppable.

He had finished as top-scorer in Confederations Cup with five goals and completed the South American World Cup qualifying competition with nine goals even though he played in only 11 of the 18 games.

At one point, he had the astonishing total of 25 goals in 32 internationals but that ratio has dropped significantly to 25 from 37 games after five full internationals without scoring.

Shortly after Brazil arrived in South Africa, Luis Fabiano, who has had an injury-plagues season in Europe, boldly predicted that the hoped to be topscorer of the World Cup and saw Wayne Rooney and David Villa as his main rivals.

He was dismissive of Lionel Messi, saying the Argentine played better for his club Barceclona.

But admitted that replacing Ronaldo, who has never been picked during Dunga's four-year reign, was a tall order.

"It's a difficult position, there's a lot of pressure but I've overcome the difficulties," he said, in his only public declarations since Brazil arrived in South Africa.

"Today, it's a dream to be here, wearing the number nine shirt which has been worn by great players such as Ronaldo, Careca and others."

Since he made those remarks, Brazil have scored eight goals in two friendlies against Zimbabwe and Tanzania with Luis Fabiano's name conspicuously absent from the scoresheet.

He has not even managed to hit the target in training matches.

It is a worrying situation for coach Dunga who has named only four forwards in his 23-man squad, two of them, Nilmar and Grafite, with little international experience.

Big, powerful, fast and a clinical finisher, Luis Fabiano is tailor-made to the counter-attacking game which has become a hallmark of Dunga's Brazil.

The five-times champions, who are likely to face a packed defence in their first match against North Korea on June 15, cannot afford him to misfire.

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