Kaka ready to emerge from shadows

JOHANNESBURG - Kaka has become almost a forgotten man in the World Cup, with the spotlight in the run-up to the World Cup centred around Lionel Messi, Wayne Rooney, Fernando Torres and David Villa.

Yet, lurking in the shadows and without the huge weight of expectation, there is every reason to believe that the former World Player of the Year could finally shine on the world's biggest stage.

Kaka suffered from niggling injury problems during a disappointing first season with Real Madrid, but that could easily work in his favour.

Having made only 33 appearances for his club, Kaka is likely to be fresher than his rivals, many of whom have played upwards of 50 games this season.

He is also freed of the weight of expectation which proved such a burden to Brazil's players four years ago.

As if to prove that he is peaking at the right time, Kaka scored his first international goal in a year in Monday's 5-1 friendly win away to Tanzania in their last match before the tournament in South Africa.

He also produced some of his characteristic bursts from midfield, a nightmare for defenders as he picks up speed and runs directly at the centre of the defence.

"It gave me a lot of confidence," he told Brazilian reporters after the game in Dar es Salaam.

"I felt really good, although still a little bit inhibited. I just need to let myself go."

Coach Dunga said that the 28-year-old had to be held back in training, such was his enthusiasm.

"He's improving little by little," said Dunga. "We have to put the brakes on him because sometimes he wants to train morning, noon and night."

Kaka will be playing at his third World Cup. In 2002, he made just one substitute appearance on his way to picking up a winner's medal.

Four years ago, he floundered along with the rest of a disappointing Brazilian team, and later revealed that he was injured when he played in the 1-0 quarter-final defeat by France.

Dunga has a natural aversion to big-name players, having had no hesitation in excluding the likes of Roberto Carlos, Ronaldo and more recently Ronaldinho from his squad.

However, Kaka, religious and known for his charity work off the field, has escaped the axe.

He was even excused by Dunga after asking not be picked for the Copa America three years ago, saying he needed a rest.

Dunga, a snarling, hard-tackling midfielder in his playing days, has built the team in his own image, choosing players for their tactical discipline and work rate as much as for their skill.

This means that Kaka will have plenty of team-mates to do the donkey work for him, leaving him free to play a creative role. If he finds his best form, it will also be good news for the neutrals.

With Brazil now playing a counter-attacking game, he may be the only reminder of the flamboyant, artistic style which made the five-times champions everyone's favourite team.

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